At this year's FEI WBFSH Dressage World Breeding Championships competition for 6-year-old horses, Kjento did not leave any doubt: he was simply the best. Under the saddle of the young British rider Charlotte Fry, the six-year-old KWPN stallion waltzed through the test with unprecedented power and cadence. Back at his home base at Van Olst Horses in Den Hout, he is in the stable next to his father: the well-known Negro. When Gertjan van Olst opens the stable doors of his stallions, you are welcomed by friendly faces and pricked ears, coming forward for a greeting and a pat. The resemblance between father and son is striking: two big, imposing black stallions with a lot of front, the same white socks and an incredibly kind temperament.
The now 26-year-old preferent stallion Negro stamped not only his son Kjento very cleary, his influence is clearly visible in almost all of Gertjan van Olst's horses. "Negro is still of great value to us. 90 to 95 percent of the horses here in the stable carry his blood," says Gertjan. The stallion still serves about a hundred mares every year and his legacy in the sport is large. Three direct sons of his ran at the Olympic Games in Tokyo alone: Elegance, bred by Van Olst Horses under the saddle of Beatriz Ferrer-Salat, Fendi ridden by Severo Jurado Lopez (still owned by Van Olst) and Bufranco with Charlotte Heering, who was a reserve horse for the Danish team.
Negro produced a large number of approved sons, but Kjento seems to be by far the most popular with breeders so far. “For example, we've had Nespresso, Netto and Nintendo, but there was slightly less enthusiasm from the breeders. We then focused on the sport with those horses,” says Gertjan. Interestingly, Kjento, who was bred by A.J. van Os, was initially sent home in the second round of the KWPN stallion inspections. The stallion later got his chance via the saddle presentation and turned out to be the topper of the autumn performance test.
Kjento is already succeeding in sport by becoming World Champion among the six-year-olds. During his tests in Verden it looked as if the stallion would easily pass the test for a higher age category. His rider Charlotte Fry laughs: “He picks up everything so easily. He already does all his changes and piaffe and passage. You don't even have to ask him, everything is easy for him and we just have to go through things with him in a playful way. In Verden he was fresh and happy, he likes to enter the ring. He is also very sweet. The other people in the stable could hardly believe it, because he is so 'switched on' under saddle. It's just the sweetest horse in the whole world."
A Lot of Recognition
Despite the fact that Negro's sports career was never able to reach great heights due to incorrect treatment, which resulted in an injury, the stallion has become world famous. Anne van Olst, who was in the saddle of Negro, sees many similarities with his son Kjento. “Unfortunately, Negro's sports career was over at the age of eight. After that he never competed again. He ran well in the large tour and we were training for the Athens Olympics when things went wrong. When you entered the ring with Negro, he really gave his whole heart for you. Kjento does that too. Many young Negros have that, he really passes it on. Just like how easily they learn the higher work, if you make that work fun for them, they'll do anything. I've ridden Kjento once and he really feels like his father."
After a promising start at stud and in the sport, Negro faded from the public eye because of his injury. “But then Valegro came,” laughs Gertjan. The Negro son who conquered the hearts of the public under Charlotte Dujardin and who still holds the world record in all dressage events. He made the demand for Negro as a breeding stallion grow enormously. “Negro is actually a timeless stallion”, says Gertjan. “A bit like De Niro in Germany. If you want to maintain movement and strength in your current breeding, and if you want attitude and mentality, then you will come to Negro. In Ermelo at the KWPN Championships we also saw a lot of Negro blood on the mother's side. Negro brings talent for piaffe and passage like no other. He passes on his ability to lower the pelvis, giving you and amazing ability for collection.”
Negro, the flagship stallion of the Van Olst Horses, was initially rejected by the KWPN, just like his son Kjento. The Borgers family from Lunteren bred the stallion and sold him to the Van Tuyl family as a two-year-old after he had not passed his initial KWPN grading. Gertjan van Olst bought a half share during the performance test. "Obviously, when he started to do well in the sport, there was a lot of interest in him. Van Tuyl may have wanted to sell him, but we could come to an interim solution: we could buy half of his half and then we could do everything with him."
The combination of bloodlines that you often see in Gertjan van Olst's stables stands out: Lord Leatherdale with Negro. The Grand Prix stallions Everdale and Glamourdale are the best-known examples of this. "That combination works very well. Negro has a super hind leg and piaffe passage, but in terms of elasticity Lord Leatherdale could bring more. Those two stallions together just click." However, Kjento was paired with the Jazz x Juventus mare Zoriana, which is also a good combination for Gertjan. "Jazz has given Kjento slightly longer legs than his father has. That makes him more modern."
Active Hind Legs
Gertjan says that he always returns to the Negro blood, mainly because of the use of the hind leg. "I'm open to anything, but you don't find his qualities that easily. And of course you're always looking for something else, and you have to. But you won't find what Negro brings anywhere else. And Kjento has that too: always a good hind leg and always staying in the connection." The oldest offspring of Kjento are now one and a half. Van Olst himself has about 20-25 of them. He breeds 15 to 20 mares every year and then buys another 100 foals from customers. “That system works well for me. And that way I also keep in touch with my customers and I can discuss a lot about which combinations would be suitable for their mares."
Gertjan does not get involved in the sport, that is reserved for Anne and Lottie. "We have separate teams here and a separate space for breeding, so that the stallions never associate that with riding. That's going really well." In Den Hout, it is strongly hoped that Kjento can achieve in the sport what his father never got the chance to do. Anne says: "When he was selected last year in the five-year-olds, I already said: he can become world champion. But then the World Breeding Championships were cancelled." Lottie adds: "Because last year was canceled, we also had no idea what was in store for us in terms of competition in the six-year-olds. But that actually only allowed me to focus better on our own ride. We are training Kjento well this winter, so that hopefully we can do the World Breeding Championships with the 7-year-olds next year." And the team are not worried about the Grand Prix work: "Everything comes naturally to him", Lottie laughs.
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