By Rennie Dyball
Vicky Castegren considers herself a matchmaker in the world of sport horse breeding. Anytime a prospective client calls or emails her breeding operation, Hyperion Stud, she answers the message personally.
“I always want to be the one to talk to that breeder,” Castegren tells The Plaid Horse. “Quality control and customer service are hugely important to me. More often in the last few years, I’ve talked to first-time breeders. And that to me is the most interesting and fun conversation, because I can really have a positive influence in the way they think about which stallion to choose.”
Today, the majority of breeding in the U.S. is being done by hobbyist breeders, says Castegren, and that’s where her professional breeding business, based out of Barboursville, Virginia, can play an important role. “For me, it’s what’s best for the mare, not what’s best for my pocketbook. Because that’s my reputation on the line. It’s very important that the client is happy and they get what they want, and the rest is up to what mother nature will throw on the ground for us.”
But mother nature can only do her best work, Castegren maintains, if the right mare is being bred. The stallion is secondary. “Her pedigree is the most important part of the equation,” says Castegren. “It’s not what the stallion can do for the mare. It’s what the mare can do for the stallion. She is the most important element in the genetic makeup of that foal. A breeder must start with having a certificate of pedigree before they even consider breeding their mare.”
Another key to successful breeding, Castegren adds, is paying attention not only to the mare’s pedigree, but also her conformation and movement. “If you don’t understand the pedigree or the mother line, find someone who can help you. Like me! That’s one of my favorite things to do.”
Her other favorite part of the job? “Watching my kids grow up. I really enjoy that. I go once or twice a year to Germany and there’s a lot of time where I’m not seeing these foals and young horses. Then one day I go and they’re under saddle!” she says. “Many of the foals born in the U.S., I was there for their birth. Then I get to watch them develop, learn and compete. That to me is the most rewarding.”
Castegren began as a jumper rider and dabbled a bit in breeding on the side with a Dutch mare that she bought in foal. By 2008 she had four mares but not the right facility for foaling. So, the following year, she bought the property which would become Hyperion Stud, and later, her first stallion, Olympic Imothep. He would go on to compete in World Equestrian Games, Nations Cups, and Olympic Games. “It’s so special,” says Castegren. “That doesn’t happen very often.”
In a decade’s time, Hyperion has expanded to a more global operation, breeding both in US and in Europe. The business is currently in Germany and Holland, and is
in the process of expanding to Sweden as well. Worldwide, Hyperion Stud’s mare base is around 12-13 mares, and they currently have 30-plus stallions in their book, with six of their own stallions standing for fresh semen in 2020.
“It’s become this breeding operation, but also a sport horse development program. Through breeding we’ve bred approved stallions, had champion foals, premium foals, States Premium and Elite mares.” says Castegren. “The market’s still pretty soft on young horses – babies, yearlings and two-year-olds. We put ourselves in a model where we can train and develop those young horses to a point where they are going well under saddle, and showing. We do everything at Hyperion Stud. We’ve gone from this little peanut operation to a lot of spinning wheels!”
The six approved stallions standing at Hyperion for fresh semen in 2020 are all “really great stallions who’ve had wonderful careers, they have good characters, and produce outstanding offspring,” says Castegren. “I believe we’ve got something for everyone in Warmblood breeding. And it will be really exciting for breeders that one of them is our stallion Olympic Imothep. He has come to the U.S. to retire from sport.”
“Imothep is our king and he has made a lot of happy mare owners out there with the offspring he’s produced so far,” she adds. “So for us it’s really exciting that he’s coming home to retire and stand for breeders. He’s a really strong progenitor which makes him unique, as he brings a lot to the table.”
Even Castegren’s young daughter has had her eye on Imothep for years… albeit with slightly different goals. “My nine-year-old daughter wants to ride him,” she says with a laugh. “When she was four she says, ‘One day, Mama, I’m gonna ride dat horse!’ And I said, ‘Okay baby, but he’s got to be really old and you’ve got to be a lot bigger.’”
In addition to the breeding program and going on trail rides around the property, Imothep will “get the king stall back, he gets his paddock back, he gets to grow old with us. He owes us nothing anymore. He never really did. But we owe him everything at this point,” says Castegren. “His health, his happiness, and as many more years as we can possibly get.”
Rounding out the operation at Hyperion is their sales program, which has blossomed to the point that, “it’s very hard for us to keep up all of our sale horses on the website,” says Castegren. “Whenever I can, I like to encourage people to contact us for sales horses because there are a lot out there, both at home and in Europe. It ranges from foals all the way up to competition horses, even approved stallions, and everything in between.”
Learn more about Hyperion Stud at www.hyperionstud.com
About the Author: Rennie Dyball is the author of several books, including The Plaid Horse’s middle grade novel series, Show Strides. She’s also a contributing writer for TPH and a ghostwriter for celebrity books. Rennie lives in Maryland and competes in hunters and equitation.
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