World-Class Warmbloods in Bakersfield

By March 25, 2011

Sierra Mare

It’s trendy to buy in Europe, but nice to have other options. Against great odds, some superb breeding operations have sprouted in the U.S.

At an age when most women are retired, Jeanne Schamblin runs a successful business and a champion-producing breeding operation. Her Sierra Vista Sporthorses & Ponies in Bakersfield specializes in breeding top-quality Dutch Warmbloods, Hanoverians and Holsteiners, and lately has expanded to include German Riding Ponies for children and petite women.

But it wasn’t always this way. Once upon a time, the Ohio-born Schamblin was a stay-at-home mom. She took care of the children while her husband worked at his family’s 100-year-old auto parts business. It wasn’t until the kids were teenagers that she realized playing tennis three times a week was not enough, and she needed to “get a life,” as she puts it. Schamblin took a desk job, but was restless within months. She barely made enough to pay her bills, the hours interfered with her tennis and she did not find the work fulfilling. So when she received a small inheritance, she quit and started Alternative Care, a long- term care and hospice service for the elderly. After 20 years in business, her company is now one of the most thriving operations of its kind in the area.

Jeanne Schamblin of Sierra Vista Sport Horses & Ponies

The success of that venture was all the encouragement it took to get Schamblin fantasizing about other businesses she’d like to start. Foremost among them: her own equine breeding operation. She’d always liked horses and even rode Western as a child, but it was while watching her daughter, then 12, take riding lessons that she found herself falling in love with Warmbloods. After a few years, she decided she was well-enough positioned to at least incubate a “breeding hobby,” so in 1994 she built a quaint six-stall barn on the gently sloping hillside behind her house and bought her first mare from a local veterinarian. Purchased for $3,500, Little Dipper had been bred to notable Dutch foundation stallion Best of Luck and was three weeks from foaling. The colt went on to place fourth in the International Jumper Futurity, and Schamblin was able to sell him for $35,000. Soon she had a few more horses and added four extra stalls on a property that had expanded to five acres.

Since she was venturing into unfamiliar territory, Schamblin had to think long and hard about how to make a breeding operation work. She decided that, just as with her other ventures, quality would be key. Not having much experience with horses, she relied on her business acumen and horse lover’s instincts. She started off by carefully researching her prospects. She’d spend days studying the horses’ performance records as well as all aspects of their athleticism, character and conformation.

Sierra Vista Sport Horses

In trying to make sense of these puzzle pieces, she developed a very specific strategy: identify the faults of the mare (i.e. short legs, long body, etc.) and then match her with a stallion whose traits would compensate for those deficiencies. Jeanne is creative and daring in locating her stock. Sometimes she inspects the horses personally and breeds to proven stallions on site, but she has also imported stock and semen from abroad, sight unseen, trusting only her research and gut feeling.

The results have been astounding. Almost all of Schamblin’s horses have risen to stardom. She has had several KWPN-NA Top 5 horses—youngsters that have earned high scores in the Young Horse qualifiers, Dressage Sport Horse Breed and open shows (see sidebar for an explanation of the KWPN accreditation process). In her 15 years of operation, Schamblin has climbed the United States Equestrian Federation’s Leading Dressage Breeder Rankings at lightning speed and is now in the top 25 percent of dressage breeders in the U.S. and the top 20 percent of the USEF’s Leading Dressage Breeding Owner Rankings. (Notwithstanding this success, she has also produced successful jumpers and eventers.)

Due to its size, her barn produces only a couple of horses a year, but each is highly prized as a result of the reputation she’s built for animals of superb quality and temperament. In 2004, her mare Vittoria SVS keur was the No. 1 horse in the NA/WPN Foalbook for Two-Year-Old Fillies & Geldings. In 2005 Vittoria won the NA/WPN Gert van der Veen Award and was crowned the No. 1 KWPN horse in the U.S., receiving the highest score for both movement and conformation and winning two National KWPN-NA Top Ten Mare awards. (Vittoria is now owned by Free Rein Dutch Warmbloods in Paso Robles, where she is a broodmare.)

The stallion Worthy Opponent, bred by Sierra Vista, now stands at Vineyard Eventing.

Schamblin’s Worthy Opponent (aka Archie), is now owned by Dana Estes of Vineyard Eventing in Livermore and is a registered 2003 Class 1 Elite Hanoverian Stallion. He was crowned Reserve Champion for the 100-Day Stallion Testing in 2007 and was the highest point Hanoverian Stallion for that year. He scored an amazing 135.2, with five “9’s” for Character, Temperament, Canter, Jumping Aptitude and Ability to Work. Bred to be a dressage stallion, Archie proved himself to be a magnificent jumper, outscoring all the other stallions at both the Hanoverian and Oldenburg presentations. In 2010 he was crowned Hanoverian Horse of the Year for Preliminary Level in Two-Day Eventing. He currently serves as a competition mount for both his owner and a 17-year-old rider, jumping 5’3″ under saddle.

Schamblin did not disappoint the jury during the 2010 Keuring. Her mare Chanel was in the Top 5 in the nation among Dressage Mares 3–7 Years. In the Keuring tour at DG Bar, her mare Be Silvita won first place Ster & Keur for Dressage Mares 3–7, while Chanel placed second Ster. Be Silvita went on to take third in IBOP: Dressage, with Schamblin’s Bacara snatching fourth place. Her mare Fendi won fourth place, First Premium, in the Foals/Weanlings Dressage category.

There’s no doubt that her breeding program is on the fast track. Jessica Wisdom of Equi-Librium Equestrian says that the key to Schamblin’s efforts is a focus on pairing the youngsters with riders and trainers willing to develop them appropriately—and carefully—up the levels. Wisdom is an FEI-level competitor and trainer based in Yelm, Washington, with whom Schamblin has entrusted several of her horses. Wisdom specializes in laying a correct foundation that will pave the way for confident, relaxed progression up the levels. Schamblin also works with Willy Arts, a dressage trainer and breeder at DG Bar.

Asked to sum up how a former “housewife” has made it in an often tough and unforgiving business, Schamblin laughs and says, “By the seat of my pants!” But the truth is, as with any business, her hard work and ingenuity have fueled her success, as well as that of her horses. She is living proof that one doesn’t have to be an immigrant to view America as the land of opportunity!

Sierra colt.

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