It all started back in 2014, when Dr. Ludwig Christmann, the man responsible at the Hanoverian Society for breeding abroad, suggested Louise Masek breed her dam, Iroise de Grandry, to Canadian-based Hanoverian stallion Bon Balou. Little did she know that conversation was the beginning of a seven-year journey to break new ground in Canadian warmblood breeding.

Louise Masek, owner and operator of Look Ahead Sporthorses, has a unique approach to breeding and training that evolved from years of riding and competing both in Europe and North America. “The genetic material that goes into producing a horse is a combination of generations of traits from both the mother and father,” said Masek. “And science doesn’t lie.” This fateful match of hers hasn’t told a lie, but it has proven to have its challenges, beginning with the foal’s birth.

Because it was her Selle Francais dam’s last foal, she seemed to experience complications later in her pregnancy. Then, on the last day of March 2015, after an epic 17-day foalwatch at Masek’s farm in Ontario, the mare bore a chrome-splashed chestnut stallion that they named Beau Balou. Born half French and during the time the world was still reeling from the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris, Beau Balou gained the barn name “Charlie” or “Je suis Charlie.”

Charlie, like his sire, was an eye-catching little guy who successfully won his Hanoverian foal inspection, topping the dressage – bred foals. He would go on to show very successfully on the line as a yearling and 2-year-old, never placing lower than second, but Masek admits that she still didn’t know what she had, other than a flashy colt with a lot of white on him.

In 2018, he started the year in a light training program, focusing on dressage training scale, rhythm, relaxation, suppleness, and contact. The goals of the year were the Cup classes at the Royal and the Canadian Warmblood Horse Breeders Association (CWHBA) requested to present him for licensing at a performance test. “I am so grateful to CWHBA for having talked me into this journey,” said Masek, “as I never intended to own and stand a stallion myself. But the experience has been so rewarding.”

At three-years-old, Beau Balou jumped cross rails and simple lines under saddle, winning the CWHBA stallion licensing and jumping portion of the 2018 performance test. At the end of the performance test, he qualified for both cup classes, placing second in the Lieutenant Governor’s Cup (under saddle) and fifth in the Governor General’s Cup. The results from the test gave him approval from the Canadian Sport Horse Association (CSHA).

Masek explained the significant difference between stallion licensing and stallion approvals. For licensing, they are evaluated on the triangle, in hand, and free jumping. For a full performance test, they are under saddle, three or four days in length, including a guest rider component, which contributes heavily to the score. The licensing is just the first step, that typically limits the number of mares that can be bred. 

All Canadian Hanoverian Stallion has Achieved Lifetime Approvals

To get through approvals, it is a long and expensive journey to follow that requires the support of a team, which she has been thankful to have. “As I don’t jump anymore, his 4-year-old year began a training program with multiple riders that, over the next three years, would all contribute to his education.”

Beau Balou continued training to collect for artificial insemination breeding and his semen underwent a full analysis to determine how successful it would ship and freeze. In 2019, he returned to formal training with both dressage, over fences work and competed in the Baby Green hunter classes in the Ontario Hunter Jumper Association (OHJA) development division. He underwent full radiographs, a scope, DNA testing and bloodwork to meet the veterinary requirements of the registries and determined he had no hereditary red flags that could be passed to his progeny. 

Later that season, Charlie competed in the North American Sport Stallion test in Maryland for his first stage of full breeding approval by major European registries. He finished second overall with a score of 8.29 which allowed his foals to be registered with Hanoverian, German Oldenburg, Verband (GOV), Westfalen and KWPN.

Then came the pandemic in 2020 and the cancelling of shows. “It was devastating to his career to lose an entire year,” said Masek. But they continued to train him at home with experts and riders as needed. Luckily, registries extended licenses of stallions who were mid-way through their testing to continue to breed.

As things opened up in 2021, Masek was again able to take him off property to school and show. During the busy breeding and collecting season, he also trained and competed in jumper classes knowing there was no hunter component in the North American Stallion Sport Test LLC (NASST). “It was his final eligible season to obtain approvals through the testing system,” said Masek. “The alternative was to qualify through sport, which would take more time and resources. We really hoped the testing route would be successful for him.”

And that decision proved to be the right one for Charlie. Even after losing a year of competition, the six-year-old stallion travelled to Maryland in mid-October 2021 and competed over three very rigorous days at the NASST to attain a score of 7.85, achieving a full lifetime breeding approval for all the major registries.

With this amazing accomplishment, Beau Balou became one of only a handful stallions to be bred and entirely developed in Canada. “There are no words to thank everyone that contributed to this accomplishment,” said Masek. “Everyone along the way believed Charlie was a super star and that he was capable. I am so proud, but also just so happy that we did it all in Canada.”

What Masek has done with Beau Balou was a first, but together they have paved a way for Canadian warmblood breeding. There are already now two other Canadian stallions following in Charlie’s footsteps, mid-way through their testing and should be able to complete their approvals in 2022.

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