Gavin Alexander: "I respect AES’s open frontiers policy"

"I respect AES’s open frontiers policy"

Gavin Alexander

No limit, that’s the spirit of Gavin Alexander. He’s a successful business man in finance for years but the last ten years he invested money in horses, just as a hobby ofcourse. At his sixty hectares yard Haras de Lillebec in Pont Audemer, Normandy, the Englishman has 20 stallions, most of them are licensed or approved. Each one gets all chances to make a sports career at top level. No horse will be sold. His hobby is not meant to be profitable. Just the semen is for sale. Sitting still is not Gavin’s habit. ‘When the stallions are retired from sports, I want them still to do something!' Once a business man, always a business man!

An Englishman in France. You must have a story to explain that.
Correct. I grew up in Great-Britain, but my wife Corrine is French. We have a family in France and since ten years we expanded the family with one horse. Things went fast. Today we have 24 horses competing: three mares, one gelding and the rest are all stallions.

And they are AES licensed or approved?
Yes, most of them. Sixteen in fact. I’m probably one of the biggest owners of AES stallions. Nevertheless the stallions do not breed as much as I intend. It’s the meaning to promote them more from now on. So far I’ve always just wanted the stallions to jump in the picture. I’ve given them all chances in the sport and that has worked out well. We’ve had some very nice results over the past years. I hope the name of our stud Haras de Lillebec is well known now and the stallions will be respected by the breeders. I’m ready for the next chapter, which will be the breeding.

I suppose you spend all of your time between horses now?
No, my wife is very into it aswell. I have three riders and other people working for me. They have everything they need to work properly, such as an indoor, outdoor rings on grass and sand, a tred mill and a gallop track. In the weekends I’d like to go watch my horses in France at the shows. During the week I work in London most of the time.

Why do you prefer AES for the stallions?
Because AES gives the horses time to grow up. We bought the horses young, so we wanted them first to prove themselves in the sport. AES is the Studbook with the same philosophy. They respect results more than any other studbook. We have six stallions competing at 1.50m-level right now with Christophe Grangier. Also I respect AES because it’s an international orientated studbook, just like I am as a breeder. I spend half of my time in France and half in London and I don’t want to be stuck with my farm in France neither. That’s what I don’t appreciate about Selle Français. It’s very closed, so it’s almost impossible to get in there with foreign bloodlines. I don't rely on nationality, but on quality. I see many studbooks try to protect their own horses, which is not the right way of working. You have to be able to approve the quality of no matter which horse. I think AES has the right approach there.

Why does a business man gets interested in the breeding?
Let me be clear. For us horses are still a hobby. No stallion will ever be sold and because they live much longer than they are in competition, I want them to breed. I want actively to be on the scene somewhere in the horse world. Because we are not riding ourselves, we intend to do so in the breeding. Horses give us a lot, so we want the best for them. That costs a lot of money. By selling semen we gain something back. With stallions, because of their breeding opportunity, you have a long term cashflow.

Winsome vd Plataan is probably your best known stallion?
Ofcourse, that’s the one we bought at nine years old. All the rest was no older than three when I bought them. Winsome was already World Champion in Lanaken as a six-year-old. He’s been jumping at GP-level for many years with Aymeric de Ponnat, Clement Boulanger, Jonathan Chabrol and now Christophe Grangier. His world cup participation in Bordeaux was probably the most beautiful moment of my life with horses so far. I hope there are many more moments like this to come. Right now we also have Rouge de Ravel, Top Gun du Grand Moustier and some others jumping in the GP’s. We’ve always wanted to make sure we have several jumping at high level, so we don’t always have to rely on the same horse. We always saved Winsome. Now he’s fifteen and still competing. Although we don’t use him a lot in the winter. We want him to last a bit longer. One horse jumps maximum twice a month.

As opposed to yourself, your horses not often come out of their country.
We concentrate on the Grand National circuit in France, which provides Grand Prix’s up to 1.55m in which you can enter three horses. When you do the international shows, you are only allowed to bring maximum three horses for the whole weekend. At the national shows we are also able to show the young ones. Also they have to move on. As I mentioned we have 24 horses. Fifteen of them are now four year old. Also they have to start competing.

Do these horses all come from France?
A great number does come from France, but I also purchased horses in Belgium. We bought all of them apart from one when they were young and not yet approved. I liked to buy at auctions. Maybe fifty percent of my horses come from an auction. Most of the horses were six months, two or three years old when I bought them.

Why auctions?
Because as soon as you get known as a buyer, people start asking too much money for their horses. At auctions you pay the price that you want to give for it. I have more control about my expenses at auctions, I feel.

How did you select horses as a non horseman?
For sure I listened to lots of people, but I never relied on one person. I did a lot of research and in the end I made the decision myself. I studied bloodlines and I tried to be very consequent. I have sons of Kannan, Nabab de Reve, Cassini I, Kashmir vh Schuttershof, Cumano, Quidam de Revel, Berlin, Diamant de Semilly, Quick Star…

You still keep on buying new ones?
No, twenty stallions is enough. The stables are full. We have no more room and we’re not expanding anymore. Also I’m not going to breed foals. There are other people much better qualified to do that than me. I keep on focusing on the stallions. We want to make the best of the horses we have and become a bit more commercial.

AES can help you with that?
I think AES is much more respected than ever before. Also I feel AES is helping and promoting the stallion owners in France. I feel that they are interested to move on. I think also personal service is an important mark. Kees Van den Oetelaar came to visit me in Normandy, which I’ve appreciated a lot.

Would you ever again leave France?
It would be quite complicated to leave France with all these horses, so for the moment not. France is the perfect country to work with horses. We have lots of place and many top ranked national and international events.


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