A top jumper foal according to Floris van Leuken

Since 2017, Floris van Leuken and Pieter Jan Berkers make a successful duo for Foal Auction Borculo. The team selected many talented foals and this year the collection jumper foals is in their care once again. What are the most important criteria to compose a top collection? In Showjumping Sunday, Floris walks us through the selection process.

The selection is in full swing, are you satisfied with the foals selected so far?
“We are very satisfied with the applications coming. We are not even halfway through the selection and already have been able to select some extraordinary foals. There are three that stand out for us, amongst them is a filly. Incredibly interesting for someone looking to set up a lineage. It is a shame that the sports are down at the moment, but we have still been able to select some foals with up to date sports in their damline.”

The preselection is a research into the lineage and the sports results. Why is the right pedigree so important for the auction?
“In an auction you have to offer what the market demands. Buyers want to buy foals with a proved damline and interesting sires. Sometimes it is difficult, because we get some genuinely good foals offered to us, that tick all the boxes conformation and performance wise. But if the damline shows not enough sports, we cannot select it for the auction, simply because the demand for it is less here. Besides, we have no selection days anymore and visit all breeders at home. The supply is large, so we are really strict in the preselection. It is a fair system; we visit the foals we think is most interesting for the auction.”

If a breeder signs up their foal, what happens next?
“We check the applications a few times a week and then decide if we go visit the foal. We try to move quickly so that the breeders know soon enough if the foal is interesting for the auction. During the home selection we let the foal move on the hard ground first and then on the soft footing in freedom. If we slightly doubt it, we let them walk and trot on the hard ground again. It all happens ‘coronaproof’. This year we, unfortunately, do not stay for a cup of coffee and the contracts are sent electronically.”

The focus in the selection is on the best that the Netherlands has to offer, can you explain?
“Foal Auction Borculo is originally an auction that provides the Dutch breeders with a platform to sell. You currently see many auctions auctioning foreign blood, which is in demand so easy to understand. However, as an auction you want to stick to your image and offer exclusivity. For that reason, we try to select as many foals from Dutch descent as possible. That concept is catching on internationally and besides, the Dutch breeders have interesting material. In many auctions you see a comparable list of sires, we as the selection committee of Foal Auction Borculo try to remain our own identity and offer a wide range, including foals by young interesting stallions. So far, we have selected foals by 21 different sires and we are quite proud of that.”

If you go out and view a foal, what are you hoping for? What does a good auction foal look like, in your opinion?
“Corecteness is priority number 1. We are very strict on that, especially now we are auction online, buyers must be able to trust that the foals are correct. This year we expand the videos to include even more information on the correctness, this is necessary because the foals are unlikely to see the foals before purchase. Second on the list is the canter. Of course, the foal also needs to have length and presence. Pieter Jan and I are on the same page, yet every now and then we have a discussion. Your personal preference also plays a role, but since the selection is done as a team, you can debate on it.”

Are there some foals that left a lasting impression over the last years?
“The first that comes to mind is MacGyver (s.Van Gogh x Ahorn, bred by H. Kessels of Meerlo). An incredible foal that has everything to become a great horse and he was sold for €36.000 at the time. This year, we auction another foal from the same mare and again I am very enthusiastic. Another fantastic foal was Tavi Z (s.Tobago Z x Chellano Z, bred by Rudi van der Bruggen of Poppel). He exchanged ownership for €35.000. To view a foal that is complete in every way is unique and certainly does not happen every time we go out. This year we have the same with a Casall-foal, I cannot find one single flaw. That’s the reason we are doing this as a selection committee.”

You form a team with Pieter Jan for a few years now, how is your partnership going?
“We are both in search of the same thing: a top foal, with an interesting bloodline and we make many miles and spend a lot of hours in the car. Of course, we sometimes have some discussion about a foal, but that keeps us sharp. The preparation for the days that we select foals is primarily on my end. I have close contact with the breeders and certainly for the last week, the phone has been red-hot. The breeders know where to find us, that’s the benefit of doing this for a few years already.”

For the first time, we auction solely online. Have you tailored your selection to that?
“The online auction brings on new opportunities and we expect the international customerbase to expand. It is easier to buy a foal for buyers and nearly every auction is going online, which is another advantage. A solid collection and good marketing will make the difference this year. The bar was already high, but maybe we have set it even higher this year, primarily when it comes to sport in the damline.”

If you were to paint an overall picture of this year’s collection, which type of foals can buyer acquire at our auction?3
“Interesting bloodlines and correct foals. Especially the correctness of the foals can be called a quality mark of Borculo. In addition to the selection committee closely inspecting the foals, a veterinarian also thoroughly examines the foals at the photo/video day. When in doubt, we do not auction. We have a few weeks left, but I think we already have some highlights in the collection already and I am looking forward to completing it.”