ALMÉ (1966-1991). THE BEGINNING
The story of Alme ,a horse who was out of the ordinary,is the same as that of the modern sport horse .
If the thoroughbred Orange Peel had left his remarkable signature on the stud-book Selle-Français between the wars (1930-1940), creating the foundations for the sport horse,his grand son IBRAHIM firmly established the roots of what would become the the main bloodline for most sport horses in the years between 1960-1970, an
important period in the development of riding horses.
And then came along his great grand son ALME, who for once and all truly consecrated this major branch in the family tree of the Selle-Français horse. He spread his magic potion thoughout the world from 1971 à 1990, for almost 20 years.
ALME, being one of the first horses to also prove his talent for jumping in competitions,leaving behind him a long line of performing stallions never equaled by any other international champion.
ALME (Ibrahim DS x Girondine DS x Ultimate ps) was born on the16 April 1966, at the farm of Monsieur Alphonse Chauvin in the south of la Manche (Normandy).
This bay foal with four white "ermine" socks and a large white mark on his forehead was strong and handsome. Quickly spotted as a foal and bought by the horse dealer Alfred Lefèvre,ALME with his mother already had the presence, that virility,the class and the look of a stallion that always made him the horse to stand out in the crowd.No other Stallion to this day has ever had such an aura !
Could you imagine what would have been the success of his SF horses if ALME had stayed in France, breeding 50 to 100 mares a year between 1971 to 1985, in 15 years, between 500 to a 1000 French Alme !
Instead in 9 years he left us only 284 foals SF. What fame and reputation French breeding would have benefited from his staying.
Unfortunately, history had decided another destiny.
ALMÉ was sold at 3yrs old to an American amateur rider living in France, Fred Graham. The Haras Nationaux ( national stud) wanted to buy the 3 year old champion but he wasn't for sale anymore.
His rather elderly owner and novice rider rode Alme himself at a time when it was rare to see stallions competing . Those who saw him jump still speak about it with great admiration.
At 5 yrs old in 1971, ALME bred only a few mares at the haras de la Cour Bonnet in Falaise (Calvados). But at the same stud farm, Sans Souci,an international winner and who proved to be a modest breeding stallion and attracted all of the brood mares, the result being that Alme only produced 7 poulains in 1972 (including the stallions GALOUBET A and GRAND D’ESCLA) and two in 1973( like the stallion HERBAN).
He was then entrusted into the hands of Monsieur Charles de Saint Laumer, he bred for almost two seasons near Chartres, all the time continuing his show career with both Michel Parot and Bernard Genest and starting to jump brilliantly Grand prix at 1m50. The notoriety of Alme was growing amongst certain rider-breeders who saw him at the shows and his fame started to spread.
With his courageous rider we saw Alme tempt the world record for high jump in Paris. Thanks to his ever growing popularity there was a slight increase in the number of breedings. In1974,15 foals were born (including the internationals I LOVE YOU, INDIAN TONIC, lARA...) and in 1975 the last season before his departure 36 were born, the most famous being the stallions JALISCO B, JOYAU D’OR, JOLLY GOOD winners in CSIO and great mares like JOLIE MOME and JESSICA D ...
BELGIUM AND HOLLAND Zangersheide
So ALMÉ only bred for four years before leaving France.In 1974 the year he was exported to Belgium, ALMÉ had only a few products the eldest being only 2 years. Nobody truly could have imagined the actual value of Almes remarkable genetic quality and the enormous loss that it would eventually mean for our countries breeding.
It was only 3 years later that the phenomena GALOUBET won the 5yr old French Championships.
As for many stallions, it was only when he was 12 that the consécration of Alme became official with his first international winners. He had left France for 4 years already!
At the end of 1974, when he was 8, ALMÉ was sold to Leon Melchior for the big price of (700 000 francs at the time as much 550 000€ today ),after a very long trial. Fred Graham prétended that the stallion has only been rented for that price whereas Léon Melchior insisted that he had bought him. The American lost the process.
In Leon Melchior's own words:
« Monsieur Graham was an amateur rider like myself. He took lessons with Alwin Schockemohle. The first person to speak to me about Alme was Alwin Schockemohle. Monsieur Graham and I met in Paris.
I remember that at the end of our negotiations, we both signed our agreement on the tablecloth of the restaurant. The horse was mine.”
From 1977, ALME concentrated on breeding and bred numerous mares from both Belgium, Holland and Germany and in particularly many mares who were daughters of the hannovarian GOTTHARD. A great many of these mares became brood mares especially at Zangersheide where you could count them by the dozen. These ALMÉ daughters were then bred to German sires such as the holsteiner RAMIRO, a breeding that that gave the exceptional results with horses like RATINA Z (Ramiro and Argentina z by Almé) one of the world stars at the time along with ROBIN Z ,OG for Sweden. But above all, ALMÉ continued his show jumping career on the international stage. Finalist at the European Championships in Vienna 1977, 2nd in the Nations Cup at Hickstead, 4th in the Grand Prix in Dortmund, 3rd in the Grand Prix of Vienna ... etc
When Leon Melchior had the project of selling his entire breeding program to the Dutch government, ALMÉ was part of the deal. In the end the project did not go through and only the 2 stallions ALMÉ and RAMIRO were bought for the Dutch.
Alme stayed in Holland until 1983 under the name of H-ALMÉ Z.
From this period in breeding history the names that stand out are : Aérobic (USA), Zalmé (OG in Séoul), Aurora, and the leading stallion ANIMO etc...
HIS FAMOUS FRENCH SONS
In France, Almés foals started to grow and his first stallion son GALOUBET A (Viti TF par Nystag TF) after having won the 5 yr old Championships was also one of the best 6 yr olds of his generation, and was about to start an incredible international career. French Champion, leading CSO French horse. In1981, GALOUBET was 5th in both the World Cup and the World Championships and was World champion in the team event. His famous back kicks made him very popular with his fans.
His first season in breeding did not go unnoticed as he was the first french stallion to be authorised to breed by artificial insemination and to breed 100 mares per year.
GALOUBET added to his father Almés already incredible reputation . He was soon to be surpassed by his half brother I LOVE YOU (Elyria sf par Nykio TF) who after a very promissing debut (2nd in the french 5 yr old Championships and 3rd in the 6 yr old Critérium), French riders Champion at only 7 yeras old, he was sold to the USA for a record pice never seen before, people spoke of more than 4 million francs in 1981 (around 1,5 million €).
With his american rider Norman dello Joio I LOVE YOU won amongst others the World Cup 1983, vice Champion 1984 and " Horse of the year", many international Grands Prix pre-selected for the olympics of 1984.
With over 2 million of winnings(600 000€), I LOVE YOU was the richest stallion in the world (and winnings were not as high as they are today, 30 years ago !).
And then came many other ALMÉ sons to follow in his footsteps like HERBAN and JOLLY GOOD (direct brother of LOVE YOU) top international winners in the USA for Fred Graham, JOYAU D’OR a great international and member of the Italian Olympic team in Los Angeles. JALISCO B, French team horse and CSIO, jumping at the OG in Séoul for Portugal.
Apart from these great international champions ALME produced a good number of jumpers. You should know that it was very rare to have over 72% of his horses born in France between 1972 - 1975 all winners and 30% of his male foals approved as stallions. Never seen before !
THE LONG RETURN
So whilst the small production of Almé were covering themselves with glory from 1981-1983 all over the world, the son of IBRAHIM was breeding in Holland. ALME was operated on for a hernia which left him with only one testicule - monorchide , at the end of 1983. The Dutch government and owner of the stallion decided to stop him from breeding. The insurance company sold him to the belgium dealer François Mathy and so he came back to Zangersheide in1984 to breed again.
And so what, you may well ask were the french doing all this time ? What were they waiting for to bring him back home? It was now or never!
I got wind of this sale and news about ALMEs return to Zangersheide.I decided to go and visit the famous stud farm and see this stallion of whom I had dreamt of for so many years. I saw for myself that ALMÉ was still an admirable horse despite his 18 years and very busy life. I also found out that 2 new offers had been made to buy him. Not by the French but from the Americans and vénézueliens. The first one were offering an astronomical sum of money and the others an exchange for thousands of hectares of pampas. What could I offer compared to these millionaires, me a simple french breeder, passionate about breeding but totally broke? I didn't know any rich sponsor at the time who was as mad about breeding as myself and no bank would lend me the money.
What could I do to bring ALME back to France ? It was all I could think about and it became my obsession. A few months before, just after my return from the Los Angelès Olympics, I had the idea of bringing a 17 year old stallion who I loved out of the wilderness, the thoroughbred LAUDANUM, a winner in CSIO, and who was totally forgotten.
Sent away to the south west of France where he bred only 9 mares in 1984. To achieve this I applied the method often used in horse racing, the syndication, that's to say a sort of co-ownership. Every action sold gave the right to one breeding per year. My syndication of LAUDANUM was a success and he bred 63 mares. Motivated by this triumph I decided to put in place the same principal to save our SF genetic patrimony and bring back ALME for the french breeders.
The negotiations were long and difficult as the owner had to accept that he would only be paid once the syndicated actions were sold. I often had moments of great upset as the go betweens for the deal went back on their world several times and would not sign any contract. Time passed and we lost the breeding season of 1985.ALME remained at Zangersheide. Seeing no solution to this matter and despite many trips to Belgium, I begged French breeders, readers of the magazine l'Eperon ( of which I was the editor )to send their mares to Zangersheide, as I believed the game to be over and the horse to be lost forever to the Americas. This was how around 20 french mares were bred by Alme in 1985, a little late in the season , including one of my own.
The Americans were ready to pay a lot of money for ALME. Not forgetting that his son GALOUBET had been syndicated in the USA the previous year for 2 million dollars (5 millions d’€) ! He was worth it. Fortunately for me
ALME’s weaknesses played in my favour. I won the first part of the battle as he could not be exported to the US because of a positive test for the piroplasmose. Not to give up easily the americains decided to leave ALME in Belgique and to imprt his frozen semen. Second round to me. ALME was not freezable. They finally gave up the game. But there were still the Venezueliens and all of their hectars of pampas.
I was starting to have enough. It had been over 9 months since the negociations had begun. I was ready to give in as well but decided to give it one last try by posing an ultimatum at the Junior European championships in Fontainbleau held in July of 1985. I came away from there with at last my signed contract. ALMÉ would be coming home to France.
His official "come back" was to be one month later during the CSIO at Dinard and the European Championships of 1985. My gamble paid off. I made the announcement in l'Eperon August 1985, of the "incredible and unimaginable" return of ALME.
For those of you who may not have noticed or have not had the pleasure of the cruelty of certain people in the « horse business » I can assure you that the bad reputation of our world lives up to its name.
Gossip , lies, slander and so much rubbish was said about ALMÉ that you cannot imagine. Out of sheer jalousie or just to damage his name with stupid rumours. ( thank God that internet forums did not exist back then !) even from people who were meant to be authorities in the horse world and who I believed to be intelligent or at least reasonable men.
According to them Almé was little more than a rocking horse , and sterile to boot ! He return was obviously upsetting for more than one person !
As the new boy on the block , I was made out to be a fool… if not worse.
However Almé's presentation in Dinard put things in there place and silenced more than a few of them. Almé then at 19 years old was on dazzling form .I'll always remember his presentation and the admiring gaze of hundreds of people, passing on the word, " It's Almé!". Accompanied by Haendel's magic Saraband , Almé made his comeback on the large grounds at Dinard in front of thousands of spectators, entranced by his beauty and charisma and by a horse who's reputation was at its peak. A moment of great satisfaction and pleasure both in the beauty of the scene and the satisfaction in the work accomplished .False modesty aside the young man I was of 31 at the time was also very proud.
What followed was equally exciting. First of all the syndication. It all went so fast. Within a few days all the shares were sold and the money was raised to buy Almé.
In the space of a few weeks I received almost 400 requests to buy shares .
Many Almé fans contacted me unfortunately too late . Everyday I had to return cheques. Some were even signed blank accompanied by a note saying :
"I've heard that Almé is for sale to a syndicate , I don't know the conditions but please keep me one or two shares and fill in the enclosed cheque"….I know it sound unbelievable today !
ALMÉ was syndicated within 48 hours with 100 shares of which I kept a few as my commission. François Mathy, the seller,was paid in full within the next few days. I will always be grateful to him for having trusted me even if at times he pushed my patience to its maximum during those long months of sitting it out.
This enthusiasm and confidence were a great comfort to me and it was without doubt that the syndication of Almé made me decide to make the move to Normandy and set up as a stallion manager and breeder at the farm known as the Le Logis à Brullemail that I transformed into a stud farm in 1986. My first years as a professional breeder will always be linked with the arrival ALMÉ
BACK TO NORMANDY
As I lived in Paris at the time I had to find somewhere to keep Almé, big enough to accomodate the 100 mares who were sure to come to be bred by him. Stud farms of that size, experienced in artificial insemination were hard to find in 1985.
The only suitable one was Villepeleé.(15km away from Brullemail) which could carry out all the necessary requirements and it was also the farm where GALOUBET had started breeding. And so it was like this that ALME came back to breed in the Pin’s breeding consciption where 3 of his best sons were born: GALOUBET at Madame Lefrant (Eure), I LOVE YOU at Monsieur Pelissier (Orne) at JALISCO at Monsieur Sabras (Orne).
During 1986 - 87 Almé's fresh sperm was used for artificial insemination , 100 mares per season. Mares came from all over France as well as from Belgium, Holland, Great Britain, Switzerland and Italy. In 1988-89 I limited him to 80 mares and in 1990 to 60 because of his age and state of health. Out of the 420 mares covered during 5 years , with an average fertility rate of 78%,many products were exported and roughly 20% of the mares came from abroad ( foreign mares or mares in foal exported) added to these are the dozens of Almé foals of all ages exported to Italy , Belgium and Sweden over the these 5 very fruitful years.
Since his return, trade in foals had flourished . Record prices were attained in the Fences sales : 240,000Frs (62,000 €)for a bay foal , direct sister to the World Champion I Love You in 1989; 210,000 Frs (54,000 €) for a chestnut foal of the same family as Flambeau C . Many of the foals were sold between 50 - 150,000 Frs directly at their stud farms , and 3 year olds went for anything between 300,000 to a 1million Frs (70-200,00 €). Almé's breeding fee was expensive , starting at 14,000 Frs (3500€) and then 16,000 Frs before finishing at 20,000 Frs (4500€) regardless of the outcome.
But it was money well spent , what other stallion could offer such a high probability of producing a crack apart from his sons GALOUBET or JALISCO ?
As for the shareholders , they had the satisfaction of being offered one breeding fee by Almé per year. Several of them sold their shares after the first season making a profit of 15,000 frs on an initial outlay of 22,000 at a 70% Dividend. Others who waited 2 seasons before selling benefited from a dividend of nearly 150%. But the wisest or the real breeders did not speculate on the sale of mounts but used them with their mares. At the end of the day , despite the usual problems involved in breeding ( empty mares , abortions , still born foals….) these breeders are the real winners in the association . They had the satisfaction of having played a role in Almé's comeback and in his perpetuation through the foals born from the highly successful combination of this great horse with French mares. Of improving their breeding program and of making good profits when selling foals and for some, preparing for the future by keeping males or females .
I finally decided to retire ALMÉ from breeding in August 1990 after the breeding season. The stallion started to become very slow and his health was not so good.
I had the great satisfaction to offer him to spend his last days at my home at the Haras de Brullemail. Some share holders were grotesque, refusing to pay their bills, even insisting that he be put down just because he couldn’t breed anymore.
Lets forget these people just to remember the good times. From my office, I used to see his head look over his box door every day , so expressive despite his age of 25 .
I could hear his high pitched neigh, so unusual , like a dolphin, as the mares crossed the courtyard or came in from paddocks. Despite an excellent appetite Almé grew thin , like an old man living slowly between the fireside and the window. He was saving himself and would enjoy his daily outing on the lawn while the lad cleaned his box.
Almé led a full life through breeding and sport. His glory crossed frontiers and his name is honoured by riders and breeders world wide. The only horse with an equally good family tree and with whom he has often been compared to because of their similar coat is Northern Dancer.
His heritage was guaranteed with the extraordinary quality of his production and his glorious family.
In the 80’s you could make an Olympic team with only sons of Almé (Galoubet, I Love You, Joyau d'Or, Jalisco). Only FURIOSO (ps) in the 60’s could boast as much and in the 90’s, JALISCO could also say the same thing, him being a cross breeding of both ALMÉ & FURIOSO. And no doubt we could say tha same of QUIDAM DE REVEL (Jalisco) in the years 2000. ALMÉ is the ancestor of more than 22 % of the horses participating in the WEGs of 2002 and 3 out of the 4 horses who made the final had him in their pedigree.
We can say the same thing for 40% of the horses in the OG in London in 2012, all out of ALMÉs line, which is huge.
1990, was the year that ALME retired at the Haras de Brullemail and it was also the year that the World Champion ridden by Eric Navet was the young stallion QUITO DE BAUSSY, a grandson of ALME.
ALME will remain in the history books as THE stallion of the XXth century. ALME had several lives as a stallion.
He started in France from 1971 to 1974, then left for Zangersheide (1975-1979), then Holland (1980-1984), Zangersheide again in 1985 before finally returning to France (1986-1990). He bred for 11 years in Belgium and Holland and 9 years in France.
THE LAST DAYS
It is always with great emotion when I think about him or remember a moment spent with this great foundation sire.
His influence is enormous in all of the worlds best stud books. No doubt because of his « moving about » , sharing his life between France and the Benelux.
ALME fell asleep for eternity on the 21st March 1991 at 9pm, on a fine spring day. He was 25 years old,having made the most of a well deserved rest after a long career that we have gone over today and not without shedding many emotions.
I have been so lucky to have had the honour,as a breeder and as a man of meeting such a horse along life's road. I thank the lucky star that led me to him and the great satisfaction he gave me.
ALMÉ has been a part of my life. He started my career as a stallion owner and breeder. And he has played a big part in the fame of many of the horses Made in Mail !
He is present in nearly all of the foals that I have bred over the past 30 years.
But I have always said that you can’t live on memories. The future has to be prepared, breeding is a long and daily task. The next generations must be prepared and new reproducers found. And amongst these horses, maybe one day I will notice again that special twinkle in the eye, that same charisma that made ALMÉ the incredible phenomena that he was.