In the Show Jumping world the name Chapot requires no further explanation. Frank Chapot (photo left with young Gemini) has been training and breeding show jumpers since the early 1960’s. Back then his training barn consisted of slow thoroughbreds (TB) which he bought off the track. One such horse was a stallion named Salonga Carrier. Although he cannot be considered the foundation sire of Frank and Mary Chapot’s breeding program at Chado Farms he is the stallion which introduced them to the world of breeding.
In today’s show jumping arenas you will find many stallions competing alongside mares and geldings, yet back in the 1960’s this was not common place. One of the few stallions on the show circuit was an unraced TB named Good Twist (born in 1960; New Twist x Ianthe), owned by Carl Twitchell of Cheeca Farm but trained by Frank Chapot. Mary said, “Good Twist had an extraordinarily good disposition. It was very clear to him when it was breeding time and when it was show time. We even used to ship him in the same truck with our mares to the shows.” With such athleticism and wonderful disposition he became the foundation sire of Chado Farms.
Good Twist’s grand sire was Liz Whitney’s stallion, Bonne Nuit, who at one point had sired the majority of the horses on the United States Equestrian Team (USET). According to Mary the Chapot’s barn soon became a nightmare for grooms as only grey horses lined their aisles. Good Twist (photo right; ridden by Frank Chapot) showed internationally, winning Grand Prix classes in both in the United States and Europe and is also an inductee into the Show Jumping Hall of Fame. Although he sired many great athletes his most notable claim to fame is likely being known as the sire of the famed show jumper gelding, Gem Twist (Good Twist x Coldly Noble) born in 1979.
Gem Twist (photo below left) went on to win both Team and Individual Silver medals in the Olympic Games, Best Horse at the World Championships, was three time AGA Horse of the Year with three different riders (Greg Best, Leslie Howard and Laura Chapot) as well as many more Grand Prix around the world. He is an inductee into the Show Jumping Hall of Fame as well and has a plaque near his sire.
When Gem Twist was born it would have been difficult to predict how accomplished he would become in his lifetime. As with most young colts he was gelded and thus would not be able to sire any offspring to continue his legacy. However, prior to his death in 2006 the Chapots were approached with the idea of cloning Gem Twist. Though the technology was financially improbable at that time they had the foresight to preserve his tissue in hopes that one day it might become more feasible. When the go ahead was given by the Chapots several years later to begin the cloning process they were blessed with Gemini (photo below) who recently celebrated his 5th birthday. When deciding to clone Gem Twist Frank’s intention was not so much to compete the stallion but to breed him. “There will never be another Gem Twist and we wouldn’t tarnish that memory by trying to reproduce the past. But if we can send some good ones into the future that will be a nice feeling,” said Mary. With that in mind Gemini will soon be heading off to France for two years to stand at stud before returning to the United States.
According to Mary the only method available for breeding horses when they began their program was live cover, a limited option compared to what is available to breeders today.
"With the modern world of Warmbloods in this country allowing AI, frozen semen, and the various equipment to help us, and most of all the services provided by SBS, breeding has become a much more structured and positive venture. We have only been working with SBS for a few years, and our breeding operation is small, but I bless them every day that I need help with this or that with frozen semen, collection, shipping, etc. There is so much, and they do it all - and very efficiently, I might add!"
SBS in Maryland is currently in the process of freezing enough semen from Gemini to allow the Chapots to breed mares while he is in Europe. Gemini also has frozen semen which has been shipped to Europe and South America resulting in pregnant mares. "SBS's role in our breeding program will become even more important now, and I have full faith in their efficiency and ability to do what is needed."
Photos provided by Chado Farms. Photo Credits: Danielle Maczynski, James Leslie Parker and Chado Farms.