Le Tot de Semilly:

May 18, 2006
More foals arrrived at our stud farm. One of them is a mare from the famous " Le Tot de Semilly ", out of a Catango dam, Cordoba, who is also the mother of Wake - Up, a 7-years old currently ridden by Jos Lansink. Let's talk about Le Tot de Semilly: The fantastic success of the French all-stallion team at the 2002 WEG in Jerez put the focus back very firmly on French blood and none was more representative of the Selle Français heritage than Le Tot de Sémilly. Like so many stallions Le Tot de Sémilly is bound up with the fortunes of one horse breeding family – in this case, the Levallois family. The man who ‘ made ’ Le Tot de Sémilly is Germain Levallois, whose father before him, Louis was also a stallion owner and horse dealer between the wars. However M. Levallois senior, dealt in work horses not showjumpers, mainly selling Normandy Cobs. After the war, the trade shifted away from agriculture. According to Germain Levallois: "The farm horses went to the butchers by the truck load. The farmers kept only the most luxurious types to breed hunters. That was the first step towards the riding horse. Horses that displayed a great aptitude for hunting laid the basis for the Anglo-Norman horse." (quoted in ‘Le Tot de Sémilly, the rehabilitation of Grand Veneur’ by Pascal Renauldon, in Z magazine, Feb/April 2000)Germain’s advice was often sought by breeders in the Saint-Lô region, and when Jules Mesnildrey was looking for a brood mare, Germain found him Venue du Tot. As the sire of her fifth foal, Jules Mesnildrey chose Grand Veneur, then a young stallion and standing at nearby Marigny. Grand Veneur is out of Tanagra G (although this is not the same Tanagra who is the dam of Jalisco) who produced two other international showjumping winners, L’Elue de Veneur and O’Veneur. Grand Veneur was a popular sire, and was often France’s leading sire based on the performance of his progeny at the national championships in Fontainebleau. Fourteen of his progeny won or placed at Grand Prix level, and he produced 74 licensed sons, including Major de la Cour, who became a most important sire in Belgium. Germain Levallois purchased the Grand Veneur foal out of Venue de Tot and christened him, Le Tot de Semilly, and gave him to his son Eric to ride. "With hindsight he was far too young for a horse like that. Le Tot was a powerful horse, but they grew together. From their first season together, the whole world wanted to buy the stallion, the Federation, the Americans… He had a superb foreleg technique. He had steadily grown into his work, without interruption." (again from Pascal Renauldon’s article in Z magazine). Together the pair made their names in the sport. They won 22 international and 63 national Grand Prix and almost 200,000 euro in prizemoney. Le Tot de Semilly did not commence his breeding career until he was eight years old, but once started he slowly gained popularity. Right until his early 20’s, he was serving 100 mares a year – the maximum allowed by the French breeding authority – and in 1999 he was judged one of the 30 best stallions in France and the number per year increased to 150. Amongst his lady suitors, we find Weihaiwej, the blue eyed jumping star of Franke Sloothaak who visited him in 1999. Even in season, 2002, at the age of 26, Le Tot still covered 106 mares to be the 18th most popular stallion in France, while his son, Diamant de Semilly, took 9th place with 139. Jules Mesnildrey came to Germain again seeking a filly, this time with different blood. Germain found Venise des Cresles, and offered a free service to Le Tot with the deal. The mare died giving birth and the breeder wanted to get rid of the foal: "We took it in and bottle-fed it, together with another orphan. The two were always running free in the courtyard and would follow us around like two puppies." (Z Magazine) The foal was Diamant de Sémilly who made the 4, 5 and 6 year old finals at Fontainebleau before going on to a star studded international career, that included playing a key role in the gold medal French team at the WEG in Jerez. Other international competitors by Le Tot de Semilly, include Michael Whitaker’s Ashley, Fabrice Dumartin’s Coppelia de lÉpine, Rodrigo Pessoa’s Gandini Fidji du Fleury. Bolero de Brécey HN, Héloise de Semilly (represented Australia with Jeff Bloomfield at Jerez), Dohitzun Guernica, Étoile du Château, Fétiche du Pas, Fidélio de Ravel and Elkintot (who represented Italy at Jerez). According to Germain, Le Tot has improved on the conformation of the products of Grand Veneur: "I have never heard anyone say that Le Tots use their back wrongly. They have very supple backs. Admittedly there are Grand Vaneur products with a slightly weak back, long and stiff, and that was a problem. But you don’t see that in Le Tot’s offspring." At the 2003 Finals in Fontainebleau, Le Tot de Sémilly, with 29 competitors was second only to Narcos with 33, in terms of representation, while his son, Diamant de Semilly was equal third with 28 of his progeny making the finals.