2021 celebrates the 30th anniversary of Diamant de Semilly
Already 30 years … 30 years of intense emotions shared around a legendary stallion, Diamant de Semilly.
This story started before when Germain Levallois went one day in 1977 to Jules Mesnildrey, always looking for the best sport horses and the stallions of the future. At that time, he did not know that one little foal would change the course of his life when he discovered… Le Tot de Semilly.
Few years after, because of the horse’s quality, Germain was soon asked to sell him. At that time, he was offered enticing sums when the family was far from rolling in money and sometimes forced to sell a horse before the end of a month in order to pay its bills. It caused many sleepless nights for Germain, but he had the foresight not to give in to temptation. “My father said that with this money we could certainly enjoy a better life, but what would then have been left? … He preferred to keep the best working tool and teach us to reap what we sowed, because he felt that Le Tot was more than a regular horse….” Richard Levallois remembers.
The future proved him right: Le Tot would know an outstanding sports career, gracing the best competition arenas in the world. Over the years he would also become one of the most prized SF studbook sires, becoming the engine that drove Haras de Semilly, which was then emerging under the leadership of Richard.
A rought diamond falls from the sky…
Jules Mesnildrey who bred Le Tot, retained coverings for life to Le Tot de Semilly but was unable to use him because his broodmares came from the same maternal bloodline, so he asked Germain Levallois, in whom had confidence, to find him a good filly. This was Venise des Cresles (by Elf III). She gave birth to the small Diamant de Semilly in 1991 but died a few days later as a result of an infection, and an aging Jules Mesnildrey, not wanting to care for the orphan foal, gave him to Levallois family. “With we reared him with another foal in the same situation. They both grew up in freedom in the courtyard, coming to take their bottles through the window of the stud farm. With hindsight, it would have been better to find him an adoptive mother, which is preferable for a foal’s temperament, but as things were, it allowed us to save him.”
At the age of three, the exceptional qualities of Diamant appeared one grand day as he was jumping his first rails in preparation for the stallion competition. Richard and Germain noticed an ease that they had never previously noticed in any other horse. The director of the National Stud at Saint-Lô noticed the stallion and wanted to buy him, but the administration refused on the pretext that Diamant was ‘non standard’… in size! At the time, it was a relief to Richard and his father, who believed in their protégé and entrusted him to Eric Levallois for his sporting career.
From the nugget to the diamond
His career took off in 1999 with victory in the championship Criterium of France, then came back-to-back successes and titles. Diamant would provide intense emotions for the Levallois family.
“Throughout his life, Diamant gave us cold sweats and intense joy. He has never done anything by half measure…. When he arrived at the World Championships in Jerez (2002), he had a sickness and was more than evil. Twenty-four hours before the start of the Games, he still had a 40° fever and it was, at the time, the coach of the French team, Jean-Maurice Bonneau, who believed in him and his recovery capabilities.” What followed is like a fairy story: second in the speed round, faultless in the second round of the Nations’ Cup as a member of the sacred French team composed of four Selle Français stallions that won the world championship title, forever.
More so, in parallel with his own sporting results, his production also began to emerge right in front of his nose, to say nothing of the young horse circuit. “In 2002, Kalaska de Semilly was consecrated as 4 YO Champion of France and, in the light of the statistics calculated over his first offspring, the specialist in equine genetics, Luc Tavernier, had already predicted that Diamant would have a major career as a stallion.” A prediction that has been confirmed as Diamant became the jewel of Semilly’s stud farm.
The coronation after the fear
The story could have come to an end, one day in 2008, black year for the Levallois family. Le Tot suddenly died at the age of 31, and Diamant is struck down by colic. For several weeks, the whole family held a collective breath for this horse. “Those moments were very hard to live through. Despite very professional management of the problem, Diamant underwent 3 consecutive colic surgeries. At the end, when we believed we had lost him, Diamant was also having a mental battle and one might have felt that he also wanted to leave. But in the united energy of despair, we fought with him and did everything that was humanly possible to save him, well beyond conventional veterinary medicine, with great solidarity from the whole horse world at the heart of the family. Every moment of fear and joy, and every intense emotion in between, will stay with us for ever.” Richard reminds with an intense emotion.
Fortunately, Diamant recovered. He still had so much to prove as a sire…
Placed among the world’s top ten showjumping stallions (classified by the WBFSH) in 2012, he integrated the Top 3 in 2014 and had never left it for 7 years in a row: 3rd in 2014, 2nd in 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020 and crowned Best Stallion of the World in 2015 and 2016! “This is a great accolade for an extraordinary horse with exceptional qualities”, Richard says. “Everything about this horse has always surprised us: his sporting qualities, his mentality – never in his life did he ever have a refusal, the quality of his production…. even his own incredible fertility.” If asked to whom Diamant owes his success, he humbly responds: “It’s the work of the whole family, the whole team, but also to all the breeders who trust him, and riders who take pleasure in riding his products.”
This story is sacred to Germain, suffering from a serious illness at the end of 2015. But it is actually the culmination of a lifetime’s work for the whole family. How many horsemen have been able to identify a stallion that would become a ‘chef de race’, producing his best son, putting him under a familial saddle that would take him to the highest level, managing the whole career of a stallion and seeing him reach the summit of the world hierarchy?
An international recognition
Several figures of the Horse World pay tribute nowadays to Diamant de Semilly. (interview done by Adriana Van Tilburg for an article in Breeding News)
Tony Foriers, a Belgian breeder, chose Diamant de Semilly for his Holsteiner mare and Dominator 2000 Z was born. Foriers recalls: “I chose Diamant for Cephale 2000, because I was looking for a proven stallion that jumped at a high level in sport. During that period, I saw a lot of good offspring by Diamant de Semilly in sport. Cephale 2000 is a typical Holsteiner mare with a lot of blood, and I believe that’s why she’s a perfect combination for the French blood of Diamant de Semilly. It’s proven through Dominator 2000 Z every day.”
Boudewijn Schepers has been a member of the BWP stallion committee for 20 years, so he saw Diamant de Semilly’s influence in Belgium “We started early with using Diamant de Semilly in BWP breeding. The first BWP registered Diamant offspring was born in 2000: Eurocommerce Toulouse who jumped
Diamant’s semen was always very good, with mares in foal with only one straw, so he was very fertile and that was a great advantage. I was always a fan of Diamant de Semilly blood, and in BWP we always advocated for French blood as we had a lot of success with Grand Veneur – such as Major de la Cour and Sheyenne de Baugy in their time. Through Le Tot de Semilly, Diamant goes back to Grand Veneur, and sometimes we’ve even had a discussion about not approving too many offspring from Diamant, but from quality you can never have enough.”
🇩🇪 Diamant de Semilly was also approved by the Holsteiner Verband in 2003. In 2005 he had a foal crop that would mean so much for the Holsteiner breed, when a beautiful black colt was born. He would turn the 2007 Holsteiner approvals upside down and became the Champion stallion. His name is Diarado.
His breeder, Klaus Kristensen Thingholm explains: “Roxette I was not a typical Holsteiner with a lot of blood. We thought it might fit because then we had a combination of pure performance blood and the noble mare. I also think she needed a kind of power so I saw Diamant de Semilly as the perfect match for her. Eventually I used Diamant a couple of times because they were not coming close to Diarado at all, so it’s very important to have a noble mare. You can’t use mares that produce big-framed horses. Diamant de Semilly produced horses that are easy to ride. He is very consistent in passing the rideability and the ability to jump to his next generation. All of my own-bred Diamant offspring have been easy to ride.”
Dr. Thomas Nissen, recently retired from the Verband, talked about Diarado and Diamant de Semilly: “The breeding development from Diamant de Semilly to his son Diarado is a great success for Holsteiner breeding. I met Diamant when we drove to Normandy after 2002 WEG and his gold medal. This was how we became aware of Diamant, and to see these such special stallions is always a huge honour. To see their amazing personality, and this was how it also was with Diamant de Semilly. He is big so we have tried to influence the breeders to use modern, blood-typed mares, and I believe that after Diarado was approved the breeders start to use Diamant in a different way. Today we have many good offspring by Diamant de Semilly. Also during the most recent approvals in October was a very elegant son who was approved.
Diamant is very special to me because he’s accompanied me through more than half my time with the Verband, so I could follow his development in Holsteiner breeding step by step. We can say that Diamant de Semilly is the third French stallion who has been able to build a stallion line in Holstein after Cor de la Bryère and Quidam de Revel. I have to add that Cor de la Bryère managed to do something that was really extraordinary. Quidam de Revel didn’t have the same success as Cor de la Bryère, but he still plays an active role in Holstein and in Europe. I think that Diamant de Semilly might follow the path of Cor de la Bryère. He proved through Diarado and Dinken and their several approved sons that he has his own stallion line in Holstein, and worldwide he has also produced many top stallions and mares.”
One of Diarado’s co-buyers was Paul Schockemöhle, who has always had a brilliant eye for horses. “I was at the 2002 World Equestrian Games in Jerez de la Frontera where Diamant de Semilly won gold with the French team. I’d already known him for a long time before WEG. He is a long-legged stallion with a lot of scope. His offspring can all jump, they all have a good character, and they are good to ride. He passed that on to Diarado, I would say in a more beautiful form. I believe that Diamant de Semilly has built his stallion line in Germany.”
🇳🇱 For the Dutch rider Johan Heins, Almé is and will forever be his favourite stallion, as he rode him and has followed him ever since. Anyway, he has seen a great many jumping horses throughout his life, but here is what he says. It’s remarkable that he’s spent his whole life with the Levallois family, and overcoming so many obstacles in both his sporting and breeding career. I think this says something amazing about his character.
For the Dutch rider Johan Heins, Almé is and will forever be his favourite stallion, as he rode him and has followed him ever since. Anyway, he has seen a great many jumping horses throughout his life, but here is what he says. It’s remarkable that he’s spent his whole life with the Levallois family, and overcoming so many obstacles in both his sporting and breeding career. I think this says something amazing about his character. This is how people handle defeats, and this horse has shown that he is stronger than his defeats. He is a fighter and this is what you also see with his offspring, they don’t give up but just keep going, which is why you see so many at the top level. For sure it’s good that you test a young stallion with all kinds of things, but eventually the horses that jump at the highest level have proven they can also handle defeat. They compensate with their character and they want to do better, and this is what Diamant de Semilly is passing on. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have so many international horses as offspring. I can see also the strong character of Diamant in Don VHP and Emerald, they are the boss in the stable.”
This international recognition pays a great tribute for the 30th anniversary of DIAMANT. 30 years of joy and intense emotions, but also stress, fear and doubt sometimes… but finally, these are those moments which allow us to appreciate the ones even more!
Thank You Diamant for everything and HAPPY BIRTHDAY !
Hoping that you will still add many other lines to this fairy tale…
Generations of Horsemen in the service of breeding and equestrian sports
Haras de Semilly
Impasse de l’Hôtel Pohier