DPUK Top Gold- By Top Yellow, out of Dunnit Again, epitomises our breeding mission perfectly- Baileys were delighted to use him in this 2015 advert, demonstrating his beauty and athletisism.
Set in 40 acres of rolling countryside, nestles our stud farm in rural Lancashire, bordering the Fylde and Bowland Forest, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Our passion is to breed the dressage pony champions of the future from a small number of carefully selected mares and stallions, chosen for their proven dressage bloodlines, temperament, movement, performance and competitive ability.
Our choice of stallions has been extensively researched, sires are selected for their outstanding temperament and consistent performance ability at the highest level of dressage. The achievements of the stallion’s offspring are just as important as the stallion itself and this is a crucial factor when we cross match our mares and stallions.. We believe our ponies must have impeccable manners under saddle. To this aim we take great pains to produce submissive, confident, brave, trusting ponies. We breed and train our ponies and horses with love, trust, respect and discipline so they are well equipped for their future life. As a result they have an open, confident, easy going attitude. Only horse owners who value this educated, careful approach to horses will truly value our animals.
D.P.U.K. is a Lancashire based stud , encompassing a family who share a life long love of horses,dressage and ponies extending to a superb, professional, dedicated, extended community of talented trainers, riders, students and friends..
Gill's background in horses goes right back to my roots in Portmarnock, County Dublin, Ireland,which is where my love of breeding quality horses stems. We had glorious stud farms on all sides and from a tender age I helped at several of them including Pat Monaghan's family's yard - producers of show jumpers, eventers and hunters. Here I learned the fundamental importance of steady fittening work for young horses , horses were long reined for weeks along roads, up hills and tracks then trotted and cantered over fields, ditches walls and gates to and from the beautiful Portmarnock beach to build muscles and stamina- lameness was rare and horses were bomb proofed from an early age , being exposed to a wide variety of situations and surroundings which they quickly learned to accept and trust. This approach has stayed with me and I am determined that every animal we breed and train will be trustworthy, safe and confident when exposed to unfamiliar situations- This early conditioning is impossible to value until horse and rider are put into a situation where the horse's flight response would naturally be activated through fear- being a mother of four I want to know that my ponies will turn to their rider first to feel safe, thereby giving the rider time to reassure and carry on ! David's farming background means everything runs smoothly at all times as he works tirelessly to this end.
My own first pony, bought for me at the age of 8- largely because my mum quickly became bored watching me careering around at the local riding school in Malahide, thought a pony would be a "good idea" to keep the grass down, [we had a 2 acre garden] and to give her a permanent supply of manure for her roses. a 13.2hh , 5 year old Connemara mare ensued who jumped 5ft with ease and believed she could keep up with the racehorses from the Wheatfield stud whom she led into the sea to cool off after their gallop. She used to get down and roll with me still on board regularly on the sand dunes at Portmarnock when she thought she had done enough galloping and then shoot off home with me in hot pursuit- elbows aloft, huffing and puffing, Thelwell style .She only just kept a lid on it when I made a habit of giving pony rides to the nuns from the local convent who would have a pony ride in exchange for a bar of chocolate! It was the billowing habit as they mounted that she detested!
In 1974 my parents bought a dairy farm in rural Lancashire, based there I ran a small riding school and amongst other young horses bred the eventer Keyspools Spectrum, I took my BHS exams, became interested in dressage, as a result of a Sandra Pearson- Adams clinic, and then went to work as a groom in the Loire Valley close to Saumur. and trained with a former Ecuyer of the Cadre Noir, Le Commandant De Padirac and his wife at their Riding Academy near Saumur. Total immersion in pure French classical dressage or Academic Equitation as it is known in France ensued and a humility and realisation of how little I understood and a desire , which has stayed with me, to train horses quietly , firmly, patiently, without force and in a way that enhances their natural beauty. Whilst at university studying Modern Languages I returned to Saumur two years later to study further the teachings and methods of Le Commandant De Padirac and the Cadre Noir and was so privileged to be welcomed by such masters as the Ecuyer en Chef Durand, le Capitaine Franqueville and L'Adjudant Chef Donard who was responsible for the training of the "Sauteurs", the horses who perform the spectacular classical airs above the ground. I spent countless hours observing and talking to the Ecuyers about their training methods and philosophy. I was lucky to have friends working at the French National Stud who showed me the very progressive French breeding programme set up in the 1980s to develop and improve the Sel Francais- now a highly respected and sought after animal in the show jumping and eventing world. I was impressed by their highly selective, calculated approach. At the time the Cadre Noir were about to Terrefort to the National Equestrian Centre where they remain. If readers are in the Loire it is well worth visiting Saumur- for the Chateau which houses a museum of the horse, and wander around the former town centre grounds of the Cadre Noir- evocative of a bygone classical era, where horses were trained in a systematic academic way according to methods laid down centuries ago My study of the writings of la Gueriniere, Baucher and the modern Portuguese master , Nuno Oliveira fed my thirst for a deeper understanding of the art. I am fulfilling one of my goals in life at the moment by translating and publishing from the French the very special but little known book outside France - Équitation La Tradition Classique by Le Commandant de Padirac.
In 2014, in an equestrian world very different from that of the Manège des Ecuyers in Saumur, I embrace the challenge of training horses more than ever. I love working with ponies- their bright, confident hardy positive "can do" attitude, their soundness, and enthusiasm to please makes them a pleasure to breed, handle and train. I admire the methodical way in which the Germans breed, grade and train horses but find it ironic and so typically British that the Germans dominate the international dressage circuit with fundamentally British ponies and that the British go there to buy. I studied the bloodlines at great length, made many stud and performance sale visits and got busy!!! The Germans still have the edge because they train horses using a system that works and with such rigour , we are endeavouring to address this at D.P.U.K where the emphasis is very much on getting the basics firmly established.
Fortunately for my family, I am not competitive so along with our daughter , Charlotte , herself a talented, sensitive, intuitive rider who excels on the young ponies,we can enjoy the time consuming but incredibly rewarding training side and leave our younger daughter, 17 year old Ellie who lives and breathes dressage to represent us out there in the competitive world that is modern dressage. Ellie is a naturally gifted rider, a member of B.Y.R.D.S ,a which has given her amazing opportunities , training and support as well as being loads of fun. Her determination and total love and inherent understanding of the horse is awesome. She is competitive for herself- not to beat others. She is just like my brother, the Olympic yachtsman David Wilkins, who went on to represent his native Ireland in four Olympic Games, winning a silver medal in Moscow and Fifth in Munich- Moscow and Fifth in Munich-
Together with our son Jacob, Events Manager [chief fence fixer and occasional barman!]and our eldest daughter Rebecka, herself a talented and dedicated modern Languages teacher but a tireless and indispensible chef] our team works seamlessly and smoothly[most of the time!] older Considering we are based in such a bustling busy corner of England, Barnacre is a little haven of peace and we are very fortunate to have miles of beautiful countryside with quiet lanes, tracks and gallops on our doorstep.
So where does our breeding programme and ponies fit into my ethos and to answer the BIG question WHY!! and WHAT MAKES US UNIQUE? We are prepared to spend a huge amount of time and effort to produce able, sound, big moving, athletic ponies that are also sane and a pleasure to own - we love our ponies and we really enjoy training, riding and competing them. Everyone who visits our stud, comments on our ponies trusting calm temperament and on how easy and well handled they are. I know that this is not something that has a high monetary value. We are breeding ponies that are able to and want to perform- quite simply. Temperament is number one.
Every DPUK pony has the movement, frame, soundness and trainability of a miniature dressage horse but built to last all the way to Grand Prix, should the owner so wish. Quality is paramount. The 5 foundation mares are from the very best British riding pony and Welsh B,C, and D bloodlines Downland, Valentino, Bylch Hill Wind, Rotherwood, Sydenham Dragon to name but a few, giving them the proven, tried and tested soundness, strength, forwardness, movement and beauty so vital for high level dressage. I know realistically only a few will make it to the top just like every talented young tennis player does not make it to the Wimbledon final but that does not mean they should not enjoy tennis. If I could have one wish granted it would be for parents to buy their children a pony that is well within their riding capability. So many children give up because they are over- horsed. Our mares themselves have had successful careers, not just in dressage but jumping and showing as well. Our Connemara mare "Dunnit Again" is by the superb Connemara stallion Arrow Javelin. We have Arab and Thoroughbred bloodlines in our mares too. We have introduced continental blood for enhanced movement, trainability and aptitude, favouring German ponies such as Domingo B by Dornik B and Going East [Golden Dancer] Best of all, in my opinion, the most outstanding pony in the world, ever, the Bundeschampion record holder for the highest score ever, the most beautiful pony stallion Top Yellow, bred by Johan Hinneman - his influence will live on in our ponies