Gratia.....Dam of Pilot!
Gratia was a chestnut Hanoverian mare born in 1970. A daughter of the great Graphit and out of a Keith-Firnis mare, she was a substantial mare with excellent jumping ability. She was bred as three year old to Pilatus, a son of Perseus out of the Hanoverian mare, Duela (Duellant - Folgsam). The following year, a beautiful bay colt was born at the clinic of former FEI chief vet, Dr. Cronau, as his breeder, Christa Geldbach, wanted her foal to have the best possible start from the very beginning. This foal, Pilot, was deemed "special" from the day he was born and at his first foal show, little Pilot caused a sensation and was recommended for stallion status. Mrs. Geldbach asked Kunibert Munch, the owner of Pilatus, to prepare Pilot for the stallion licensing, and it was here that his challenging temperament became apparent – and even today his progeny are known to have strong personalities.
Pilot was purchased by the Westfalen State Stud in 1977, and sent to the breeding station at Sande. He was an elegant horse with great conformation, and he behaved well enough at the performance test at Warendorf to finish in 5th – and his foals were wonderful. But the breeders were initially a leary of his disposition – but Warendorf director, Dr Gerd Lehmann refused to budge, and the stallion stood at Sande until 1988. By then the breeders were queuing for his services as his progeny proved themselves over and over in the competition arena.
Pilot was the first show jumping stallion with progeny to earn 1,000,000 DM. By the end of 1999, Pilot progeny had earned a staggering 6,250,000 DM. Unfortunately, his career was coming to the end as his fame increased as a sire. When his son Pedro was starring with Wolfgang Brinkmann in the gold medal winning German showjumping team at the Seoul Olympics in 1988, the fourteen year old Pilot was already suffering from serious – and mysterious – problems with his back and hips.
Instead of being sent out with the other stallions in the breeding season, he remained ‘home’ at the State Stud at Warendorf where he was available through AI only. However his fame continued to spread thanks to the exploits of Pirol (Lesley McNaught), PS Priamos, Prinzregent 7 (Norbert Koof) and many others.
Sadly Pilot’s health continued to worsen and he was put down in early 1991 at the age of 17 with an untreatable hip injury. According to the director of the Westfalen Stud, Susanne Schmitt-Rimkus, it has been difficult to maintain the Pilot line. "Our breeders love Pilot on the mother line but it is really difficult to get mares for our Pilot stallions. We have some interesting Pilot stallions but they don’t get to cover many mares, so there are not many foals, and effectively no sport horses. If a stallion covers ten mares, then next year he has five foals and from these five we have perhaps two who get into the sport, and they may be injured and nothing is left.”
Pilot was also influential in The Netherlands, through his son, the KWPN stallion Epilot (x Dixi by Direx), who died in November 2007 at the age of 21. Epilot won the six-year-old class at the Bundeschampionate in 1992, ridden by Franke Sloothaak. He went on to compete internationally with Franke and later, Peter Gerink.
In the USA, Pilot is the sire of the 26 year old AHS approved Elite Westfalen stallion, Pablo. Pablo was champion at his licensing in Germany. In his 100-day test, Pablo was the reserve champion of 53 stallions; 2nd in dressage with 138.21, 3rd in jumping with 129.11, and an overall score of 136.22! Pablo is owned by Edgar & Susan Schutte and stands at stud at Rainbow Equus in California. Pablo has many approved sons, including Prinz Pablo, Pablito and Paparazzo. Who knew that the first foal of the maiden Hanoverian mare, Gratia, would have such an global impact and change the history of show jumping?
Source: C. Hector, "From Gotthard to Gribaldi: The Making of The Modern Warmblood, Sporthorse International, Australia, pp.393-394)