Dressage Stallion Production--Part 3 Vitalis
I love Vitalis offspring. I've ridden several, bred several (one coming in a few weeks!!) and seen many more in training and competition. The riders love them for good reason: Vitalis is known for putting a very good temperaments and ridability on his offspring. In general they are forward enough, without being spooky and naughty to the aids. They learn quickly, focus well on their rider, want to do the work and take pressure well.
Vitalis himself is a son of Vivaldi, who has made a big impact on the dressage world with many good riding horses. They are generally known as very willing horses who work for their rider and have good temperaments, and this trait seems to be reliably passed on through his sons as well. Vivaldi has produced several international Grand Prix horses, some of the most well-known names include Dream Boy (damsire: Ferro), Desperado (damsire: Havidoff), and Cennin (damsire: Donnerhall). The biggest problem with Vivaldi himself as a sire is that his semen is absolutely horrible. And I do mean horrible. Like, you might as well put eye contact solution in your mare, because she's probably about as likely to get pregnant from it. When his frozen semen first became available many US breeders tried it and I don't think anyone got a pregnancy. I personally know of only 1 bred in the US. Even in Europe I believe breeders are required to ship their mares directly to the stallion station for breeding because even his fresh semen doesn't ship well.
Vitalis himself is 14 this year (2021, he was born in 2007) and he himself only ever competed through Intermediare I. When you see that a stallion never competed GP himself you always wonder a little bit if his offspring will be able to or not. The big difference between the PSG/I-1 (short tour) and the Grand Prix (big tour) is mainly in the piaffe, passage and one-time changes, and many very successful short tour horses are never able to master the most difficult exercises for the big tour. Vitalis' first registered offspring were born in 2011 and are now 10 years old in 2021. He has already produced several successful international FEI horses from his first couple breeding years, including Vayron (damsire: Gloster), Vamos Amigos (damsire: Hotline) and Villeneuve (damsire: Dancier). It's a little early to tell how well he will produce GP horses. Vamos Amigos is looking very promising in international GP at only 9 years old, but the question is if Vitalis will produce more and if so, how many. In my experience the main criticism of Vitalis offspring is that they aren't quite hot and sensitive enough, and not quite quick enough in their hind legs, which can be a liability when you are looking for a stallion to produce international GP horses.
The other main criticism of Vitalis offspring is he is completely unreliable for height. While Vitalis himself is just under 17 hands (officially 1.72 meters), I've seen offspring from Vitalis who are 16 hands, and some who are well over 18 hands (Vayron is 18.3!!). There doesn't seem to be a good predictor on whether you'll get a big or small one. So that's a risk if you're a breeder or foal buyer and you want a stallion who reliably produces within a certain height range.
The bonus for North American breeders is that, unlike his sire Vivaldi, in general his frozen semen quality is excellent. Semen collections do vary in quality, sometimes stallions freeze well when younger then the quality declines with age or with intense training/showing schedules (or vice versa). However generally I have found that his frozen is excellent quality and I know of many offspring from Vitalis bred here in the US and Canada. Good news for North American breeders!