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Posted by Equestrian Queensland on 23/09/2021.
© Stephen Mowbray Photography 2021

Best Performed Off The Track Thoroughbred at Brisbane CDN - Alistair Schramm & Zero Degrees

Alistair, the younger brother of Australian international eventer Dominic Schramm currently campaigning in the USA, like his brother is a dedicated and determined young athlete showing potential as both a rider and a leader in our sport. Alistair showing maturity is also one of Queensland’s young and up and coming leaders in his discipline.

Alistair acquired Zero Degrees, AKA Sweeney in 2012. At the time, Alistair was looking for an eventer he could go on with and Sweeney already had the foundation work put in with several Preliminary dressage and 80cm show jumping runs under his belt and showing promise. In 2014 Alistair and Sweeney had several successful starts in Queensland made the road trip from South East Queensland to Werribee Park National Equestrian Centre in Victoria for the National Interschool Championships where they took out the 80CM Eventing Championship.  The combination repeated the effort the following year at the Queensland 2015 Interschool championship at Toowoomba, by this time Sweeney was showing genuine potential and like for dressage, so on the basis of Sweeney’s dressage performances and personal reasons Alistair made the decision to focus their equestrian efforts on dressage.  They both progressed quickly through the grades and by the end of the 2015 competition season were competing EA Medium and FEI CDI-J Junior Rider.

The combination moved into the FEI Young Rider ranks in 2016 and generally put together respectable mid to high 60% scores and always a contenders to be reckoned with.  In 2019 they stepped up to FEI CDN-U25, Under 25 class and have continued to fair well. 2020 didn’t start well, Sweeney had colic and required surgery in February 2020, it was a quiet year for Alistair and Sweeney. Their first outing for 2020 was in September at the Queensland Youth Dressage Championships – Toowoomba in the Grand Prix. The highlight for the combination this year are their results in the Saddlefitter Brisbane CDN-U25, Under 25 tour finishing second to Eliza Cullen and Dobria De Jeu.

The story of Alistair’s journey with Sweeney is even more remarkable when you look right back to his breeding at Ruane Stud Menangle NSW, born 2003 Sweeney is by Danzero out of Curtain Time line bred to Northern Dancer, 2004, Sweeney was sold as a yearling at the Magic Millions Gold Coast sales for $150,000 to Asian connections, sent to Sha-Tin Hong Kong and barrier trialed as Sweet Win as a two year old but broke down.  After his recovery, he barrier trialed again but his connections decided not to go on with his racing career and Sweeney become a lead horse. He returned to Australia somewhere around 2009-2010 and we know the rest.

Genetically, what makes this story even more interesting and what can we learn from it?  The answer is genetic critical mass.  Sweeney is line bred to the great Northern Dancer and if we consider the work of Frederico Tesio, the famous Italian 19th Century master Thoroughbred breeder who whilst never sharing his secrets, analysis of his methods has revealed a seven step process:

1.      Research pedigrees.
2.      Establish a breeding goal and determine which bloodlines will help you achieve it
3.      Line breed: ensure the presence of an ancestor occurs twice or more in a horse’s pedigree with at least one strain present from each parent
4.      Balance the bloodlines: find a mate among the daughters and sisters of your good male lines, or the brothers and sons of the female lines.
5.      Consolidate the bloodlines by engaging the background strength of the pedigree.
6.      Bring in siblings: full if possible, or 7/8, 3/4, 5/8 or ½ (statistics show that full or 3/4 siblings send the genetics into high gear).
7.      Repeat the process to ensure the best outcomes in the progeny

Whilst Sweeney did not show an ability or propensity to race, the superior genetic athletic ability and temperament to training and work characteristics of Northern Dancer came through in Sweeney in the form of athleticism and gymnastic ability. When questioned about Sweeney’s character and temperament, Alistair replied,” he’s quirky but a really chilled fun to be around nice guy who is willing, wants to work and puts his best foot forward. Personality wise, he’s the boss and he’d chew your arm off for a piece of licorice.”

Sweeney AKA Zero Degrees, the off the track thoroughbred has found his place in life, FEI Grand Prix dressage horse.

© Geoff McLean - Gone Riding Media 2021

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