It was easy to spot Meagan Maloney and her Tiara Equine crew at Ontario dressage shows and horse trials this year – several of their mounts sported the uniquely coloured coats characteristic of Knabstruppers, a Danish warmblood breed.
Tiara’s Knabstruppers are making a splash, not only for their glorious spots, but also for their show successes. Recent examples include Maloney and her five-year-old gelding CCS Gimili finishing as CADORA Western Ontario Opening Training Champions with a score of 71.8 per cent, and Tiara client Leah Zommers and Haagen af Midgard claiming the Western Ontario Amateur Second Level Championship. Maloney and CCS Gimili (bred by Melyni Worth and sired by Maloney’s former stallion Lindegaards Elliot) also finished in second place in the Open EV 85 division at the Canadian Eventing Championships – Eastern.
Knabstruppers have a leopard complex gene that creates its spotted colour patterns. While coat colours ranging from leopard to snowflake to solid and variations in between are similar to Appaloosas, the Knabstrupper breed developed independently and it’s more warmblood-like in conformation.
At Silver and Gold-rated dressage shows Maloney attended this year, her Knabstruppers consistently had top placings, including CCS Gimili. The Tiara-bred five-year-old stallion Audacious TE was Reserve Champion at his first Gold dressage off-property show and got his Equine Canada medal this fall “with distinction” for scores all over 68 per cent. Maloney also rode her first homebred Knab, six-year-old gelding TE Iconic, to top ribbons at First and Second level dressage at Gold shows. “Ike” was also selected as a demo horse at a Stephen Clarke symposium.
Maloney, a coach, FEI rider and trainer, has made a significant contribution to the breed in North America and is one of the only breeders who also competes the horses. A decade ago, she was looking for a young horse to take her up the levels in dressage. She came across a plain bay Knabstrupper mare, was intrigued and started researching the breed.
“I liked how level-headed, trainable and multi-talented they are,” she says. “I liked that they were flashy and unique.”
Knabstruppers’ origins trace back to 1812, but they teetered at the brink of extinction. There were not many of the horses in North America and only a handful in Canada, so in 2015 Maloney went to Denmark, Germany and Prague to shop. She imported Ontario’s first Knabstruppers eight years ago, the then two-year-old colt Lindegaards Elliot and yearling filly Sartors Jet-Set.
“At the time, there were less than ten in Canada. I’ve had about forty-five through my doors since that I’ve sold, bred or produced,” she says.
She works as a trainer and agent for some U.S. breeders in addition to producing her own stock. In 2019, she rode CCS Theodon, owned by Melyni Worth, in a CDI at the Adequan Global Festival in Florida, making ‘Theo’ one of a select few Knabstruppers to compete in a North American CDI. The same year, Sartors Jet-Set had a top-10 finish in the Five-Year-Old Materiale Championships against all breeds at Dressage at Devon and was twice Knabstrupper breed champion.
In 2021, Maloney imported her first mature horse, Toftegaardens Codex, owned by Tiara Equine and Tracy Hendricks. She’s shown the 15-year-old stallion lightly but competitively at Third and Fourth level with the goal to do small tour CDI competitions next year and hopefully Grand Prix. He was primarily a breeding stallion until Maloney imported him and this was his first competition season since he was five. As a sire, “he adds a lot of bone, an active hind leg and is a good cross with finer warmblood and Thoroughbred mares.”
Maloney’s goal is to produce sport horses that can do multiple disciplines and says approved outcross mares such as Thoroughbreds, Arabians and warmbloods have added refinement and athleticism.
“My goal is to keep the brain and add movement,” says Maloney. “If I’m selling to amateurs, they need to be amateur-friendly. I want them to event or do dressage.” With riding-age horses, she ensures they are trained, tested and proven before she advertises them.
One of the horse sales she arranged this year was flashy spotted KWPN gelding El Colorado (with Knabstrupper lineage on his dam’s side) to para-dressage rider Jody Schloss. The new pair won the CPEDI3* Grade I Grand Prix A with 72.014% at the Ottawa Dressage Festival. He was recently named Para Dressage Horse of the Year at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair.
As well as continuing to showcase Knabstruppers’ ability as sport horses in competition rings, Maloney is busy with her own breeding program, as well as hosting KNN Knabstrupper inspections and preparing horses for the inspections.
“I never intended getting into producing stallions,” she says, although she now has four Knabstrupper stallions in the barn: chestnut ‘few spot’ Toftegaardens Codex, chestnut leopard Pyxis Av Drommarna, bay leopard Audacious TE and chestnut few spot CCS Eomer (owned by Cora and Ciara Tonno). She also has frozen semen from Lindegaards Elliot, now in the U.S. and owned by Symantha Melemed. There is also an upcoming stallion prospect in the barn out of an FEI mare that is a half sibling to Secret. Iron Horse Equine Reproduction Services operates its collection facility out of Tiara, and Tiara works closely with Port Perry Veterinary Services to offer full-service breeding options.
The few spot stallions in her barn are homozygous for colour (meaning all their offspring will inherit spots), while the leopard stallions are heterozygous (50 per cent chance of passing on colour).
“The only negative riding the few spot horses is that people don’t realize they’re Knabstruppers,” she says. “The leopards are valuable for marketing.”
Maloney has stepped up importing Knabstruppers to meet client demand. Three imported horses arrived at Tiara in early November, with more coming in April. “I have nine foals coming in 2024, but I can’t keep under-saddle horses in stock for North American buyers. I’ve started doing an annual buying trip.”