The Longines Global Champions Tour (LGCT) isn’t over yet, but PremiuMares Founder Milena Pappas is already celebrating some serious successes this 2023 season.
With one of her mares currently winning Young Horse classes under Germany’s Christian Ahlmann, and another climbing to a top spot in the international Hippomundo rankings, the future is looking very bright for Milena and PremiuMares’ boutique breeding operation.
With its focus on premium mare bloodlines and a dedication to respectful breeding and training practices, PremiuMares has seen plenty of change in its eight years. But evolution is the key to success for Milena, a regular presence on the LGCT circuit, who says that the ability to keep a pulse on the ever-shifting needs of the sport is what truly sets the company apart.
Q: Congratulations on a wonderful season so far. What have been some of the highlights for PremiuMares?
A: My proudest moment this year was seeing my homebred 5-year-old, Cherry Blossom PM (Calvaro x Thunder) earn second in the international Hippomundo ranking. ‘Cherry’ is a very competitive mare with a huge stride, very brave, incredibly careful, truly one for the future. This accolade is a true testament to our breeding program.
Another highlight is Pocahontas 96 (2015 Perigueux x Escudo I)—a mare I rode for two years beginning as a five-year-old—now under [Shanghai Swan] Christian Ahlmann and winning the classes for her age. To have ridden a mare that one of the best riders in the world sees as good enough for himself is more than a compliment.
Q: PremiuMares is known for its focus on performance broodmares. What do you value most in your breeding program?
A: I would say that we search for three things: health, resilience, and pedigree. Health means good x-rays, solid genetics, no hereditary health issues that can be passed on to their foals, and being ‘sturdy’ mares in their own right. For us, this is very important in order to breed healthy and sound foals that can have long-lasting careers.
Our mares also need to have a good track record in the sport. Knowing the mare’s attitude and performance helps us determine a better-suited sire for her foals. It also gives us a better indication of the future foal’s potential and character, and increases the interest of prospective buyers at auction.
Finally, we look for a good pedigree. Though most buyers expect that the chance of success of a foal from a proven dam/damline will be higher, not all ‘proven’ damlines are created equal. For us, it’s important that we continue to follow the results and the evolution of both old and new bloodlines.
Q: How does your young horses’ performance in the ring impact your breeding decisions?
A: We are always looking to evolve along with the sport and the needs of modern showjumping. Our ultimate goal is the breeding of ‘winner’ horses at every level. That is, producing a modern horse that has the proper endurance and is fast, resilient, scopey, respectful, and adaptable. There are so many shows going on nowadays, and the venues change drastically from one week to the next.
To that end, we closely follow the results of the upcoming 5- to 7-year-old young horses and then determine both their breeding pedigrees and which sires appear more strongly and could potentially be interesting for our annual program. We typically match the proven, older sires with our younger, modern mares. We take our younger, upcoming stallions into account for our proven broodmares.
Q: Changing gears a bit, your GCL team, the Shanghai Swans, are known for their fierce team spirit. What role do you play as owners, and how do you try to foster that camaraderie?
A: As owners and friends, the four of us—Julia Tops, Alexandra Thornton, Tess Carmichael, and myself—do not interfere with the riders’ plan, as we respect our riders and trust them to make schedules that will yield the best results for all of us. But what is incredible and noble is how the riders always put the team first. And they have shown this time and again!
Continuing to be a part of a team like the Shanghai Swans, and all that our friendship and partnership means, has been one of my favorite parts of the season. It’s not always smooth sailing, but I truly believe that we all have so much solidarity, respect, and appreciation for one another. We have the same goals and ambitions, and it’s so much fun rooting on your riders and teammates.
Q: What are you most looking forward to about LGCT Rome?
A: There is not just one thing that I look forward to, as each leg of the LGCT circuit is unique. But Rome, to me, is particularly special. Having the luxury of riding myself in the arena of Circo Massimo, watching the five-star riders and my team compete—in the middle of a city with so much history, beauty, and architecture—is like bridging the past with the present, in that moment!
Q: What’s your favorite part about being a breeder?
A: Our company is based on a passion for the sport and a passion for breeding winners at all levels of show jumping. I take immense interest in watching the young horses start to evolve and prove their strength.
That moment when a foal is born is a miracle, a mixture of emotions that never fails to bring tears to my eyes. Each foal represents hope and a smile for someone in the future. To me, each one is a wonder.