Stallion Owner Spotlight: Majestic Gaits

Thank you for returning for the next installment in our North American Stallion Owner Spotlight series, featuring Kathy Hickerson of Majestic Gaits!

Kathy’s impact on the North American sport horse industry is centered on a robust breeding program that focuses on KWPN Dutch Warmblood sport horses and includes a roster of impeccably bred imported and American-bred stallions. Her breeding program boasts bloodlines that are highly sought after and are performing impressively in the competition ring.

Come join us as we get a peek into another of the WSNA stallion owner’s operations, where we explore the roots of their passion, drive, and experience. Derived from almost four decades of hands-on warmblood breeding experience and insight here in North America, we’re so excited to share some of Kathy’s history with our readers!

Majestic Gaits

Kathy with Starlette MG (Five Star – Schroeder) receiving First Premium at the 2022 KWPN-NA Keuring.

Kathy Hickerson, the mastermind behind Majestic Gaits, tells us that her passion for the equestrian life began the moment she was able to utter the word “horse.” While many of us can understand that kind of love for horses, it’s likely many of us can even better relate to the story of her first pony. “My family had no horse experience, and they got me an unbroke pony named King George. I took riding lessons at a farm and broke him myself at the age of 7.” Kathy went on to tell us that her first horse didn’t come along until after college.

When we asked Kathy about her involvement in showing, she has an equally relatable history. Barrel racing, dressage, and some lower-level jumpers when she was younger, but as many North American breeders can understand, she realized what she really wanted to focus on was breeding and raising the next generation of sport horse warmbloods.

A Lifetime of Commitment to the Sporthorse Breeding Industry

Over the course of four decades, Kathy committed herself wholeheartedly to supporting the warmblood breeding industry in North America. Kathy participated in countless committees and boards in support of breeders, and initiated a wide variety of programs designed to promote breeders and progress the quality of breeding stock in the United States. As a committee member for USDF, Kathy initiated and developed the USDF Breeders Achievement program. She also started the NEDA Sporthorse Committee and developed the USDF North East Breeders Series, while serving on the NEDA Board for over 25 years. Kathy reflects, “It’s nice to volunteer and help the breed industry to progress in this country“.

Creating Pedigrees for Success – the Majestic Gaits History

Kyraloma MG, Star Prov Keur
(Navarone – Goodtimes)
#1 KWPN-NA Gelders Mare in 2022.

Majestic Gaits may have started almost 40 years ago, but their breeding program and success have cultivated and utilized some of the top broodmares and sires in European pedigrees right here in the U.S. We asked Kathy about her first ventures into breeding, and she tells us it happened to be two thoroughbred mares. It was soon after she decided that Warmblood bloodlines were more in line with her goals.

Kathy has been impacted by countless horses over the years, but one stallion stands out, especially when it comes to the Majestic Gaits breeding program. “Navarone (Jus de Pomme x Armstrong) was a stallion of my lifetime. He was so incredibly athletic, sweet character, loved to work, and produced so many fantastic horses in jumping, dressage and eventing and all very amateur rideable. You couldn’t get a better character. We miss him dearly.

Involvement in the North American Warmblood industry drives Kathy to help cultivate new young stock and help further establish solid, successful bloodlines in North America. We asked why and how they chose their registry of preference, and Kathy had this to say: “I looked at all the warmblood registries and took mares (mostly thoroughbred at the time) to the approvals and watched what they were scoring and approved. I found the KWPN-NA Dutch warmblood being the hardest and strictest, so I chose them. They have since been at the top of the WBFSH rankings and #1 mostly in jumping and dressage, so I know I picked the best for the top in sport.

How Majestic Gaits Has Developed Their Breeding Program

Oxygen MG (Impressive VDL – Crespo VDL), receiving First Premium Star predicate, Champion jumper, and #1 KWPN-NA jumper in 2022.

With incredible sires at stud like those currently standing at Majestic Gaits and the sampling of top-notch successful broodstock they have in their program, it’s easy to see their vision. When choosing stallion prospects, Kathy tells us that she looks for key components. Good character and trainability are top priorities for every stallion. “Life is too short to have a difficult stallion, and who wants to reproduce that? Feet are also very important. No foot, no horse, they say, and they are right. They must have a good pedigree with a proven mother line. Then, of course, conformation and movement.” Majestic Gaits typically breed for 4-7 foals a year for their own breeding program, a reasonable number aimed at the highest quality of offspring.

When discussing broodmares, Kathy feels that the best broodmares come from proven lines with three generations of proven dam lines. “I want the mare to have good character and solid foundation and good hooves! The mare is most important in breeding. If you don’t like your mare, don’t breed it.”, And their selection process when it comes to choosing their own crosses is a tried and true method. “I look at the mare and what she needs for improvement, my goals for the foal, and I pick a stallion that compliments that. I do a lot of research on what the stallions are producing and stamping on their foals.

Dante MG (Chin Chin – Glenridge)
Black stallion ridden by Carly Fisher, producing offspring for dressage, jumping, and eventing

Some of the Majestic Gaits’ favorite North American Warmblood bloodlines include hosted stallion Five Star (owned by Equitas, LLC). “Five Star is one of my favorites for dressage right now and getting high scores in the Grand Prix. He is the epitome of an ideal stallion for the American market. Super character/trainability, yet all the conformation and movement talent for the big Grand Prix ring.”Kathy’s dream foal is slated for this breeding season, a foal by Five Star out of her mare Valanta, who has produced Calanta, a horse who competed at the last Olympics! 

One of Kathy’s favorite memories from her history as a North American Warmblood breeder involves her stallion, Schroeder. “It was really special to go to the Young Horse Championships with Schroeder. And then on to the National Dressage Championships later. We did well, but the exciting part is qualifying and being there. People are very supportive of each other.

(Sandro Hit – EscudoI – Gajus)
Five Star
(Amazing Star – Jazz Pref – Darwin)

If you are interested in learning more about Schroeder or Five Star, check out their stallion stories on Warmblood Stallions of North America by clicking on their images.

The Majestic Gaits Perspective on Stallion Ownership and the Industry

Kathy has been involved in the North American Warmblood industry for a long time, and she’s seen a lot, experienced a lot, and has had the opportunity to witness firsthand changes and progress as the industry moves forward. We asked her about any breeders that had a major impact on her as a stallion owner, and what she told us resonates with all breeders. “One of the early things imprinted on me was that Iron Spring Farm said stallions are horses too and have horse needs. I loved the way they treated them. VDL Stud has taught me the most about breeding and the importance of the mare line.

Breeding comes with a long list of ups and downs, but when it comes to being a stallion owner, we love hearing the perspectives of the WSNA stallion owners regarding their operations, challenges and joys. Kathy let us know that her biggest challenge is ensuring she can stand her stallions successfully, utilizing successful advertising, staying on top of registry fees, and keeping up with the cost of active competition is the biggest obstacle. On the flip side, she states that the character of the stallions she’s chosen to elevate makes it worth it. “I chose or bred them for great character, trainability, and rideability as that is what is most enjoyable by most. With their top talent for them in sport, it’s very special.”

Karrington MG (Farrington – Silvano)
Won several stallion championships at the USDF breed shows
First foals arriving in 2023!

Kathy’s involvement in the North American Warmblood industry has been as both a breeder and as a registry and board member. She sits on the KWPN-NA Board of Directors and was previously on their Members Committee and chaired the Stallion Committee. Kathy hass seen improvements in the marketing of American-bred horses over the years, and while she thinks the industry could benefit from a more aggressive marketing strategy, she thinks it is headed in the right direction. Kathy states that she thinks the biggest hurdle for American breeders is the financial aspect – “Many are learning to ultrasound and do their own breeding to help save costs. I’d love to see a system here like they have in Europe where vets charge a flat fee for the season.”. She’d also like to see more trainers that work with young horses to help pick up the torch to help propel these equine athletes. “It’s an art in itself to bring young horses along at the pace needed for that horse.

Choosing a stallion is always a tough decision, and the debate on importing versus breeding to a North American Stallion carries a lot of weight. Kathy feels that “Stallions breed so much more in Europe and get better promotion because of it. Our stallions’ offspring are not as numerous, so you don’t hear as much. It doesn’t mean they are not as good. We need to support the American stallions standing here so they can survive and prosper.

Cultivating the Majestic Gaits Breeding Program 

It’s obvious that with such an extensive history in warmblood breeding, Kathy has oodles of knowledge and insight to bring to the table. As a stallion owner, one of her priorities is taking care of mare owners. “I am very supportive of my breeders. I learned early on that it’s not worth it to book to a stallion where the stallion owner is difficult.” When it comes to North American Warmblood initiatives, Kathy has told us that she’s a big supporter of the USDF’s Breeder of Distinction award.“It would be good to see the jumpers do something similar”, she says. 

Florette MG (Schroeder – Silvano)
USDF Mare Champion, Mature Horse Champion, #9 USDF HOY
From the famous damline of Goodtimes and approved stallion Karrington MG

We asked Kathy what the one piece of advice she would give new breeders is, and she had this to say:

“Get the best mare you can. Set your objective for breeding and select a stallion based on that. Avoid the flavor of the month stallion as it will change. Pick a stallion that compliments your mare.”

2023 Plans for the Majestic Gaits Stallions

Majestic Gaits stallions are busy this year! All are training, competing, and breeding, with targeted growth in all regards. Kathy has this to say about each stallion’s 2023 goals:

“The plan for Karrington MG and Shane Diel is to start dressage riding at second level and move into third level this year for the under saddle dressage shows. Karrington MG has been several times the champion stallion in hand at the breed shows, so we think its time to focus on his dressage career. Schroeder is in the best condition ever and ready to go out Grand Prix again with rider, Zoe Flannery. Zoe has done a top notch job at bringing Schroeder back to condition and ready for the show ring. Dante MG is standing at Brookside Stallion Station this year and being ridden by Jamie Lynn. He is such a multitalented stallion and producing jumper and dressage talent so we see the offspring in jumpers, dressage and eventing. Jamie will be taking Dante MG to his first dressage shows this year.”

We’re excited to follow these boys this year! Be sure to find them on social media, or reach out to Kathy for your final 2023 breeding plans, or early planning for the 2024 breeding season.

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