Born 1980 died 2006

At the age of 26, one of the great showjumping stallions was

put down after breaking his leg.

Once again, Darco’s story, is the story of an exceptional

broodmare - in this case, his grand-dam, Atoucha. Born in

1959 in Holland the mare was purchased by Fons Pauwels in

1960. Mr Pauwels was looking for a real ‘all-rounder’, a horse for both work and play. And this she did - working in the fields and in her ‘spare’ time, competing in dressage, showjumping and eventing competitions. She was twice - in 1968 and 1970 - the Belgian Eventing champion for Rural Riders, and three times a competitor at the European Rural Championships. According to her proud owner (and quoted in Leen Devocht’s excellent article on Darco in Breeding News, January 1997) her qualities were a legion: "very strong, healthy; not a single day of sickness in her book, an immense capacity for recovering; everlasting carefulness, even as an eventer; not a single refusal; always fighting and daring like a lioness - she could eat fences raw."

Atoucha gave birth to eleven foals - ten fillies and one colt, Salvador, who went on to win the Berlin puissance.

Darco’s dam, Ocoucha (by Codex) is the eldest daughter of Atoucha’s third daughter, Latoucha (by Faust). Bred to one of the greatest of Belgian jumping stallions, Lugano van la Roche, Ocoucha produced Darco, who went on to prove himself a tough competitor on the international jumping scene with Ludo Phillippaerts. In 1988, Darco won his first World Cup qualifier, at Olympia, the following year, he won another Volvo for his rider, this time at s’Hertogenbosch. Darco and Ludo were sixth at the WEG in Stockholm, and 7th at the Barcelona Games.

Ludo has this to say about the stallion:

"Together with Darco, I began my international career. A horse to remain grateful to for the rest of my life. Darco really has everything it takes to make a unique super crack, as a showjumper as well as a sire. Horses of this outstanding quality will remain the great exceptions in the breeding industry. I will never forget the fine intelligence he so often proved in the showjumping arena, where he always showed lots of power and stamina coming from his high-bred ancestors."

"I got Darco when he was five years old – he was a breeding stallion. All my success was with Darco, and then he was breeding at my place, and I had many of his foals. All his progeny seem to be very good, and there are lots of people in the area, who use Darco, and they also give me horses by Darco to ride. My father was a horse breeder and had horses when he was younger."

"I think Darco is one of the best stallions in the world. If you look at what his offspring are doing, he is very special – a top jumper and a top breeder. He has been unbelievable for the Belgian breeding. He is a really careful horse himself, and his progeny are very honest horses, with a very good character and mentality."

What sort of mares does he cross best with?

"He doesn’t really need Thoroughbred mares because he has a lot of blood himself. He looks a heavy horse, but he is not heavy to ride, he has a lot of blood so he just needs normal sized mares. He breeds well everywhere, with Belgian and Dutch mares, with French mares – everywhere."

And as a sire of brood mares?

"The mares from Darco are not really mares for competition, they are mares for breeding. There are not so many Darco mares in the sport, they look a little difficult to ride but they have quality and they produce very good foals. There are many stallions in Holland and Belgium and France that can breed good foals with Darco mares. It is not necessary to have a particular stallion."

And Darco’s son, Parco has been very successful in competition, will he be as good as his father?

"It is difficult to say if he will be better, because Darco is one of the top stallions in the world, but the oldest horses from Parco are three years old now, and loose jumping, they look very good. It will be a while before we can say Parco is as good a stallion as Darco, but Parco is already as good in the sport. I think Parco is a little easier to ride than Darco. Darco had more blood and was a little bit more complicated. Darco was a very sensitive horse and Parco is much easier. I think Darco is the best stallion we have ever had in Belgium and our breeding is going very well."

Darco commenced his career as a breeding stallion in 1984, and since then has been enormously successful. In the WBFSH standings for 1999-2000, Darco finished 8th, with 35 (!) progeny contributing to his ranking. His most famous offspring is Otterongo who just missed out on an individual medal at the Sydney Olympic Games although Parco is an exciting competitor and now a successful sire in his own right.

In all, Darco sired more than 3000 foals.

In the survey of the world's top 75 jumping sires that appears in the French publication, Monneron 2007-2008, compiled by Bernard le Courtois (visit www.brullemail.com), Darco stars, coming in third best sire in the world, with 35 CSI winners.