Zangersheide… the story about a father and daughter

1963… Top businessman Léon Melchior is one of the busiest entrepreneurs in Europe. He founded a stunning fifty-three companies in different sectors, mainly in the building industry. He built major hospitals and office blocks in Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany and the United Arab Emirates. When in his forties, Melchior’s doctor urges him to get more exercise, so Melchior starts hunting. But soon enough, hunting on foot becomes too much of a bore for him and he therefore decides to buy a horse to ease the strain of heavy hiking. The very first horse to set foot on Zangersheide ground is Richette, and without having planned it, Melchior's passion for horses starts to develop... At that time nobody could have guessed that this step heralded permanent changes for the world of showjumping.

Having fallen victim to the horsey bug and being the ambitious man he was, Melchior soon wanted more. Studying other sectors (pigs, cattle, chicken,...) he realised that outcrossing works like a catalyst and overall produces better-quality and stronger animals. He would be the first person in showjumper breeding to start crossing horses from different breeds. In Hanover he purchased the best mares and paired these to, for instance, French stallions. ‘Absolutely not done!’ in that day and age. But his approach produced brilliant showjumpers and the result is that virtually all contemporary showjumper horses have a mix of genes on their studbook papers. In the ensuing years Zangersheide blossomed into a stallion station and breeding stud of global proportions and Zangersheide horses progressed to being Olympic Champions.

LNM en Judy Pagina judy

Ratina Z

One of these figureheads of the aforementioned outcrossing was born in 1982. Ratina Z is a daughter of the Holstein-bred Ramiro Z and Argentina Z, who in turn is a daughter of the French Alme Z and the Hanoverian mare Heureka Z (winner of the GP of Aachen in 1970). Ratina Z would reach the status of top ambassador of Melchior’s sport stables and stud farm and throughout her career she has won an amazing three Olympic medals! Four years after the birth of Ratina Z, Melchior’s youngest daughter Judy Ann is born. From her earliest childhood on Judy Ann has a passion for horses and riding and soon the first ponies start to arrive at Studfarm Zangersheide.

In the following years Zangersheide and the Melchior family gain momentum and the leitmotiv running through their quickly-developing history, is the word ‘innovation’. Melchior flips the the showjumping world topsy-turvy. He is the first to use artificial insemination for horses, he is the initiator of the first embryo transfers in Mexico and the first to clone stallions. The traditional studbooks cannot cope with all the innovations and in 1992 Melchior sees no other option but to establish his own studbook, and Studbook Zangersheide vzw is born. From that moment onwards every breeder can put the suffix ‘Z’ behind their horse’s name, as a quality label for sport and breeding.

Melchior also enables the sport to grow in sync with breeding and he organises the first Benelux Championships, to be followed by the first World Championships for Young Horses at Zangersheide. An event which thirty years after its inception we still know under the name of ‘FEI WBFSH Jumping World Championships for Young Horses’.

Judy Ann

In 2010, just twenty-four years old at the time, Judy Ann takes over Studfarm Zangersheide from her father. By that time Judy Ann has already been active at the highest level in the sport for quite some years and that same year she wins the Bronze Team medal at the World Equestrian Games in Kentucky with her mare Cha Cha Z. Judy Ann continues to expand Zangersheide in line with her father’s philosophy, but with an even stronger focus on the connection between breeding and the sport. At events, in their stallion block, the Z-Magazine, … Judy Ann takes after her father and so she too is also constantly on the lookout for innovations. In 2013 the first Online Auction for foals takes place. A wild idea when first launched, but eventually this concept would completely change the market for foals, embryos and young horses and ten years later these auctions have been embraced as a fundamental element by the entire horse world.

By 2023 Zangersheide has developed into a world player of crucial importance. The stallion station in Lanaken is considered to be one of the most prominent in the world, the FEI WBFSH Jumping World Breeding Championships for Young Horses is the key event which breeders, dealers and riders alike don’t want to miss. By now the Zangersheide Auction House sells a few hundred foals and horses per year and every year new ideas, projects and events pop up. Such as the brand-new competition ‘The Zangersheide International’ in 2023. But underneath all these superlatives lie the most important aspects that Zangersheide never loses sight of: the love for showjumping horses and the respect for the thousands of breeders who day in day out passionately commit themselves to breeding. The symbiosis between breeding and sport is strong, you cannot have the one without the other. We at Zangersheide are fully aware of that and will keep that in mind throughout our entire journey.