1975 was the year Christine Stückelberger won her first international title at the European championships on the huge Holstein gelding Granat while a little bay colt played happily in the fields in her home country.
Although he was a horse born for dressage on paper, nobody knew in 1975 that this lovely foal with a big white blaze and pink nose would continue Stuckelberger's success after Granat years later.
Gauguin de Lully CH was bought as an unborn foal in Sweden in 1975 when his owner Hans- Jakob Fünfschilling acquired Gauguin's dam Gasparona for his recently founded „Lully“ stud in the village of Lully near Estavayer-le-Lac in Switzerland.
Mr. Fünfschilling, a passionate rider himself, found the chestnut mare in Sweden and thought her an ideal addition to his stud as she was by the famous dressage sire Gaspari, a twice Olympic dressage horse and sire of Olympic champion Piaff. Gasparona's dam Singoalla was by Drabant, also an influential Swedish sire, whose son Wald won Olympic dressage silver for Switzerland in 1960.
Gauguin de Lully CH was born on 21st April 1975 at Fünfschilling's stud as the son of the great Swedish dressage sire Chagall, father of several approved sons and Olympic dressage horses. Though having complete quality Swedish bloodlines this noble colt was registered as Swiss warmblood (CH stands for it) as he was born in Switzerland.
Fünfschilling, who was a successful event rider in the 1960s, was convinced he had very good young horse. But when he showed Gauguin at the Swiss Stallion Licensing he wasn't approved as a youngster because he appeared too small. However, Fünfschilling didn't lose faith in his horse. Gauguin was broken in and successfully started in combined competitions, though it was obvious he had a lot of talent for dressage.
In 1981 Christine Stückelberger attended the Swiss approval at the Swiss National Stud in Avenches and a man, unknown to her so far, offered her a horse. Hans-Jakob Fünfschilling strongly believed to own an outstanding youngster, which just needed an experienced rider like Stückelberger to develop its talents. Christine admits she wasn't very enthusiastic at first as many people claim to have a very good horse for her, which then unfortunately proved to be ordinary.
So she didn't want to take a look at Gauguin. "But Fünfschilling persevered and finally I gave in. We drove to his stud about 20 minutes from Avenches. It was late in the evening and he let Gauguin loose in the indoor school," she reminisced.
Christine recalls she wasn't too impressed on her first meeting with the 6-year old "He was not that shiny and had a quite ordinary trot. But he showed a very good walk and canter and I liked his personality. I noticed that his hindlegs were not much stepping under." But she decided to work with the little bay stallion, who stood 165 cm tall. So Gauguin de Lully CH moved to her "Hasenberg" barn on Christmas Eve in 1981 and a partnership of nearly a decade began.
At the beginning Gauguin's stay in the capable hands of his multiple champion rider and her trainer Georg Wahl didn't seem to be secured. Gauguin was a challenging horse to ride, but unlike her trainer Christine liked him from the first day she sat on him. Georg Wahl wasn't convinced at first that the horse would give an international horse one day. "We argued a lot about Gauguin in his first year with us and discussed, if he was worth enough continue working with," Stuckelberger recalled. "Finally I convinced Georg to keep him and Gauguin started to improve from then on.“
Working with Gauguin, who was affectionately nicknamed „Lully“, was an interesting and challenging affair. He was highly sensitive and owned a strong sense for justice. "Never ever could anybody punish him. I did it once and never again," Christine admitted. The horse with the characteristic white face was very intelligent and a quick learner, but he wouldn't accept to be commanded. Christine says that she had to be tricky to convince him sometimes, but "all in all Lully was an obedient horse, but a sparkling one. Once in a month he did a buck."
In 1982, the year the great Granat retired, Gauguin did his first show, an M-class in Basle and performed very well to impress his then still doubting master Georg Wahl.
The stallion, who never showed any typical behaviour of his sex, improved steadily from then on.
Gauguin was in the privileged position to be given plenty of time to learn and mature as Christine had about 4 to 5 Grand Prix horses in her stable at the time. So he did his first Grand Prix in 1985, aged ten.
At the beginning of 1986, the year of the World Championships in Cedar Valley near Toronto, the Oldenburg gelding Rubelit von Unkenruf, later on the schoolmaster to young Carl Hester, seemed to be Christine's number one horse, as he had placed 3rd in the first World Cup final ever. But Gauguin did extremely well, won his first Swiss Championships and suddenly he was the horse to fly to Canada. Gauguin's relaxed attitude during his first flight was impressive.
There the horse did a very good job in the Grand Prix to finish 3rd only 19 points behind winner Marzog and he led the Swiss team almost on his own to team bronze. After having been three years out of the group of competitors for individual glory, Christine Stuckelberger was back to the big time with Gauguin de Lully CH. Everything seemed possible. He repeated his predecessor Granat in his achievement of winning the individual silver medal the next day. It was quite a close decision: two judges placed Gauguin first , one more preferred Marzog, which won the gold.
Success on the showground is impossible without a good groom. Gauguin found his in the young German girl Gabi Herrmann, who is now married and living in Switzerland. For years Gabi took the utmost care of the lovely stallion, who was so easy to handle and friendly to everyone. "Gauguin was a lovely horse. His personality was entirely different to Granat's, but he was faithful like a dog and a real gentleman," Christine reminisced.
In 1987 Gauguin won the World Cup final in Essen for the first time and was undoubtedly a favourite for the European Championships in Goodwood, which has always been a successful place for his rider in the past. Gauguin won the Grand Prix one point ahead of the Holsteiner dancer Corlandus, which had been 6th in Canada the previous year.
The team competition ended similarly close. The Swiss team neared Germany closer than ever before: only three points were between gold and silver. Although Gauguin had won the day before he wasn't able to beat Corlandus' brilliance in the individual competition and finished on the bronze medal position just four points behind Ann-Kathrin Linsenhoff's Swedish gelding Courage.
The happiness about the successful outcome in Goodwood didn't last for long. The dope test of Gauguin, taken after the Grand Prix Spécial, was positive, much to Christine and Georg Wahl's astonishment. The substance „theobromine“ was found in Gauguin's blood. It contains cacao and has a stimulating effect on horses. Everybody, who knew the sensitive and excitable stallion, was aware this couldn't be doping.
Finally it was discovered that Gauguin's hard food contained the substance and had led to the positive test. Christine explained that "the FEI later approved it wasn't real doping," but the damage was done and the bronze medal was lost to Johann Hinnemann on Ideaal.
Mr. Wahl admits he wanted to keep the bronze medal anyway as he was very angry about the decision to disqualify his horse after their innocence was proven.
1987 had been the year Gauguin met a young Westfalian gelding for the first time: Rembrandt had come out to compete at the CDI Lausanne with his Young Rider. To everyone's surprise the then unknown horse beat Gauguin in the Grand Prix in front of all important international judges. It was a first sign that they would favour Rembrandt the following years.
So when the Olympic year of 1988 got on its way there seemed a battle of four or five horses for Olympic glory. It promised to be an exciting competition in Seoul. Gauguin, who had repeated his World Cup Final win earlier, was the anchor of a strong Swiss team, in which were three new horses: Andiamo, Rochus and Random. Christine recalls their chances: "We had given Germany a good run for their money in 1987, but in 1988 we were further away and a team gold medal seemed out of reach."
Gauguin flew out to Seoul and his typical behaviour gave no reason to worry: he was relaxed and behaved impeccably throughout the long flight to South Korea. Unfortunately the noisy Kwacheon stadium didn't suit him - like many other horses. He never reached the form of the two years before, although he repeated his medal success of Goodwood and became the first Swiss bred horse to win an Olympic medal, silver with the team and bronze individually.
Back at home Gauguin had the honour to perform a now legendary „pas de trois“ at the Stuttgart Indoor Show together with Corlandus and Ahlerich, which served as a farewell show for the latter.
1989 brought an unintended break to Gauguin's career as a dressage horse. After he was a satisfying 2nd behind his old rival Corlandus in his third World Cup Final at Gothenburg the sails seemed set for his second European Championships at Mondorf later that year.
But in April his rider had a horrible fall from a young horse, which had bucked her into the wall of the indoor school, leaving Christine with several smashed vertebrae and questioning a comeback.
Gauguin's breeder and owner Hans-Jakob Fünfschilling had always intended to use his horse as a breeding stallion and Gauguin's unforeseen break gave him the opportunity to test the quality of the stallion's semen. Early in 1989 Gauguin de Lully CH was approved at Avenches and the x-rays taken on that occasion were outstanding. No signs of wear at the legs of the 14-year old, thanks to his skillful training all his life. Gauguin's breeding start was a very successful one - all covered mares got in foal. His very first foal, a little chestnut filly, was born in Switzerland in 1990.
Gauguin returned to Christine in the autumn of 1989. Half a year after her nasty accident she risked to sit on a horse again and it was Gauguin as he was such a reliable horse.
"I felt totally sick before, I was just frightened. Mr. Wahl led Gauguin in the indoor school and everything went fine. The next day I felt a bit better. So Lully gave my confidence a tremendous boost."
Gauguin proved his extraordinary good character by being his usual self after covering for the first time: "Only during the first month after his arrival back at Hasenberg he was a little bit excited, but he was soon his old self again," his rider remembered.
1990 was Gauguin's last year of competition. It had been planned to retire him to stud at the end of the year. Gauguin enabled Christine a remarkable comeback at CDI Ebreichsdorf in the spring, looking and performing better than ever before. His year off at stud obviously did him well. Gauguin scored an easy victory at the Swiss Championships before he attended the World Equestrian Games at Stockholm. It looked like the bay stallion enjoyed his return to the international scene as much as his rider. The honourable Olympic stadium of 1912 saw a Gauguin de Lully CH like never before in his career.
He performed the Grand Prix test in total unity with his rider. Gauguin's collection was outstanding, the trot extensions were fluent, lightfooted and powerful from behind. His passage high and cadenced and his extended walk textbook style. So he finished in a never expected 2nd place behind Rembrandt and helped the Swiss team enormously to win a surprising bronze medal.
In the individual competition the stallion made expensive mistakes in the flying changes to finish in 5th place, but Christine blames herself for it: "I wasn't feeling very fit that day, the horse was wonderful."
After nearly a decade the most successful stallion of his time left Stückelberger and Wahl's barn to start his breeding career. "I was missing him a lot, he was like a child of us," she recalled. Gauguin got licensed in France, Sweden, Switzerland and the USA and soon proved to be equally successful on his second career.
First he was used like most stallions, delivering frozen semen. But in 1994 his breeder realized a dream for his stallion and paid Gauguin something back for all he had done to make Fünfschilling's stud world famous. Fünfschilling brought him to his property in France, „Domaine d'Orain“, where Gauguin de Lully CH was allowed to run free with a herd of brood mares. The gentleman he had been with people remained there with his mares. Gauguin was a true „lover“, tender and loving with all his mares, he took the best care possible of them. Never did he once pressure a mare, if she wasn't willing. And although he was covering in a herd and in hand, he still was easy to handle and friendly to the people around him.
Gauguin's progeny can be found all over the world, many are successful in dressage. The approved stallions Greco de Lully CH (dam by Natif de Signet, ridden by Christian Pläge), Goofy de Lully CH (ridden by Gilles Ngovan and Hartwig Burfeind) and Mr. G de Lully (dam by Ambassadeur S, ridden by Jasmine Sanche and Fiona Bigwood) were all international dressage horses.
Mr. G de Lully, who was gelded later, was maybe Gauguin's most talented offspring, but he sadly died in a paddock accident prior to the 2008 Olympics, for which he was qualified for Great Britain.
Under Hartwig Burfeind Goofy de Lully won German Championships for Professional Dressage riders professionals and is a very successful Grand Prix horse in Germany.
The chestnut gelding Glenn was raised by Christine Stückelberger and became an international Grand Prix horse with Ukrain Olympian Olga Klimko. Gigolo de Lully CH, a liver chestnut, similar in looks to Gigolo FRH, was sold to China as a Grand Prix horse in 2007.
But Gauguin de Lully CH also sired horses for other disciplines. His son Tarango de Lully CH competed in the 2007 European championships for three-day eventing in Pratoni de Vivaro. Gauguin du Cheval is one of the highest quality Gauguin de Lully CH-offsprings in North America, standing in the USA. He goes back to the famous Ramzes x line on his dam's side. The 1992 born Goya de Lully CH (deceased 2008) was successfully covering in Canada.
Gauguin de Lully CH's life ended much too early at the age of 21 in May 1996 due to a ruptured aorta. He was found dead in the field, surrounded by his whole herd.
Gauguin de Lully CH had an invaluable influence on Swiss warmblood breeding. He made his owner and breeder Hans-Jakob Fünfschilling famous and dominated Christine Stückelberger's career in the 1980s. He will live on in his offspring and in the memories of many people around the world.
Article by Silke Rottermann
The author likes to thank Christine Stückelberger as well as Elisabeth Weiland (Elisabeth Weiland, "Wie ein Sohn", published in Kavallo magazine 2006) for their kind support in writing the article.