170 cms (17 hands) Born in 1972 – died 1998 Bred by P. Dambier, Yvrac, France
Zeus (who is sometimes called ‘Nurzeus’ but actually started life as Gordios) is a balanced mix of Selle Français and Anglo Arab blood. His sire, the Anglo Arab, Arlequin is a distinguished sire of international showjumpers and eventers, Zeus’ full brother, Figaro (ridden for Zangersheide by Harry Wouters Van Den Oudenweyer) and sister, Diablesse (ridden by J. P. Bonneau), won at international level, as did Enc’ Or, Elysée II, Fidelité, Filou Charriére, Fourni Rouge and Izmir - all by Arlequin.
Arlequin was out of Nuit Bleue, by Le Pot aux Roses who was the sire of the showjumping superstar of the 70’s, Quo Vadis.
Arlequin is still an influence in France through his eleven approved sons, most notably Mister Charrier and grandson, Kapoc. His dam, Urielle is by Matador, a stallion represented in Germany through his Oldenburg son, Veritas. Matador is the sire of Unicol’Or whose son, Pivoine du Taillan, is an international Grand Prix winner with Michel Robert. Unicol’Or is the dam sire of Krawaat, an international Grand Prix winner with Ludo Phillipaerts. Another Matador international winner is Phosph’Or, ridden by Stéphanie Delaveau. The dam sire, Talisman xx, is also the dam sire of the legendary full-brothers, Furioso II and Mexico. It was this matrilineal line that really impressed the stallion’s future owner George Vorwerk, as Dirk Zaggers in his article ‘Zeus: Last of the Great Oldenburger Frenchmen’ (Breeding News, October 1998) points out: ‘For George Vorwerk the dam line was a very important item in breeding, and he discovered that Evelyne the dam of Urielle was the by the Selle Français stallion, Talisman, who was also the sire of the dam of his star stallion Furioso II. George Vorwerk proved himself ahead of his time when he found out that a little inbreeding had a positive effect on sport performance, especially with Furioso II.’
Evelyne was the dam of several good jumpers including Opium C, a top performer in Spain in the 60’s.
Zeus was sold as a two year old at the annual auction at Poitiers for 26,000 francs. Soon after he was presented at the 1975 KWPN stallion grading where he failed! It was in Holland that the famous Oldenburg breeder George Vorwerk spotted him and brought him to Germany. Dirk Zaggers was on the spot: ‘A few years later, when I worked for George Vorwerk at his stud farm, I was curious why he was so interested in a non-licensed French stallion at a Dutch grading show. First of all George was impressed by his breeding. Although Gordios was a Selle Français, he had 82% Anglo-Arab blood in his veins and at that time Oldenburg was in great need of performance stallions with this blood to ennoble the breeding stock in that region of Germany.’
Zaggers records his impressions of the young stallion: ‘In conformation the young chestnut looked more like the modern sporting type horses than the German breeding stallions of those days. His trotting movements betrayed his Arab background, as he moved a bit flat and not from out of his shoulder. Nowadays we know that trot, although being important in breeding, has nothing to do with jumping performances or inheritance. On the other hand the Frenchman had a good walk, and could canter and jump like the very best. At the Oldenburg grading show, Gordios was approved as Zeus and sent to Adelheidsdorf for the performance test where he came second of the Oldenburg licesned stallions. At the test Zeus proved himself an excellent jumper but he had difficulties in adapting himself to the Germany way of riding. We are talking 1976, the year that Alwin Schockemöhle became Olympic champion and, in those days, horses had to adapt themselves to the stronger and more dominant way of riding that everybody copied from Schockemöhle.’
In 1981, the Dutch breeder, Hans Rehbergen leased Zeus from Vorwerk. This time the KWPN commission licensed the horse, under the name, Nurzeus (it was a year in which all stallions were given names beginning with the letter 'n', hence Nurzeus). Zeus sired 361 foals in The Netherlands, the most famous of which was Midnight Madness, bred by that well-known breeder, Henk Nijhof.
Zeus was a consistent sire of top jumping horses over a long career in both Germany and Holland. Playback with Rodney Jenkins won the 1987 AHSA Jumper of the Year and was sixth at the World Cup Final in 1989. Canadian rider Ian Millar had success with both Lonesome Dove and Czar – both by Zeus. Midnight Madness with Michael Whitaker, Hauser’s Zypria and Dirk Hauser, and Virtual Village Zalza with Nick Skelton, all contributed to Zeus’ fame.
Zeus’ German registered progeny had won a total of DM4.3 million by the year 2001, and in that year, the grand old man still managed to finish in 10th place on the WBFSH rankings for the year, with his most successful progeny in that year being Zandor Z. Zandor Z has had a very successful competition career with Jos Lansink, placing second in the Hachenburg and Geesteren Grand Prix, and third in the Grand Prix of Europe at Aach.
His two most influential stallion sons have been Zyklotron and Beach Boy (who has recently moved from Sweden to the United States). Zyklotron - out of a mare by Admiral I - has sired two international jumpers, Zuckerpuppe and Zarzuela. Beach Boy, out of a Lucky Boy dam, is the sire of Beach Game, and more recently the stallion, Brandenburger who has been ridden internationally by Rob Ehrens.
As a sire of broodmares, Zeus has been very important, with the international competitors: Cat Ballou, Ermis, Lysias, Prim Zaro, Riccarda, and most importantly, Tinka’s Boy, all out of mares by Zeus.
Zeus is ranked 6th in the standings for 1990 to 2000 with 34 representatives!