The Saxonsprings Legend… Setting the standard

published in the MLAA’s Yearbook 2001

The I980s saw the Saxonsprings Lhasa Apsos established as one of the country’s premier kennels of all-breeds with success at the highest level. Champions rolled off the Saxonsprings production line with enviable regularity; in I982 Fresno, considered by so many (but never by Jean) to be the ‘perfect’ Apso, stormed to Dog of the Year with a record number of points. Jean and Fresno however, never quite saw eye to eye and it was not until Jean asked Geoff Corish to take her on, that Fresno began to realise her potential.

It was Jean’s all time favourites ‘Hank’ alias Ch Saxonsprings Hackensack that was to bring the ultimate jewel to the Saxonsprings crown winning BIS at Crufts in I984. He too was handled by Geoff, but always lived with and was prepared for the ring by Jean on whose bed he slept until his death in I996.

Although many people thought Fresno should have been the one to receive the supreme award, Jean always believed it belonged to Hank; Be it storming round the ring in his own inimitable style, or playing on the lawn at home, he was simply a beautiful animal, a pleasure to watch and be around. Above all his winning and success as a sire, it was his sweet nature (he had never been known to show aggression to others be they human or canine), combining all the characteristics of the true Apso temperament, faithful without being demanding of attention, playful yet aloof, intelligent and with that streak of stubbornness that can make them so annoying at times! that has so endeared him to me. Certainly, both Hank and Fresno possessed that certain something that sent a tingle down the spine whenever they walked into the ring and were responsible for snaring more than one or two new enthusiasts, including this one!

Although strictly in awe of this seemingly formidable lady and her gorgeous dogs, I found that Jean always had a kind or encouraging word for we beginners. It was a source of great pride to her that so many of today’s outstanding kennels were founded on Saxonsprings bloodlines.

In I983 ‘Danny’ (Orland’s Intrepid) came back home to Saxonsprings, and in the nursery the foundations were being laid for the continuing success of the Saxonsprings, including in April of that year, what was probably the most successful litter of Apsos ever whelped, when Fresno produced to Hackensack. From the litter Flashback and Flair went to Australia where they enjoyed considerable success, Famous Flier went to Denmark where he twice won the coveted title of ‘Dog of the Year’ an award also won by Fol-De-Rol in his adopted homeland of Norway – both these dogs were to become outstanding sires.

A gold dog was sold to exhibitors in the UK, he was Saxonsprings Fun ‘N’ Games, made up as a junior. Jean’s own choice from the litter was a glamorous gold lady going by the name of Saxonsprings Frisco. At the beginning of I985 Jean sold her boarding/grooming business in Yorkshire and returned to her native Suffolk. The plan was to curtail the showing somewhat and gradually wind down her breeding programme. More of her best puppies became available to exhibitors including the BIS winners Ch Saxonsprings High Society and Ch Oriana of Saxonsprings.

It was at this point that I personally came to know Jean better and realised that the ‘dragon lady’ was in fact a most kind and generous person, always ready with a warm welcome for visitors and happy to let anyone with a genuine interest in Lhasas have ‘hands on’ access to the Saxonsprings, from young puppies through to the greatest of the great, she was proud of her dogs, their quality and style, without being blind to their faults. A visit to Saxonsprings was always a pleasure and a great privilege. Many hours could be spent over the table at

Saxonsprings Cottage talking Lhasas, and from the humblest beginner to the most skilled and experienced breeders, the conversation was always as equals, Jean listening intently to the opinions of others – no matter how misguided – without ever becoming condescending.

She was not one to offer direct advice, particularly when it was not asked for, but talking a problem through with Jean, somehow the answer always became apparent, sometimes after 2 or 3 weeks of mulling the conversation over!

The next couple of years following the move to Suffolk was a relatively quiet time as far as showing was concerned as Jean could no longer afford professional fees or kennel staff for the dogs at home, but Jefferson was made up for his new owners before departing for Norway and Madeleine Lewis campaigned the grey brindle dog Saxonsprings Periwinkle to his title on Jean’s behalf Jean herself, although never a very enthusiastic exhibitor, often coercing friends to show a dog for her (not that they took much persuading!) handled Hank to his 4th BIS at SWKA and campaigned Saxonsprings Buccaneer (Zako x Clovis) to his title including BIS at BUBA and LAC in I987.

‘Buck’ was a glamorous cream dog of outstanding conformation. He would probably have done more at group level if it were not for Jean’s reluctance as a handler. He was not campaigned much after his BUBA win, making way for an import, the gold/white Fol-De-Rol son Nor Ch Tanac’s Golden Glower who won 2CCS, ‘Steven’ was somewhat on the large side which probably accounted for him not gaining his title, but again of outstanding conformation and he left his mark as a sire producing BIS Ch Kutani Cincinnati. In I988 a litter was born by Buccaneer x Frisco. With Zako, Clovis, Hackensack and Fresno as the grandparents, the mating encapsulated all that was the very best in the Saxonsprings, and both the puppies, Francisco and Frederico, were to become champions. Francisco played an important role in the development of the Hashanah kennel, while Frederico provided the cornerstone not only for the current Saxonsprings, but many other, both established and fledgling kennels.

‘Fred’ is another whose conformation leaves little to be desired, sturdy without being coarse and not too big (the original outcross matings did increase size, but Jean always believed that with careful line breeding size would be stabilised) and the most gorgeous head which he has mostly stamped on his progeny. His one big fault was that of being a reluctant showman and he took some time to gain his title before adding BOB at Crufts to his credits, but his temperament at home, and that of his puppies, has won him many hearts!

As the decade drew to a close and she approached her 70th birthday with a couple of bouts of serious ill-health behind her, Jean began to take measures to radically cut down her breeding programme and the number of dogs she kept – she was always anxious never to appear on the front page of the Sunday newspapers for the wrong reason! On I8 June I990 a litter was born by Hackensack x the RCC winner Saxonsprings Lady-B-Good. The only bitch Lollipop was earmarked to stay at Saxonsprings, but the dogs were all for sale. Offered pick of the males I could not decide between Ladykiller and Lineka and eventually went for the former, having turned down the offer to ‘take both and pay me when you can’!!! Lothario eventually went to Madeleine Lewis. Somehow, Lineka stayed. Fate had played its hand as the next few months were to prove that Hackensack had become infertile and this was his last litter. Around this time Ken Woosnam, successful in his own right with the Pantulfs, began to help out with the young stock at home and at shows. What was to have been a quiet decade, seeing the coming to an end of the Saxonsprings kennel had changed – after all, there was a ‘Tradition’ to maintain!