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breeder’s point of view

The Foundation of Good Breeding

By Maren Engelhardt


new breeding season is about to begin and usually for us breeders that means endless hours in front of the Internet, stallion books, and stallion catalogs

sent out months ago by stud farms. We drool over the newest approved stallions, the performance test winners or the Olympic champions. Phone calls are made, and more often than not, as a stallion owner I have to answer detailed questions on conformation, correctness or temperament issues of the husband to be. I’m amazed at how much time, thought and care breeders devote to the big question of which stallions to use. Selecting a stallion is important. However when you ask all these questions about the future partner for your mare, do you actually sit back, take off your rose-colored glasses and ask yourself the same hard questions about the mare you are about to breed? Even from a strictly genetic

order to eliminate points A, B and C, and hopefully add D, E, F and a little G, then the question should probably be: should I breed with this particular mare at all? The purpose of this article is not to discourage you as

a breeder, but is intended to make you think about issues that perhaps haven’t crossed your mind. So let’s start by defining a breeding goal. Needless to say, we all have different tastes and

“Many breeders in North

point of view, it is the mare that contributes more than 50% to the equation. Apart from the fact that mares stamp their foals with a lot of social behavior issues, good and bad, the pure genetic side of breeding two horses will weigh more heavily on the mare. There is a reason old breeders tend to pay much more attention to what they called “thoroughly-bred mare lines.” It has nothing to do with breeding racehorses, but rather with the literal meaning of the word “thorough”—methodical, systematic, meticulous, comprehensive. Unfortunately, in our modern times where money buys everything and nobody has time to develop lines, this has clearly become a forgotten issue. When in reality, this is the bottom line of good horse breeding! A stallion, in an ideal world, can only be the icing on the cake. No stallion can seriously be expected to “improve” dramatic faults in a mare. Breeding doesn’t work by adding two opposing traits to end up with the “golden middle.” What you seek is the combination of two horses that come close to your ideal breeding goal. The motto is: “strengthen all assets and try to decrease weak points.” If you study your mare and ask yourself who to breed to in

62 November/December 2009

different objectives in breeding horses. Not everyone strives to produce an Olympic champion (although we probably all dream of it). For the majority of breeders, a sane, sound, rideable sport horse that can excel in any equestrian discipline or just be a proven trail or family partner is the goal. What that particular horse should ideally look like lies in the eye of the beholder. A good competition horse,

America have gone through the hassle and joy of bringing new lines to America, which is vital for any breed. ”

however, can’t always be judged “by the book.” Take flaws in the foundation. How many of the top performers come with textbook legs? Is “conformation correctness” the one breeding goal that you define for yourself? And if so, how well is your mare going to contribute to that?

The question is not, if a given stallion will correct the mare’s faulty legs. In 99% of all cases that will not happen! Whatever you want to see as a breeding goal must already be in the mare, at least in theory, because her phenotype doesn’t necessarily reflect her genotype and what she will actually pass on. This is a great example of what makes breeding such a lottery gamble after all. There is no guidebook on how to breed successfully.

Many breeders have very different approaches, yet are successful in their own way. Many factors weigh in when you try to find that perfect match. How important is a “name” to you—meaning, how well known does the future sire have to be in order to fit your bill? Are you selling the foal before weaning age? Are you prepared to hang on to it until it has reached riding age and start it properly? What do you realistically expect to make on your foal, youngster, or riding horse? Does your mare have the quality you Page 1  |  Page 2  |  Page 3  |  Page 4  |  Page 5  |  Page 6  |  Page 7  |  Page 8  |  Page 9  |  Page 10  |  Page 11  |  Page 12  |  Page 13  |  Page 14  |  Page 15  |  Page 16  |  Page 17  |  Page 18  |  Page 19  |  Page 20  |  Page 21  |  Page 22  |  Page 23  |  Page 24  |  Page 25  |  Page 26  |  Page 27  |  Page 28  |  Page 29  |  Page 30  |  Page 31  |  Page 32  |  Page 33  |  Page 34  |  Page 35  |  Page 36  |  Page 37  |  Page 38  |  Page 39  |  Page 40  |  Page 41  |  Page 42  |  Page 43  |  Page 44  |  Page 45  |  Page 46  |  Page 47  |  Page 48  |  Page 49  |  Page 50  |  Page 51  |  Page 52  |  Page 53  |  Page 54  |  Page 55  |  Page 56  |  Page 57  |  Page 58  |  Page 59  |  Page 60  |  Page 61  |  Page 62  |  Page 63  |  Page 64  |  Page 65  |  Page 66  |  Page 67  |  Page 68  |  Page 69  |  Page 70  |  Page 71  |  Page 72  |  Page 73  |  Page 74  |  Page 75  |  Page 76  |  Page 77
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