A month or so before Christmas, I received a letter in the mail regarding one of my horses. It asked if I would like to list him in the breed stallion directory. Apparently, there had been some inquiries about him. Imagine my surprise considering I purchased him as a gelding and other than getting his papers transferred and making sure my information was correct on there, I never looked all that closely at them. I’ve had this horse for quite a while. It would seem that his original owner forgot to update his papers when she gelded him. He never went through any testing to be approved as a stallion, so I assume he was gelded young. I also don’t follow the bloodlines of his specific breed, so I wasn’t aware that he is considered very well-bred. I know I wouldn’t breed to him. It isn’t because he is badly put together,he’s not. He’s actually a pretty nice example of his breed standard. I wouldn’t breed to him because he isn’t exceptional nor has he done much to `prove’ himself worthy of anything other than being my toy. I do know he had some accomplishments under his belt prior to the second owner getting him and that’s about it. It doesn’t make him worth any more or less to me that somebody thought he was well-bred enough to inquire about breeding to him. I love him just the same. I do think the person that inquired needs to give their head a shake though. They had never even SEEN my horse. This brings me back to the backyard breeding problem.
Almost without exception, I hear backyard breeders telling me how well-bred their horses are. They will start spewing off names of former greats and hall of fame horses. They will puff out their chests and tell you the horse has Easy Jet, Dash for Cash, Doc Bar,Seattle Slew etc. in their pedigree. They become indignant and angry when you fail to show the appropriate amount of enthusiasm for this. In these cases, we are talking about horses born more than 30 yrs ago. Most of them have been dead for more than 20 years. Who cares if they are on the pedigree if they are more than two or three generations back? Even then, who cares if the generations in between haven’t accomplished anything? EVERY stallion, no matter how prolific, has thrown a few substandard foals. Every single one. Being the son of or the son of a son of a world beater DOES not mean well-bred. Even my own horse has Northern Dancer on his papers. He isn’t even a Thoroughbred and if you could see his 17.2H bulky self, you would never believe it if it wasn’t right there on his papers several generations back. It means absolutely nothing that far removed. He probably can’t outrun a fat man going down hill nor would any of his babies have been able to had he been left intact.
Believe it or not, I am considered to be a complete pedigree geek by people who know me when it comes to Thoroughbreds. I consider The Blood Horse Stallion Register light reading material and I have spent uncountable hours looking at walking videos and past performance figures. Of course I realize all breeds are different, but basic and sound breeding principles are the same. Without a doubt, the most important part of a pedigree is the bottom side or dam side of the pedigree. If you start off with a substandard mare, you have exactly nothing as far as value, unless the foal can grow up to prove their own value. If you are breeding to sell, and most TB breeders are, you better have a good `page’ on the horse or you will end up broke in a hurry. This means there better be black type within the first two generations, preferably all generations, and the sire better be fashionable. All this will mean nothing if the baby doesn’t look the part, so you best be making sure you are breeding for conformation as well. A classic example of this is this year’s Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner, I’ll Have Another. There is a reason he didn’t sell for much money as a yearling and as a two year old. While he had the `blood’ on the bottom side of his pedigree, there wasn’t much in the way of black type close up and his sire is considered cheap by industry standards. I’ll Have Another himself, is an unremarkable specimen and very much on the small side. As a result, he is now headed to Japan to begin his career as a sire because there just wasn’t anybody in Kentucky that felt he was worth as much money or willing to support him with quality mares as the Japanese were.
Even when all the boxes are checked and you think you are breeding the next superstar, things can go wrong. It happens to everybody as some time or another. The very best horse in the world, with a great pedigree may turn out to not throw much. There was a horse called Gentlemen, that was a prime example. He was a grandson of Nureyev, beautiful, and went on to win over 3.5 million dollars racking up several Grade I scores along the way. I’ve seen him in person several times. He has also been a colossal flop as a sire. This is despite having the very best mares on the very best crosses to stand to. For whatever ever reason, he has never been able to transfer his brilliance to the breeding shed. He is still standing at stud, but there probably isn’t a commercial breeder that will touch him, and they shouldn’t. His babies don’t fetch in the sales ring and they don’t perform on the track.
I can already hear the shrieking from the PSA Backyard Contingent that this means nothing and I don’t know Quarter Horses. Guess what? I do know a little about QHs although I’m no longer involved with breeding them. I worked with running QHs way back when and still have friends and family that are heavily involved with both racing and showing. Sound breeding principles are the same. Breed the best to the best and hope for the best. That means that even if you love your badly put together, done nothing, mare in the back 40, you have NO business breeding her unless you plan on hanging onto that baby for life. You especially have no business breeding her or your nickel bred stud if you are pro-slaughter because, according to you, there are all these unwanted horses and good, papered babies are going to kill buyers for $15. Breeding is very much `what have you done for me lately’ and nobody cares who your horse traces back to if there is nothing of note in the first few generations. Period.
I could devote an entire blog to the ins and outs of breeding horses. I’ve barely touched on important things like conformation, form to function, etc. etc., but even though there are many books written on the subject, it’s one of those lifelong learning things. The bottom line is that if you are a PSA and you truly believe that there is a glut of unwanted horses and the market is gone, then you are part of the problem if you are a backyard breeder. Sadly, it takes a modicum of self-awareness to realize that you are a backyard breeder and we all know that PSAs are pitifully deficient in that area.