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  1. #1
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    Default Maybe everyone has read this already

    First time I've seen it, I think. HOW REFRESHING!
    ----------------------------------------------------


    What is a Warmblood Anyway?
    A Guest Column by Suzette Bernhold


    This question has come up many times, phrased in many different ways. It is a very important question; and one that a lot of people are too embarrassed to ask, out of a fear of looking foolish. Relax, you aren't the only confused person out there!

    Americans are used to thinking in terms "breeds" and "pure-breds". We have been conditioned to think that anything else is sub-standard. We equate "quality" with having "registration papers". This has occurred because for the past few hundred years, Americans have been breeding horses without any records being required. American breeders have been on their own, without direction or supervision of any kind. Over the years, a few enterprising souls have gotten together to create a place to track bloodlines, and so created a few American registries (i.e., Quarter Horses, Morgans, Saddlebreds, Appaloosas, etc.). They set up the basic guidelines for what bloodlines they would each accept, but beyond that people were on their own to decide what to breed.

    In Europe things are very different. For the past few hundred years, European breeding has been strictly controlled. There is no such thing as a "grade" horse. No horse was allowed to be bred without being approved by the State-appointed local breeding director. (Note: there has been a recent loosening of some restrictions along these lines.) All horses are registered with the local breeding director, and the bloodlines are carefully recorded. The local breeding director maintains a great deal of control over the kind of horse that is produced in his area by selecting and approving a certain type of breeding stock. The director also makes strong recommendations to the mare owner as to what stallion should be chosen for a certain mare. Traditionally, the State has owned and supplied the stallions to each area, selected under the recommendations of the area director. The director, therefore, wielded a great deal of power over what was done within his boundaries.

    However, these various districts are actually all in one big gene pool. State owned stallions were moved from one region to another as needed, and when a mare owner moved from one area to another, his mare band would move with him. Because mares could only travel a few days to a stallion by foot), these breeding regions were thus quite small about the size of one of our counties. Thus to call something a Hanoverian or a Westfalen horse was the equivalent of calling one of ours a Lake [County] or a Grundy [County] horse. If a Grundy horse moved to Lake County, it's offspring would become Lake horses. Each would be approved for breeding as long as it fit within the breeding goals of its new Lake County breeding director.

    Because the directors had so much control over the local population and they stayed in their positions for many, many years, they could control numerous generations within the area's breeding stock. These various areas would take on a very definite "flavor" as defined by one man's vision. A "type" became identified with the breeding area. However, new blood was continually infused from other regions to improve the quality of the local stock, direct its evolution along the director-chosen path, and continue to keep the small gene pool from becoming in-bred. Breeding stock has always been and continues to be traded throughout Europe. But even though you cannot say that the blood is "pure", all bloodlines have been carefully documented and studied.

    What is pure, anyway? Technically, the Arabian is really the only purebred; everything else has come from various mixtures. But then again, the Arab originally came from somewhere also, so what does "pure" really mean? If you looked at the entire European continent as one big gene pool, then you could call the European Warmblood a "pure breed", but any smaller area could never be defined as such. Plus, you would also have to include the Arabian and the English Thoroughbred into that vast pool, as constant infusions of those breeds are being added.

    So, in the 1950's these horses started to come to America, people have a very different idea of what a "breed" is. When told that a horse is a Rheinlander, they don't understand that this horse's full brother can be called a Dutch Warmblood! The brand that he received at birth is simply a designation of where he was produced. It has very little to do with specific bloodlines.

    When sufficient numbers of these horses started to come over here, people began to start wanting to breed them. Not understanding the way regional warmblood breeding programs are run in Europe, Americans thought they were dealing with separate breeds, and attempted to keep the lines separate and "pure" from each other. Instead of starting their own regional American warmblood-breeding program, they looked to the various parent European breeding organizations for approvals of American stock. Hence, there is now an American branch of almost every European regional breeding group. For the most part, the Europeans have been very confused by our odd insistence on the local regional connection, but have complied primarily for financial reasons. They do not consider the American groups to be a part of their local breeding program, but the American offshoots allow for a great way for them to continue to market their products. For the most part, these European breeding groups do not see the need to actually "recognize" our bloodstock anyway. They send someone over who tours the country and offers advice, and in return they see it as a way to pick up some hefty consulting fees. For another fee, they have permitted an altered version of their local brand to be used here. Some will even issue a registration paper (for another fee) in a separate branch book of some sort. However, most do not consider that these bloodlines are within their breeding program, and if these horses were to be exported to Europe, they would have to be re-examined extensively before they would even be considered as allowed into the local breeding population.

    A few Americans have caught on to the process and how it works. Those people got together and started the International Sporthorse Registry and the American Warmblood Society, in addition to a few others. These groups have understood the idea that these horses represent a "type" rather than a "breed", and select breeding stock from a wide variety of bloodlines.

    Americans have been confused by this situation, and some even will brag about having a "Purebred Hanoverian" or some other such oxymoron.

    Whether we are successful in creating an American warmblood type of horse of internationally competitive quantity, with a distinctive local flavor, will depend on our own ability to control the breeding selection procedures that we put in place. Currently, these groups are in various growth stages, and greatly differ in their sophistication and degree of professionalism. The breeding public is at the mercy of the skill and honesty of the selection committee members. Therefore the quality of breeding stock that is currently available is wildly varied. There are some phenomenal horses, and some truly awful ones, all out there breeding. If we do not do something to sufficiently cull our breeding stock and select only the best horses within the entire available gene pool, then we will never be able to raise the level of quality that is currently being produced here. There is some concern that we do not have such skilled persons available to do the job. I disagree. We have a large number of very knowledgeable breders in this country, who have the ability to make very good decisions.

    The unique problem that we face in America is two-fold. First we do not have access to a state-appointed, and state-paid; full-time breeding director. The position in this country is essentially a volunteer one in most groups, tends to be done by a committee, rather that a single, visionary individual. Very few registries can afford to pay their inspectors for anything more than travel expenses. This severely limits the number of people who are available to take up this responsibility, and do so in a totally objective and a-political fashion. Therefore, the inspectors' decisions are always suspect, and there is a perception of political and biased opinions being foremost. People seem to believe in the inspectors when their horse gets high marks, and then slam them when their horse does not. Right or wrong, there is very little faith in the inspection process as it currently is handled in this country.

    Secondly, there is the control issue. Americans hate being told what to do. If someone wants to breed his crooked-legged, nasty-tempered mare to the clunky, talentless stud colt in his back yard, there is absolutely nothing that can be done about it. We therefore will continue to produce a lot of poor quality animals regardless of what any inspector has to say about it. And with the extremely large number of registry groups now available, we will inevitably find someone to register that offspring. We simply won't be able to improve our product until we can clean up the gene pool.

    What's the answer? First we need to have a strong national tracking program like they have all over Europe. The start for this is the Performance Horse Registry's new system for tracking the bloodlines and performance records of all sporthorses. Until we know what works, how will we ever duplicate it? We currently have no way of seeing what horses are producing well, and what does and does not cross well. All breeders should back this program very strongly if they expect to someday be able to create internationally competitive stock. We cannot expect to succeed in an informational black hole, and we will continue to flounder about without direction, until such information can be made available to breeders.

    Once we have that information, we need to have a nationwide comprehensive warmblood breeding program. We are far too fragmented, with so many different groups competing against each other (and disseminating "dis-information" about each other), when they should be working together as a whole national industry. Canada is doing a very good job at forcing this issue in the creation of its Canadian Sporthorse. Can this be done in the U.S.? It remains to be seen. There are an awful lot of small political kingdoms and old-boy-clubs that would have to be disbanded first. People would have to become serious, objective breeders, and the backyard breeder would have to somehow be controlled. The inter-group fighting would have to stop, and we would all have to pool our genetic resources and start working towards a common goal.

    A major culling of breeding stock would have to be agreed to. This is a very big job, and one that would be very thankless creating a lot of enemies. Who would want to do it? How could it be done without alienating the entire breeding community? Americans take this sort of thing extremely personally, much more so than the Europeans, who are more used to it. How could it be enforced?

    These are very difficult questions, with no obvious answers. What can we do? We breeders can all start by upgrading our own mare herds, being very objective and selective about the quality of stallions that we choose, and by supporting the building of a single, cohesive, all-inclusive, warmblood breeding program in the United States. We especially need to stop the inter-group bickering, and educate the general buying public about what a warmblood really is, if we ever expect to become self-sufficient in the production of internationally competitive sporthorses.

    Copyright Anna Goebel, and Midwest Sporthorse Journal, 1997. Reprinted with permission of the author and the publication. For more information about Midwest Sporthorse Journal, call 608-248-1567.

    THE AUTHOR: Suzette Bernhold of Karousel Farms, in Maple Park, Illinois, has been a Warmblood breeder for nearly 10 years. She stands two approved Trakehner stallions, Meistersinger and Kreshendo, and she is also a successful FEI level dressage competitor. For further information on breeding to these stallions, or on young prospects, she can be reached at 630-365-4423.

    Suzette is willing to tackle questions relating to any aspect of breeding sport horses, from the philosophical to the practical. If you have a question for Suzette, please send it to:

    MSHJ Breeders' Q & A
    1214 Fish Hatchery Rd
    Madison, WI 53715

    This article was printed with permission in the Summer 1998 issue of the AWS newsletter the Warmblood Whisper.
    www.storybrookefarms.com

    (In Loving Memory of 'My Escort' 3/25/1985 - 3/17/2007)



  2. #2
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    Aug. 9, 2007
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    Default

    Thanks for the article.

    European WBs are bred for performance, and are registries full of TB blood and Arab blood. The best is bred to the best, for performance in both jumping and dressage, and bloodlines of racing TBs from the USA are infused with the old european lines.

    While I am not happy with the method of culling in europe (they eat their mistakes) I do like it that mares and stallions must be inspected and graded, and then the ensuring foals are graded.



  3. #3
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    Default

    What a great article!!! People's eyes are opening, slowly but surely!



  4. #4
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    Default

    Thank you for sharing this!
    "To my Gub... Godspeed my friend, till we meet again." 1996-2007.
    Runway (Sasha) 2009 Zweibrucker filly by Redwine.

    "Silence is golden...and duct tape is silver."



  5. #5
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    Mar. 22, 2004
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by tri View Post
    What a great article!!! People's eyes are opening, slowly but surely!
    Oh, I don't know about that. The article was written 11 years ago, and I don't see that anything has changed since then.



  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Blue Moon View Post
    Oh, I don't know about that. The article was written 11 years ago, and I don't see that anything has changed since then.

    I still hear people talking about my PUREBRED Hannoverian or my PUREBRED Warmblood. And they look at me aghast when I tell them there "purebred" is really just a well planned mixed-breed horse!

    There are some good points in the article - and I do believe American breeding has improved in 11 years. But you can't create something that big overnight
    www.MysticOakRanch.com Friesian/Warmblood Crosses, the Ultimate Sporthorse
    Director, WTF Registry



  7. #7
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    Eleven years ago, you did hear breeders talk about breeding pure this or pure that. Now not so much. Breeders are much more aware these days and the American registries have grown substantially since then. The quality has increased and you don't hear the stupid remarks about the American registries as much from those still breeding with a euro registry.

    Though, I admit, there are still some who seem dead set on spreading whatever misinformation they seem to have stuck in their little heads. The good thing is, however, that more breeders know that those folks don't know what they are talking about.



  8. #8

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    =tri;3555170]Eleven years ago......
    in the time since this article has anything else really changed that the author wrote about ???

    best
    Production Acres,Pro A Welsh Cobs
    I am one of the last 210,000 remaining full time farmers in America.We feed the others.



  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by tri View Post
    Eleven years ago, you did hear breeders talk about breeding pure this or pure that. Now not so much. Breeders are much more aware these days and the American registries have grown substantially since then. The quality has increased and you don't hear the stupid remarks about the American registries as much from those still breeding with a euro registry.
    BREEDERS are aware - now we just need to get the rest of the sport horse world (the majority - riders, trainers, owners) aware That is where I hear the most comments about "pureblood Warmbloods".

    As for remarks about American registries, there is still a ton of misinformation being discussed - just do a search on American Warmblood

    This article makes a good point - U.S. breeders seem to spend more time working against each other than with each other. Of course - this is partly the fact that we don't have Government breeding programs (well, not widespread ones - some of the state university systems DO have breeding programs and some are doing some interesting and innovative breedings).

    Looking at the quality of horses in the U.S., we have made tremendous steps in a short amount of time. Are we "behind" where Germany is? Hmmm, I think the gap is closing fast
    www.MysticOakRanch.com Friesian/Warmblood Crosses, the Ultimate Sporthorse
    Director, WTF Registry



  10. #10
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    and the backyard breeder would have to somehow be controlled.
    I have to laugh at this line in the article, considering that in just the last days there have been two threads on this board, one with someone asking whether or not she should say anything to someone breeding poor quality foals from a crooked legged stallion which failed approvals (with an alarming number of people telling her to "mind your own business"!), and another thread where a breeder refused to breed their nice stallion to a poor quality mare (which elicited reactions akin to "how dare a stallion owner judge someone's mare!")

    Good luck controlling the backyard breeder.

    This article may be 11 years old, but it is still relevant and truthful.

    The prevailing American attitude of "don't tell me what to do" is our biggest downfall, especially when paired with a pride which says "don't insult my horse", and an ignorance which says "of course Fluffy is a good broodmare, because I LOVE her" or "I'm breeding Fluffy just because she needs a JOB".

    Furthermore, in my opinion, as long as people still want to use the argument that warmbloods are mutts (I don't think of a selectively crossbred horse as a mutt), and then try to pass off Quartermorganydesdalegrades and the like as "warmbloods", it will take us at least 11 more years to catch up with Europe. We'll be reading this article again in 2019 and thinking "great article! ..........oh, it's 22 years old."



  11. #11
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    The prevailing American attitude of "don't tell me what to do" is our biggest downfall, especially when paired with a pride which says "don't insult my horse", and an ignorance which says "of course Fluffy is a good broodmare, because I LOVE her" or "I'm breeding Fluffy just because she needs a JOB".

    ROFL Yep!!!



  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by pinecone View Post
    I have to laugh at this line in the article, considering that in just the last days there have been two threads on this board, one with someone asking whether or not she should say anything to someone breeding poor quality foals from a crooked legged stallion which failed approvals (with an alarming number of people telling her to "mind your own business"!), and another thread where a breeder refused to breed their nice stallion to a poor quality mare (which elicited reactions akin to "how dare a stallion owner judge someone's mare!")

    Good luck controlling the backyard breeder.

    This article may be 11 years old, but it is still relevant and truthful.

    The prevailing American attitude of "don't tell me what to do" is our biggest downfall, especially when paired with a pride which says "don't insult my horse", and an ignorance which says "of course Fluffy is a good broodmare, because I LOVE her" or "I'm breeding Fluffy just because she needs a JOB".

    Furthermore, in my opinion, as long as people still want to use the argument that warmbloods are mutts (I don't think of a selectively crossbred horse as a mutt), and then try to pass off Quartermorganydesdalegrades and the like as "warmbloods", it will take us at least 11 more years to catch up with Europe. We'll be reading this article again in 2019 and thinking "great article! ..........oh, it's 22 years old."
    I didn't see ANYWHERE in the thread you refer to that anyone said "how dare a stallion owner judge someone's mare!". The comment was made that not ALL stallion owners are qualified to judge a mare, and that was in relation to whether we should have a system in place to allow mares to breed or not (not refering to a stallion owner's right to judge the mare, but referring to an overall system of breeding approval). Nothing negative was said to the stallion owner you referenced for making judgement on the mare.

    Warmbloods are not purebred horses - they are crossbreeds. Carefully planned out, well documented, but crossbreeds. That was one of the points of the article. And many people in the U.S. are doing the same kind of careful, well thought out cross breeding, in many cases, using a combination of European bloodlines and American bloodlines.

    I don't think there are really that many Quarterdalealoosas or Friesaddledales or Morgaloosaburgs or Gypsaloosas being bred. But there are some interesting and successful crosses, many registered with the American registries (such as AWS and PHR), and it is important the U.S. system tracks these horses in some way.
    www.MysticOakRanch.com Friesian/Warmblood Crosses, the Ultimate Sporthorse
    Director, WTF Registry



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