Successful breeding program: What's talent has to do with it?
I reader on my blog commented that I must be a talented breeder to breed a great stallion like Lotus T. Breeding a truly exceptional, once-in-a-lifetime horse has very little to do with talent. I think these are the points that this reader and lots of others are missing:
The success of a breeding program relies on several factors.
The first ingredient is the background and education of the breeder. As in most disciplines, a breeder has to have theoretical knowledge, years of practical experience in the field of breeding management and foal development.
Secondly, the breeder either has to be a trainer himself and/or has to have access to top trainers in order for his/her product to come to fruition. We should not forget that the measure of success of a breeding program is defined by the horse' achievements in sport. It's not enough to breed horses with the top talent, soundness and temperament, but these horses have to be put in the right training program and cultivated to their fullest potential. Unfortunately, in the United States, the link between the breeders and the top riders is missing. That is why most trainers and riders go to Europe to buy made or half-made horses and that is why a lot of American horses "never make it".
A breeder also has to have staying power, determination and stamina. Building a breeding program takes a minimum of 15-20 years. A breeder has to have a sound financial base - whether from his/her own resources, from sponsors or from working for someone else. Significant return on investment can not be expected for at least 10 years, so the breeder has to weather the ups and downs of the economy and do whatever it takes to achieve the final goal. It also takes enormous amount of physical work to run a successful program, that is exacerbated by extremely long hours and the psychological stress of coping with disappointments and setbacks. Mother nature always throws a curve ball, no matter what.
A breeding program must have numbers. Combining genes and educated selection requires a pool of mares and stallions.
A breeder must have a feel for producing outstanding horses. There have been countless attempts made at quantifying how to select mares and stallions, how to evaluate sporthorses - and certain aspects of the process can be quantified. However, "feel" for the horse is a secret ingredient that can not be put in a book, can not be described in equations, can not be learned. A breeder either has it, or doesn't.
However, even if all the above ingredients are in place, breeding a truly exceptional horse requires a great deal of luck. I have been EXTREMELY lucky to have bred a stallion like Lotus T.