Friday, May. 31, 2024

Free Rein With: Ken Borden Jr.

Ken Borden Jr. began dreaming about breeding horses in college when he realized it was the only way he’d be able to afford the quality of horse he wanted. He’s turned that dream into a successful business, and you’ll find his name atop the national leaderboards for dressage breeders year after year. He started Little Bit Farm in Wilmington, Ill., with his family in 1990 and currently expects 16 foals in 2009. He’s bred seven approved stallions, and the latest is Rashka, who is currently ranked No. 1 stallion in the U.S. Dressage Federation standings.

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Ken Borden Jr. began dreaming about breeding horses in college when he realized it was the only way he’d be able to afford the quality of horse he wanted. He’s turned that dream into a successful business, and you’ll find his name atop the national leaderboards for dressage breeders year after year. He started Little Bit Farm in Wilmington, Ill., with his family in 1990 and currently expects 16 foals in 2009. He’s bred seven approved stallions, and the latest is Rashka, who is currently ranked No. 1 stallion in the U.S. Dressage Federation standings. He also bred Raymeister, whom Kassandra Barteau rode to the top spot in the young rider standings for third and fourth levels this year. But Borden isn’t content with dressage horses. He also expects his homebreds to jump, and someday he would like to breed a horse that will represent the United States in Olympic competition.

Name: Ken Borden Jr.
Home Base: Wilmington, Ill.
Age: 44

How do you choose names for the foals?
Generally, I’m terrible at names. I brainstorm with my clients and horse friends. I have a foal coming next year by Briar out of a 3⁄4 sibling to Heisman, and I’ve been waiting for a B name to name a horse this, because it’s a funny name: Ken Borden riding Butt Naked.

What is your biggest self-indulgence?
I see plays and go to the Lyric Opera of Chicago. If I’m not in a play, I’m trying to see one.

What is your drink of choice?
I love Dr. Pepper. I also try to drink flavored water to be healthy.

What was the last book you read?
I finally finished Ride The Right Horse by Yvonne Barteau. I’m not an avid reader. I read articles more often than books. I don’t thoroughly enjoy reading, but I enjoyed this book.

Jack Russells, yes or no?

No. My sister, my mom and I breed Shih-Poos. It’s a mix between a Poodle and a Shih Tzu. They’re non-allergenic, non-shedding and not as yappy as some other smaller dogs.

What three things are most likely to be found in your refrigerator at all times?
Banamine, soda pop and leftovers.

What do you look for first in a stallion?
I look first to see if he has testicles. But, seriously, it comes down to the correctness of the foundation, the legs. I’m more into the modern type of horse. I don’t look at a brand.

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In a mare?
The mare is the more important part. I don’t mind the length of the back. I’m mainly concerned with what she has produced in the past. But her topline and structure, especially that of the neck placement, are major considerations.

Looking back on your career so far, what advice are you glad you never took?
Not all judges or inspectors say what they mean. One inspector actually stated, “You cannot breed for a dressage horse.” Another stated, “Once a stallion does not pass an inspection, he should be gelded.” Many legends are often overlooked. Cor de la Bryere was recommended to be a gelding. Rubinstein was originally not approved.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

I think my stallion Rashka is the best representation so far of our breeding program. I’ve never won as much with any horse in my lifetime and will probably never win as much again. At one point in 2008, he was leading the country in almost every division he entered. He won 41 classes straight, and almost every judge scored him between 75 percent and 91 percent.

What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

I’m already an actor and a teacher, and I love both of those, but I probably would be a lawyer.

If you were to die and come back as a person or thing, who or what do you think it would be?

I would come back as a stallion, hopefully a popular breeding stallion. I think I’d be pretty good at it.

What do you consider the most ridiculous aspect of breeding horses?
I’m really disappointed in a lot of places because they charge a ridiculous fee called a lab fee, just looking at the semen. Providing viable semen should be the fiscal responsibility of the stallion owner, not the breeding purchaser.

What is your greatest fear?

You mean besides love handles? I’m a little bit of a control freak, so it’s probably losing control.

What equestrian fad do you perpetuate?

I use ThinLine pads on everybody. In the dressage world, I love the bling bridles—I don’t do everything black and white.

What item most frequently appears on your credit card statement?
Either gas or food. I eat fast food more than anybody I ever met. I take a cooler with fruit and yogurt and try to eat salads, but I’m on the road too much.

What is your favorite journey?
It’s like the process from audition through rehearsal to performance. It’s the journey from breeding a mare to having the foal hit the ground and then the training before slowly campaigning it.

What is your most treasured possession?
It should be my family, but my most favorite thing right now is Rashka. He’s like my child.


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