Our columnist reflects on the positive aspects of the 100-day stallion test.
Now that I’ve just returned from the latest Federation of North American Sport Horse Registries’ 100-
Day Stallion Performance Test, held at Paxton Farm in Batavia, Ohio, Nov. 8-11, I’d like to review the system.
We’ve had the 100-day performance test in North America since 1983, and with its biennial format it’s changed locations from coast to coast and featured different training directors.
Normally, after the test results are published we hear criticism toward the test through websites, chat rooms and conversations; in fact, the testing seems to get a lot of negative press.
After being involved with every single testing since 1983, I know there has been some sad news, some bad luck and miscellaneous events that prompt negative comments. But let’s take the opportunity now to discuss some of the positive points of the 100-day performance testing system.
First of all, it’s really important that there’s a testing system in which we have many breed society’s stallions all performing against one another. They are all on a fair playing field, and there’s an educational value to see all of the breeds together in one location, all performing under the same requirements and all with the same riders.
It’s very important that a “standard” system is created for the United States. Whether it’s 100 days long or operated under a different format, that’s another subject. But what’s important is that we have a test that engages and involves most of the breed societies.
This test allows us to compare our stallions and our breeds and to hold them to a high standard while evaluating them fairly, because these are the stallions we’re putting into the breeding system.
Another valuable reason for testing is to identify versatility. The 100-day test requires a pure, dressage-pedigree stallion to go out and jump: free jumping, jumping under saddle and cross-country jumping where they really get fit and develop their wind. This versatility isn’t only good for showcasing the athleticism of the stallions but also for their spirit.
Secondly, pure jumping-pedigree stallions have to improve on their flatwork, and both also have a cross-country component in this testing.
Over the years, I’ve seen one point stand out too: no matter the strengths or weaknesses the stallion has upon entering into the testing—whether a dressage, jumping or “all-around” stallion—when he has the opportunity to jump or the chance to gallop outside, his spirit lifts. These stallions become happy, and their bodies become stronger.
I believe that, especially for a young dressage horse in this country, we keep them too controlled when riding them. These horses need to play, to have some spirit, be able to get their bodies fit, to go forward,
canter outside, and jump jumps if they enjoy it.
From all of the years I’ve watched stallions progress through the 100-day testing, I rarely see horses who don’t enjoy going forward or cantering outside.
The next point to consider is a standard location where all of the stallions can be compared. Having a group of horses together enables us to learn—it’s educational to observe the stallions improve over the duration of 100 days.
Another positive aspect of the testing is our ability to track when the stallion shows up on day No. 1 to when he leaves on day No. 100. There’s a dramatic change in the stallion’s body structure, musculature development, his spirit and his fitness. It’s truly overwhelming sometimes to see some of the cases, and it’s a true testament to the quality of training, the quality of riding, the horsemanship and the nutrition.
Throughout the years, and up to and including this year’s testing, the training director—who did a great job—takes on a huge responsibility. The nutritionist did an excellent job too, and the breed societies behind the testing also did a very good job.
Of course, behind each testing there will always be disruptions to a completely successful and positive test; you will see injuries, sicknesses, scrapes and scratches. Disappointments are a given to any testing system we’re going to have. Whether it’s the fault of the 100-day test or it’s just the way it is within the testing system, we don’t know.
Does the testing have to be as long or as stressful and demanding as the 100-day test? This discussion is taking place now and has been taking place year after year, and I think we’ll continue to have these discussions.
Let’s keep the dialogue open. Let’s also hope that whatever the future is for stallion performance testing within the United States, that we can continue to have a large group of stallions gather together for testing.
These tests are also important to the sporting value of the stallion. And taking a stallion into sport can become more of a consideration in the approval process as we move forward.
In the long run, I hope we can get as many breeds as possible to standardize the same testing system as we have now with the 100-day test so we can continue to move forward and strive to improve our breeds.
Scott Hassler, the National Young Horse Dressage Coach, resides in Chesapeake City, Md., and has trained many horses to Grand Prix. The U.S. Dressage Federation Sport Horse Committee chairman since 2001, he helped establish the sport/breeding record-keeping system now active in the USDF and U.S. Equestrian Federation. He began writing Between Rounds columns in 2005.