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June 12, 2012

New Bedfellows

Jan. 18, 1974

The addition of non-Thoroughbreds to The Chronicle of the Horse’s 1974 stallion issue was such a bold move, then-editorial assistant Peter Winants wrote an editorial to explain the decision.

In the past years, the Pictorial Stallion Issue was strongly slanted toward the Thoroughbred. This year, he’s got company. We’ve enlarged our coverage to include Hanoverians, Trakehners and Westphalians. Also, we have an article on Near-Breds, which is a cross of the Thoroughbred with any number of other breeds, such as the Connemara, the Arab and the draught breeds.

I can imagine what is going through the minds of the purists: “These guys at the Chronicle are flipping their lids,” they will say. “Sure their readers are participants in horse sports. Sure they’re involved in fox hunting, hunt racing, combined training, dressage, hunter shows, polo and competitive trail rides. But the Thoroughbred is the old standby. Why, he can do anything better than any other breed. You name it. To hell with those European horses. To hell with those crazy mixed-up Near-Breds. Those Chronicle readers should breed only Thoroughbreds. If they want a short cut, they should go to the track and buy a cheap Thoroughbred who can’t run fast enough for racing. He’ll make ‘em a good hunter, point-to-point horse, dressage horse, show horse, event horse or trail horse. Even a polo pony. The Stallion Issue should contain only Thoroughbreds.”

Oh. Oh—maybe we goofed. No, we’ll forget about the Europeans in the future, and it would be a sin to cross a pretty Thoroughbred and get a Near-Bred.

But, wait a minute. Hold on. A sentence in Mrs. Wallace’s article on the Near-Bred strikes close to home. “The early strain of years on the track often leaves the ex-racehorse with leg problems and, or, mental problems.”

I think of my own hunter. Yes, he has scars from the track. Yes, he’s a bit peculiar at times. And, it took a long time to get him going half-way right. I know what Mrs. Wallace means.

Then, Mr. Gafford, in his article on the Trakheners, made the following statement. “If one intends to breed for an individual to use in hunting, jumping, dressage or three-day competition, it is only natural that he should select a breed that is explicitly bred for that purpose.”

Then, Mr. Casey, in his article “Why Breed to a European Stallion” makes the following observation. “By breeding such proven bloodlines (Hanoverian etc.) to carefully chosen, top quality examples of our native breeds (i.e. Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse) we stand a better chance of achieving an American/European cross with exceptional talent for dressage, jumping and three-day events, and capable of performing with distinction in international competition.”

Say, these guys just might have a point. Let’s listen to their story, and that’s exactly why this year’s Stallion Issue has some new bedfellows.”

This article was first published on Jan. 18, 1974, in The Chronicle of the Horse. It's part of a series celebrating 75 years of Chronicle history.

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