Our columnist sees marketing and exposure as a fundamental component of today’s breeding industry.
Sometimes we have to wonder if breeding is led by marketing and exposure instead of a true passion for breeding and producing the end goal—a sound, trainable horse that can go out into the sport or influence a breeding program for generations to come.
It was understood that until he was out in sport and gained recognition through a variety of performance programs, only then would he attract and receive mares for breeding.
Currently, however, it fascinates me to see a young stallion without a performance record, a stallion which has never put a single offspring on the ground, breeding 300 to 400 mares.
Of course, there’s the excitement to follow the new trend, be fashionable and go with a pedigree/stallion that will sell, and there’s certainly a place for some of these incredible athletes.
Many of these young stallions, receiving the number of mares as mentioned earlier, are truly great horses and have made a major difference in breeding programs.
But there’s another side of that coin that’s of equal importance: those stallions that have proven themselves often have a shelf life, and eventually their exposure and desirability fall away. This fascinates me.
I believe there’s a place for everyone. But I’m wondering if we’re going along a path where, if we look 10 years ahead, we’ll wonder, “What do we have?”
Let’s ask ourselves as a mare owner, a manager of a breeding program or a breed representative, “What will breeding be in another 10, 15 or 20 years?”
I have the feeling it will look a little limited.
When we look through four to five generations of all these famous names we hear about, I think all of the pedigrees will look the same.
Why? Because of globalization and accessibility. There are a variety of ways now (including the Internet) to secure semen—fresh or frozen.
The world is at our fingertips, and stallions everywhere are readily available to us. As a result, our gene pool is shrinking.
In some cases, as a breeder with a nice mare, you may want to look outside the box. You may want to search for that stallion that meets your specific list of traits that will match with your mare.
Let’s make sure we’re measuring our breedings, not just by market-ability but also by the traits of that stallion and how they fit with the mare. After all, this goal is what we’re really after, and this hasn’t changed. We want to breed a horse that’s sound, trainable and can move up the levels and bring recognition.
Let’s think for a moment, though. If we do go for marketing and choose a “trend” stallion to attract attention, to bring a buyer to our farm, or to fit in or feel popular, is this really the right stallion for your mare?
It takes a lot of confidence to look at your mare and say: “I don’t want to be influenced by anything other than what I think is the right choice for this mare. I’m going to find the stallion that complements this mare and her weaknesses, whether he’s 15 years old or whether he’s 3, 4 or 5 years old.”
When we look at the upper end of the sport—which isn’t always the end to study but that’s certainly a major part of the whole picture—we have the Grand Prix riders. Many upper level riders don’t care about the breeding of the horse; they only care how the horse is to ride.
More and more often, however, the horse’s breeding is becoming recognized so Grand Prix riders, in some cases, are caring more about the pedigree. They get to know some of the rideability aspects of a particular pedigree and how to approach these types of horses, but, in general, they don’t care about the breeding that much. They want to ride and represent these horses.
Therefore, if you chose to go with a fancy stallion for a “fashion pedigree,” for marketing, excitement or whatever, when that horse is 8 or 9 years old the most important thing will be its performance, not its pedigree. When a Grand Prix rider develops the horse up through the sport, it’s all about the basics: sound, trainable and having the athletic ability.
These traits are what will be representing you, your breeding program and the Grand Prix rider—a good amount of recognition.
Sometimes when you become established as a breeder and get that far up the ladder—to breed these foals, sell them quick for a return breeding or take the money—they become lost in sport and breeding has short-lived excitement.
Yes, economics always matter, but, in the end, don’t forget to look outside the box; don’t forget some of the older stallions; don’t forget some of the stallions no longer in the limelight. There are many good stallions that don’t get a lot of attention but produce many wonderful offspring.
It’s important to remember that we’re contributing to the whole picture—and it’s our horsemanship that will produce better horses for future generations.
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.