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Nature vs Nurture

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  • Nature vs Nurture

    After reading the "backed my baby" thread, I'm wondering what the consensus is about nice horses. Is it that the foal is genetically programed to be quiet/tractable or hot/nervous? Or if it is raised (from birth) to listen to humans, will it be quiet/tractable even if blood line tends to be hot/nervous?

    I'm thinking (long term) about buying (maybe breeding at some point) babies, raising them, starting them, and selling them. But I want to hedge my bets about getting amateur suitable horses.

    Last edited by fizzyfuzzybuzzy; May. 15, 2010, 01:04 PM.
    When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.

  • #2
    A good trainer is crucial, BUT.... I truly believe that if you don't have the calm mind from birth, you'll never have it.

    And this is from having several horses, that while becoming good horses with time and training, they always had that propensity to "spook".
    Hillary Rodham Clinton - the peoples choice for president.


    • #3
      I think it's both. I think a nice calm baby could be ruined by poor handling, and a more high-strung baby can be made much better by really good handling. However, I think that a horse with a naturally awesome temperament who received stellar handling is the best you can get!


      • #4
        Handling has a ton to do with it, but I have always believed some are just 'off' in the head. Even with wonderful handling, they are never dependable. Certain things are bred in and can't be changed, but handling counts for ALOT. My moms horse is the perfect example of this to me. He's a TB that was bred at a running farm, but culled and sold as a weanling. The people raised him outside, started him in the hills, trail riding, etc. As a 3 yo he was quiet enough for my very ammy mom to move on with. His full sister, from the same farm, was purchased as a weanling and started on a career as a barrel horse. She's a crazy nut. So, yes, even though they're full siblings, there will be some difference, also the gelding/mare differences. But 1 ended up an A circuit ammy horse, the other a totally unsafe to be around ex-barrel racer.
        Do not toy with the dragon, for you are crunchy and good with ketchup!


        • Original Poster

          Hmmm, interesting. How would you evaluate a youngsters temperment? I expect a baby to be scared of new things, but I would guess a thoughtful reaction (vs HOLY SH*T RUN AWAY) would be a good marker for a ammy suitable temperment down the road?
          When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.


          • #6
            My now four year old was born broke. All his fathers kids are. Monkeys could have started him and I think he'd be the same horse. His fourth ride we took him on a two hour trail ride.
            "Kindness is free" ~ Eurofoal
            The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances.


            • #7
              Fizzy, I think nature, nuture and the stars aligning all play a role in building a great baby. I'm an ammy rider and have bred a couple of horses, and though they are young yet, have very good dispositions and are put together very well. They also have great pedigrees. My 8 year old riding horse is hotter, talented and arrogant. Not impossible, but requires skill to manage. I wanted to raise sweet babies who are jocks .

              I think it is very hard to understand a stallion's disposition and how he might cross over a given mare. My mare is a little on the arrogant, TB-ish hotter side, but her kids are both gentle, pocket pets. Granted the Dads came through on both babies - but who knew it would happen? They kids are SO different one would not believe they are related in any way.

              It is a guarantee that raising the baby correctly will positively influence development. But guessing how the gene pool will come together? Mystery.

              IMHO, I think the mares rule. Mom must be wonderful period. There is so much emphasis on stallions, and i think the truth lies within momma. Also, momma will raise her baby for the first 6 months of life.

              I have one mare who is what i would call "blank slate." She adds pretty, deep heart girth, soul and SIZE, and lets Dad determine the rest. I think she's extremely valuable in that i can look at a stallion and kind of picture what "might" occur. We have another mare who makes every kid look like her - which is great, but her personality is a little tougher than it appears by handling her. She's easy, but her kids are a little tough.

              I think breeding is much like being at the Casino, except with breeding, one evening of gambling lasts an entire year - and then some .


              • #8
                Originally posted by fizzyfuzzybuzzy View Post
                Hmmm, interesting. How would you evaluate a youngsters temperment? I expect a baby to be scared of new things, but I would guess a thoughtful reaction (vs HOLY SH*T RUN AWAY) would be a good marker for a ammy suitable temperment down the road?
                I don't know if I could ever evaluate a baby's temperament again after dealing with my baby. She was flighty and high strung from day one. Nothing like her sensible, placid momma. Then, after she turned four and a half or so, it was like a light switched on. My mare is now the clone of her mother. It is so weird! I swear I despaired over this horse when she was younger, many times thinking about throwing in the towel. Of course good training and wet saddle pads have helped steady her mind enormously, but I have to think her mother's genes finally kicked in.

                Due to the stressful experience, she is my last baby. I'm only going with ready made horses from now on. LOL.


                • Original Poster

                  I'm experienced in handling young horses and foals (and I am very careful about not handling any horses without someone around), but I've never been the one to pick out the kids. I want to raise nice 16.2-17h ammy friendly dressage horses that are flashy enough to compete (and do well) locally, but aren't such HUGE movers that their riders can't learn to sit the trot. So far, I found a couple of stallions I like (Gatsby and L'Andiamo are a couple) so I've been keeping an eye on the foals their websites.
                  When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.


                  • #10
                    Are you a Dressage rider?

                    We primarily breed quarter horses and appendix crosses, but I had been dreaming of my own WB for Dressage. We had a very nice mare- albeit a bit arrogant and not at all mellow, so i wanted to be sure to chose a quiet, talented stallion that could produce a competitive Ammy-level horse. i'm not an upper level rider nor am i ever headed for International competition. But i do enjoy my horses and want to compete!

                    People on the breeder section of this forum were very helpful, and indeed pointed me in a good direction. I ended up breeding to Ginger Parker's stallion Vicna - and couldn't be HAPPIER with the results.

                    My colt is going to finish out around 16.2 - 17h is gorgeous, balanced and VERY affable in nature. He was born gentle. He's a beautiful mover and a quick learner. I look forward to starting this colt here at home. The breeding experience working with Ginger couldn't have been better. She is extremely knowledgeable, honest and kind. I felt comfortable asking questions and am delighted with the results. My colt is lovely and I would recommend Vinca to any amateur rider hoping to breed.

                    Good luck to you in your decision!


                    • Original Poster

                      I am a dressage rider, and ideally that is what I would breed for, but I have connections in the eventing and H/J world if I end up with a foal that shows talent in that arena. But I do have upper level dreams, and I'm ok with a horse that is a bit hotter/nervous, but I think there is a real lack in the dressage world -- and that is horses for the people who buy the most expensive horses i.e middle aged woman who want a fancy horse that they can ride and take out and show but will probably never make past 2nd level. They want the bloodlines, they want the "FEI potential" but will probably never tap into it!

                      They will be for sale from the time they hit the ground, but I am going to be set up for keeping them until they are under saddle, showing, etc.
                      When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.


                      • #12
                        Oh, I too, have big plans for working my way to upper levels! And you are right - there are many who people who insist on buying FEI potential who never make it beyond 1st level, let alone second.

                        Vinca stands at Flower Farms in PA - google him and you can see all about this young stallion. He shows MUCH jumping promise as well. Ginger, his owner, is Hunter and could tell you more. His scores were excellent O/F as well as on the flat.

                        I love the breeding and babies and really prefer to raise my own. Ede (my Dutch yearling) will certainly jump as well as work on the flat, but i have no interest .

                        I think a fine disposition is key no matter what the final destination will be and is overlooked sometimes, when pretty and pedigree and show records start lining up. The bottom line is i want to raise horses who are a joy to work with and who genuinely enjoy life and people. I don't think that anything with TB blood ends up mellow yellow or a dead head but aiming for the best mind possible is certainly a primary breeding goal for me. All the talent in the world doesn't amount to boo if i can't stand to be around the horse. Most assuredly, i think other amateurs feel this way as well, but who wants to flat out admit it?

                        Life is short, i want to have fun and i want to win !

                        Smiles! laura


                        • #13
                          Ditto Oharabear...absolutely. I've bred a good number of babies and kept them from training - retirement.

                          It's both.
                          www.littlebullrun@aol.com See Little Bull Run's stallions at:
                          "Argosy" - YouTube and "Boleem" - YouTube
                          Boleem @ 1993 National Dressage Symposium - YouTube


                          • Original Poster

                            My ultimate goal is to stand my own stallion (my own competition horse) and I've found the foal I want as my stallion prospect...unfortunately he lives in Australia! But I LOVE breeding, love raising foals, have a good support system and network of people to help me sell my kids to the right people. But I refuse to produce more unsound (be it mind or body) horses to end up with no where to go. I'm so tired of meeting these nice older ladies with horses they are afraid of, but are REALLY pretty.
                            When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.


                            • Original Poster

                              Originally posted by sid View Post
                              Ditto Oharabear...absolutely. I've bred a good number of babies and kept them from training - retirement.

                              It's both.
                              My goal is definitely both!! I have the experience to handle a hot horse, but the point is that I want to produce horses that ANYONE can handle!
                              When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.


                              • #16
                                then you need to choose parents that are tractable and easily handled.

                                I have chosen my last 3 babies as weanlings or yearlings, from parents who had proven performance records and were nice horses to meet in person. I had the luxury of walking into a herd where many youngsters were available. They were all reasonably well bred and had good conformation. I had already preselected a few based on videos and still shots of movement and conformation. In person, in the herd, I picked the ones who were interested in humans, the ones who followed me around respectfully ( not pushing their way into my space, but calmly sniffing and curious) and did not react to every little dirt devil and blowing leaf.

                                They have all turned out to be stellar.
                                "The Threat of Internet Ignorance: ... we are witnessing the rise of an age of equestrian disinformation, one where a trusting public can graze on nonsense packaged to look like fact."-LRG-AF


                                • #17
                                  Do any of you breeders have opinions about when to wean? I've heard that old-timers wean at certain phases of the moon. Do it right, and have a horse that's confident and at-ease when alone. Not pay attention to this, wean at the "wrong" time and the horse will be plagued with separation anxiety well into adult-hood. Good genes and handling affect the outcome, obviously, but can't overcome a "bad" weaning.



                                  • #18
                                    It's both for sure. Nature I think is most important...genetics are critical. I simply won't keep a tough ill tempered mare or one that I could not easily start to go under saddle. She must put nice foals on the ground to the nice stallions or she's culled and sold.

                                    A stallion absolutely must prove himself as a riding horse as well as have the bloodlines, conformation, temperament, movement, and type for our breed. He must be kind and generous to people riding him, calm at shows, kids hanging off his mane at expos, and foals in his pasture. If he fails those tests, he's a gelding in my world.

                                    Now obviously the nicest minded baby in the world can be screwed up with bad handling but typically the good ones will start out kind natured and stay that way. They will forgive you for your mistakes.

                                    I just got done helping a out of shape friend today with a 5 year old that I bred that I started for her last year. She's ridden for years western but is not used to riding english and had a rough horse that got her scared and backed off in between her old timer and this youngster...so she's trying to get in sync with her five year old now. I lunged her on her youngster today working on her position, and then she rode him loose. When he feels her loose her balance, he stops rather than runs off. That sort of kindness is priceless for an adult ammie rider. I could not be more proud of him. I've seen seasoned school horses not do so well.

                                    I've worked with some not so nice youngsters now too who are like that from day one. They are reactive and difficult and nervous...and no amount of training or desensitizing can ever really get that out of them. That sort of horse had better be talented for something or they are generally not the kind of horse an ammie who just wants to relax will want to have around to enjoy.


                                    • Original Poster

                                      Flame suit zipped up -- as a breeder, what do you do with the foals that do not meet your standards? You can geld a colt, but the fillies go out into the world with the possibility of breeding. It's not like breeding dogs that they can be altered before they get fully signed over.

                                      There are so many unwanted horses, I am trying to stack the deck before breeding, but sometimes the best + the best = mediocre. What is the (or is there a) solution?
                                      When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.


                                      • #20
                                        No need for the flame suit..., as it's a good question.

                                        I have one mare who was really badly handled at feeding time- repeatedly -- as a little foal, while I was at work. All it took was one week to change this kid forever.

                                        As a result she is aggressive around food, but only on a fenceline --particularly so with strangers. It's a phobia.

                                        I don't expect she'll find much patience for her problem out there in what can sometimes be the cold, hard world of horses.

                                        Therefore I'll never sell her and should something happen to me, I'll have her put down.
                                        www.littlebullrun@aol.com See Little Bull Run's stallions at:
                                        "Argosy" - YouTube and "Boleem" - YouTube
                                        Boleem @ 1993 National Dressage Symposium - YouTube