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Blood on top???

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  • Blood on top???

    I have been told that the most successful European breeding programs put the "blood on top". They breed their best Warmblood mares to TB stallions (or hotter, lighter WB stallions) and achieve the best proven, athletic results by breeding in this manner and they have been doing this for decades with obvious success ...

    Is this same model being followed here in North America? I might be wrong but it seems like there are more TB mares being bred to WB stallions over here and the nice imported WB mares are bred to similar type WB stallions, but there are very few imported WB mares being bred to North American TB stallions

    I'd love to hear from the European breeders as to why it is done this way on their side of the ocean. What is the obvious difference in having the blood on the top rather than on the bottom and why have they followed this breeding model over the decades?

    True Colours Farm on Facebook

  • #2
    I don't know why the Germans do it, but I have what I would call an older style (more substantial) Hanoverian mare that I imported. I wanted to improve saddle position and I have found that the best offspring she has produced to date are when the stallion (even though Hanoverian) has some blood close up in his pedigree. Examples are when bred to Freestyle (Frappant/Bolero xx); and Werther (Wendekreis/Marcio xx).

    In my case I think it is because in most respects, the mare really stamps her foals, and she could use a better saddle position, and perhaps more length of leg. So I need a stallion that is pretty prepotent for good saddle position and the thoroughbreds, in my opinion, certainly breed true in the withers department, as well as putting a little more leg on.

    I too would really like to hear what our German members have to say on this subject.
    WildSwan Hanoverians


    • #3
      "but there are very few imported WB mares being bred to North American TB stallions"

      One quick reason for that is, so many TB stallions are not approved with the European books.
      Example, Yavari was AHS, but not VhW approved.
      So, depending on your registry, that makes it tough to breed to these guys.
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      • #4
        I always heard "blood on top" in reference to the Irish horse. Over in Ireland they use the NH stallions on Draft mares. Here the other way round, ID's on TB's. Some say the quiet Draft dams make the quiet ISH's.

        Don't know if it is proven.
        Proud member of People Who Hate to Kill Wildlife clique


        • #5
          I think the primary reason WHY it is done differently is economic/practical: meaning, that it's more cost effective to import stallions rather than mares. In Europe, warmblood mares are easy to come by and TBs are not as plentiful, and so they use TB stallions. In America, TB mares are easy to come by.

          I'm reminded of a friend's trip to Germany that involved riding. She arrived at the barn to see two warmbloods and two QH tacked up for the ride. She was bummed that she'd travelled all that way just to ride a QH! But when she said something that indicated her assumption that she would be riding the QH, the guides were somewhat indignant: this strange foreigner thought she would be riding their precious, expensive, imported horses?

          That is independent of whether or not it matters in the foal. I personally do think that we don't give enough credit to mares, and that especially when breeding for bigger horses, that it makes sense for the mare to be the more substantial one.
          If you are allergic to a thing, it is best not to put that thing in your mouth, particularly if the thing is cats. - Lemony Snicket


          • #6
            I have this thought that the idea or tradition also came about because it's generally safer to put the big mare to the small stallion, rather than the other way around.

            I heard it from the Irish. I do think it's partly about temperament. But also about uterine environment.

            I think the best TB stallions here in the US are so far out of reach stud fee wise (and LC only) that we don't use them at ALL for sport. A couple years ago someone posted a link to the top TB stallions in one guide or catalogue, and I drooled over just about every one. These were $100k stud fees! MAGNIFICENT creatures. But not ones we ever see in Sport.

            The lower tier of breeders can also get a good-to-decent TB mare off the track for a song. If you have a good eye, you can do very well to 'breed her up' to the flavour of the month WB.

            I have a stallion whom Meg Hamilton said is the kind used for breed improvement from Europe. So far, not a single outside WB mare interested, though he is producing lovely, competitive foals. I just don't think Americans are particularly interested. I think the majority thinks Bigger is Better. I won't market him heavily as a Sport Pony, though he is approved for that, because I cannot guarantee foals won't go over on a semi-regular basis. <shrugs>

            </tangent> but I grew up with the Blood on Top rule. Just seems like once again we have to reinvent the wheel for ourselves.
            InnisFailte Pinto Sporthorses & Coloured Cobs

            Bits are like cats, what's one more? (Petstorejunkie)


            • #7
              It's economics. You get more bang for your buck with a TB stallion in Europe. Here, we don't have very many approved TB stallions, but mares are easy to come by. In Germany, the Hanoverian verband only inspects a handful of TB mares. Here, it's much more common. So I don't think it's necessarily a breeding theory or anything.

              ETA: That may just be what came from our breeding program. It's a lot easier to find nice TB eventer mares than it is to find nice WB eventer mares. There just aren't that many people eventing WBs comparatively. So we bought older mares with prelim miles and bred them to jumper bred Hanos and it worked well. We got nice crosses that were athletic enough to go prelim/intermediate but easy enough for a dedicated amateur to ride. And if eventers didn't want them the hunter/jumpers did. I also like that we got the TB half raising the foals. They tend to be a little braver (or they think things through less, I don't know which) so we trail rode while the babies were young and got them started riding in the open that way. I'll never forget the time my filly (at 2 yrs) saw me taking another horse out for a ride, jumped the fence, and proceeded to gallop with us! It also helped that we were able to sell the mares to pony clubbers as schoolmasters once they were past breeding. A nice outcome for everyone.


              • #8
                If you look at the pedigrees of horses registered with European registries, you will see a Holsteiner base in most of them. When I use the word "base," I mean look at the motherlines. The Holsteiner breed has unbroken motherlines which are treasured in the world of European sporthorse breeding.

                In Holsteiner breeding, you keep the genetics but change the "type" as fashion and need changes. To do that successfully, you keep the genetics of the mare but change her "type" by using a more modern stallion, such as an approved Thoroughbred or French stallion. You hope to get a filly who you will take to a Holsteiner stallion. Now you have changed the "type" but have kept the genetics and, when you breed the filly to a Holsteiner stallion, you are breeding more "modern" Holsteiners. This is called generational breeding; it serves a purpose.

                If you are breeding Holsteiners, you would never do it the other way around because you would break the motherline and be unable to register the foal Holsteiner. "It's all about the mare."
                Last edited by ShowjumpersUSA; Aug. 2, 2008, 12:13 PM.
                CAMPESINO (1990 - 2008)
                Capitol I - Sacramento Song xx


                • #9
                  It totally depends on economics and the fact that is a science in itself to find a TB/Arab mare that has the quality and genetics that will make her line prevail for generations to come. That said, quite to the contrary of the modern Holsteiner breed which doesn't even inspect TB mares, no matter how good, into their stud book in Germany, the Trakehner breed has had tremendous success with TB and Arabian mares founding families and excellent sport horse lines. I have written a synopsis on this for (hopefully an upcoming) issue of Horse International, once it's published I'll be happy to post it on my website (or you can go and get a copy of the magazine). I personally strongly favor mares over stallions in crossing TBs into a program, but that may be just me ;-) Tom Reed, fellow poster here, is publishing a back-to-back article on "Tb over the Top" in the same issue of HI, so watch out for it!

                  I will argue that you will not find a second warmblood breed that has so many TB mare-founded families in its books as the Trakehners - and with overwhelming success in most cases, especially when Irish mares were involved. And I'm talking production of breeding material just as much as production of sport horses.


                  • #10
                    Hannover recommends getting blood into the damline via the TB sire!. They use TB improvement sires on the larger mare base with the intention of the resulting offspring being the next generation breeding mares. They always talk about "thinking in generations" because it is VERY VERY rare to get a 1st generation tb offspring that is comparable to the cross between two wb's.

                    I personally think this makes the most sense, as it is the very rare tb that is truly suited to the wb breeding program. So by finding a stallion well suited, he can be used alot more than a mare that is (they are rare and can only have a few offspring compared to stallion).

                    It is interesting though ( and I know it surprised the verband!) that stallions like Lauries have first generation offspring that are very much on par with their non half blood competators...ie Le Beau, Londonderry, Longchamp.

                    I myself have a Londonderry filly from a very blood infused dam and am SO excited about her not only because I think she is special, but because I am basically not limited at all in stallion choices! But over, yes, you have to think in generations!

                    "Simple: Breeding,Training, Riding". Wolfram Wittig.


                    • Original Poster

                      Interesting that you stress talking "in generations" Donella ...

                      One of my favorite sayings that aurum told me a few weeks back was:

                      in germany we would say "you never know which ancestor leaves the bus at the next station" hence be careful when breeding as it means thinking in generations!
                      How very very true that is ...

                      True Colours Farm on Facebook


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Foxtrot's View Post
                        I always heard "blood on top" in reference to the Irish horse. Over in Ireland they use the NH stallions on Draft mares. Here the other way round, ID's on TB's. Some say the quiet Draft dams make the quiet ISH's.

                        Don't know if it is proven.

                        My husband's TB/ID cross is by Salluceva as is my ex- chaser. Even though we know they aren't brothers, it's still funny to see these 2 by the same stallions as there is not one similarity.

                        Can't really comment on the quiet though, as if you want to know what you are getting you would ride my ex-chaser Frank. He would never do anything "dirty" on you ever, not in his nature. Where as with the ISH, you may find yourself happily going along one minute, and the next you are on the ground!

                        I would definitely agree the reason more TB mares are not used here is because of the motherline and no other. If you are to use a TB mare you need to make your own motherline to have anything of value over here. You have here many quality mares proven over a long time as to what her progeny can do. So if you want to "lighten" her foals up for modern competition, you would look to a TB stallion. The Dutch actually have a few reg TB stallions and the Hanoverian's have a very well racebred stallion who does dressage in Wilwander (sp) think that's his name.

                        I use a TB mare for my breeding and I have noticed a few NH mares breeding sporthorses over here in Ireland. There have been a few NH fillies going through recent sales which were very closely related to eventer Moonfleet. Moonfleet actually comes from a very good black type NH family. Anyway, if I'm to have anything from my mare of value, then it's up to me to make sure her kids do something in competition.

                        Love that quote by by the way TC!

                        COTH, keeping popcorn growers in business for years.

                        "I need your grace to remind me to find my own." Snow Patrol-Chasing Cars. This line reminds me why I have horses.


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by TrueColours View Post
                          I have been told that the most successful European breeding programs put the "blood on top". They breed their best Warmblood mares to TB stallions (or hotter, lighter WB stallions) and achieve the best proven, athletic results by breeding in this manner and they have been doing this for decades with obvious success ...
                          . What is the obvious difference in having the blood on the top rather than on the bottom and why have they followed this breeding model over the decades?

                          many many many decades...and it's not about TB but also Traks and the occasional arab type...the mare keeps the bone on the bottom and the stallion makes both ends...only reading a pedigree from any WB family in Europe will show you this..

                          Americans like to turn their nose up at these things as we do not have a big mare base of big boned riding mares and don't like to read pedigrees ... and we have a breeding pool of many TB's and QH's who are of racing blood and the occasional WB stallion...

                          but you can tell the difference in them conformationally...they look upside down esp as they age and reach say 10 years old...heavy necks and shoulders on small cannons and hocks...and maybe sometimes a nice hip to push with...but not overall...where as the other way good bone base with refined balanced head and shoulders...and big ole hips

                          blood on bone
                          small on tall
                          type to type
                          and partbreds not at all

                          Production Acres,Pro A Welsh Cobs
                          I am one of the last 210,000 remaining full time farmers in America.We feed the others.


                          • #14
                            Good economic and biological reasons are given above, but some people actually wrongly believe there's a scientific/genetic reason. That is ridiculous, and geneticist/biologist friends of mine agree. Yet some trainers have insisted it is true and refused to look at offspring of TB mares. Sad thet they are guiding students so poorly.
                            Touchstone Acres Lipizzans, Standing N. Samira VI (Gray), N. XXIX-18(Black), more in 2014


                            • #15
                              I'm going to throw a spanner in the works on this theory lol

                              If you look at what types of horses were about 50+ years ago in Europe , Ireland and England they were either TB or Draught type horses.

                              They had a certain job back then..they either raced for rich people or they worked hard for working class people..they weren't specifically bred as sport or pleasure horses.

                              Your average person owned a draft/draught type not a TB racehorse.
                              In England and Ireland that draught type horse would work the land during the week and then take it's owner hunting for fun.
                              There were some 'Hunter' types bred that the rich owned or the army used.

                              As the work horse became redundant because of the car etc. work turned to pleasure and competitions.

                              It was easier and cheaper to use a lower class TB stallion to cover lots of draught mares than it was vice versa. (no one could afford the top racehorse stud fees)
                              The Irish used their Irish Draught mares, the English their Clydesdales and Shire mares and the Europeans used their heavy driving mares.

                              The principle was the same to improve the quality of the stock they had available to them.

                              I think if like America they had an abundance of TB mares they would have used more TB mares than draught type mares...I think this is the myth because each side of the Atlantic used what was available to them.

                              If you look at the pedigrees of horses competiting in the 60' and 70's in Show Jumping for instance at the Olympics etc. before it was easy to fly across the world to go to stud or compete or use AI.

                              The Americans and Australians mainly used Thoroughbreds
                              The Irish used the TB/ID (so did the Italians and a lot of Europe because it was easy to import them)
                              The English used the TB/Clydesdale (and some TB/ID because easy to import too)
                              The Germans used mostly their heavier warmblood breeds like the Hanovarian etc.

                              Whether or not it works better with the TB as the sire is up for debate but I don't believe originally it was through choice but what was most easiest and economical to way to introduce some quality to heavier breeds.
                              So unless there is a comparable time span using Tb mares instead I don't think there is a answer to the original question.

                              I've got to add that IMHO you Americans/Canadians are breeding some fantastic stock from your TB mares and I really think you have to stop thinking the grass is greener on the other side of the pond


                              • #16
                                I always liked the TB stallion/WB or draft mare cross best

                                It seems to produce more balanced individuals with the quiet temperament of the dam but some refinement and the athletic ability of the TB sire. JM2c.


                                • #17
                                  It'd be interesting to see just how many TB mares exsist in Europe vs. the US.

                                  And it is true that it takes generations to produce a successful line & market it.

                                  Having seen some of the top mare's of their respected registry (both here & in Europe), I can also say that here in the US we have TB mare's that are just as nice or nicer - why wouldn't we use these mare's? And I do think the well-bred (usually a bit of line-breeding involved or well-recorded niches) TB mares are quite prepotent and throw predictably, but instead of having a stamm with information readily available, you have to do a bit of research.


                                  • #18
                                    Originally posted by goodmorning View Post
                                    It'd be interesting to see just how many TB mares exsist in Europe vs. the US.

                                    And it is true that it takes generations to produce a successful line & market it.

                                    Having seen some of the top mare's of their respected registry (both here & in Europe), I can also say that here in the US we have TB mare's that are just as nice or nicer - why wouldn't we use these mare's? And I do think the well-bred (usually a bit of line-breeding involved or well-recorded niches) TB mares are quite prepotent and throw predictably, but instead of having a stamm with information readily available, you have to do a bit of research.
                                    WELL SAID. I don’t think it’s really a question of top or bottom, I think it is a question of availability of information.

                                    Most mare owners purchase the “best” mares they feel they can afford because they believe the basis for a good breeding program is the mare line. It was that appreciation of the mares’ contribution that directed our decision in 1997 to switch from using TB mares in our breeding program to using Hanoverian mares. HOWEVER, that decision had more to do with the goals, availability of information, and types of services provided by the various registries than with the quality of the mares in those registries.

                                    Like most breeders, I try to breed the best mares, and to select stallions that are most likely to compliment and improve upon those mares. To do this, I must be knowledgeable about BOTH my mare(s) and the stallion(s) I might breed them to. And while it is relatively easy to acquire information on sires, whose records of performance and production are generally well documented, learning the background of a mare family is much more difficult; especially for those who may be just entering the field of performance horse breeding. This knowledge comes through years, if not generations of breeding experience, and is primarily shared through word of mouth. A perfect example being this bulletin board.

                                    So, in my opinion, it isn’t that the damline of the warmblood is inherently better or more prepotent than the damline of the TB. The difference is that the assistance provided by organizations like the AHS, the European warmblood breed registries, and fellow warmblood breeders, which enables us to learn about these damlines, is much better. (FLAME suit now on.)

                                    That’s why I use the Hanoverian on the bottom and will introduce blood on the top as needed.
                                    WildSwan Hanoverians


                                    • #19
                                      Anyone can state their opinion of what should be done. Few know what the facts are. The fact is that IN AMERICA, the most success Americans have had in getting American bred horses into the high levels of competition have been been with horses that are half Tbs and most of those, the TB has been the dam.

                                      Hands down, undisputed fact.


                                      • #20
                                        My WB ignorance is showing here, but....

                                        When I look at WBs for sale or in news stories about their achievements, at least the European ones, the dam is never mentioned. It's always sire, damsire, and 2nd damsire.

                                        TBs race breeders ALWAYS focus on the damline. I don't know of another group of breeders who can trace the damlines of their horses back to the seventeenth century, who have divided those lines into female families, and who use those lines in their breeding as much as TB people. When a horse is described, it's by sire and dam, not by sire and damsire. I have some decided ideas about which TB mare families make good sport horses, and can even cite to mares seventy five, one hundred and 150 years back that need to be considered in breeding decisions.

                                        Personally I don't think it matters if the Blood is on the top or bottom if the TB is from talented sport horse lines. But when you have a mare whose lifetime of breeding may be fewer than 15 foals, compared to a stallion who may have over a thousand get, you are going to know what sort of sport horse you are likely to get IN PERFORMANCE only after the mare is damn near at the end of her breeding career. And the one thing we all know is that talent isn't evenly distributed either in one generation or through to the next.

                                        There is a British Triple Crown TB stallion (racing) named Challenger II. He was an incredibly successful sire and produced at least two of the great American Champion racing mares/fillies of the 1940s, along with one or more Champion sons. His get were unusually sound, many with careers of more than 70 races. Yet his line is completely gone these days because his grandget didn't inherit or pass on the talent. You don't even find him in the dam lines very often.

                                        Racing found that out in a hurry because of the age for performance in that sport. But racers are usually done by the time dressage horses and jumpers and eventers are just getting started well in their careers.

                                        Tesio, a great breeder, is supposed to have said that the only TB stallions worth breeding to were those who either had or should have won one of the British Triple Crown races. Tom Reed seems to have the same view of the importance of actual performance before a horse is led into the breeding shed.

                                        Sorry this is so long, but it irks me when people diss TB mares as sport horse producers.
                                        "I'm a lumberjack, and I'm okay."
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