Okay, been a while since i've written! My apologies to our loyal followers. The last six months have been a roller coaster of building a farm, construction, and deconstruction, and honestly just trying to manage schedules! That said, winter has brought me inside more, and gives me enough time to start thinking about next breeding season. A lot of you have contacted me recently about our breeding consulting services as you begin to look for your next match and I wanted to provide some simple tips as you progress in your stallion searches that I have learned through my decades of breeding, raising and training these little ones. While it may be simple enough to point everyone at my fabulous stallion because I think he is amazing; thinking logically as a MARE OWNER, I remembered how much i struggled before I got my stallion to choose the "right" stallion for my mares and how I struggled early on to come up with what I wanted to breed. What is my 'type'? Why am I breeding? A LOT of questions!! Short answer for me back then was saleable foals; but what does that MEAN? I labored long and hard about conformation matches, movement matches, temperament matches, stallion popularity, does he have natural sport tendancies to counter my mare's lack of show record or flat race record? Does the jump match my mare's natural style? Do i even care for this mare because her movement is so out of the world that I want a dressage baby? Is the stallion's offspring marketable? Trainable? yada yada yada!! Honestly, it was (and still is) a tough decision- even with my own stallion on premesis to find the right mares to match him, or the right stallions to match my mares. I look for mares to compliment him the way I look for stallions to compliment my mares, but if I already have a mare, what is the best match for HER may not necessarily be my stallion... So, HOW do you choose?
I would say that the choice is complex. First, think about what you want to breed (performance-wise). A western pleasure horse has different atributes then a ranch versatility horse; likewise a jumper has different attributes then a Hunter or Eventer, etc. You get the point. Then... KNOW that you can breed for the most amazing conformational Hunter to have the movement come out too much action and have it be a low level Hunter with FEI dressage potential! Ha! True! Nature likes to trick us! I bred for dressage on one of my mares, and got an okay mover who consistently jumped out of her 4' fence as a FOAL!! Houdini-foal had absolutely no problem letting us know when she wanted her freedom! LOL! Or you could breed to a small sire for a polo pony that slips easily out of the womb with legs for days and matures to 17h with a super easy beginner temperament and no get up and go!! Everything you know and try, COULD flip on its head!! Going in with that knowledge, you will never be disappointed in what life mother nature puts in your hands. Though breeding can be a hot mess of twistie turns, I always recommend STILL trying to breed for your dream horse...
In doing so- do your research... Look beyond the stud and the mare to the pedigree, and THROUGH the pedigree. And YES, pedigree matters!! It matters because it provides you with a history, it leads to 'type'. In thoroughbreds, you can certainly tell the difference between an AP Indy and a Storm Cat, likewise, with all breeds. Progeny of both parents also matters in predicting type and prepotency for certain traits. Past foals of sire and dam will give you more information about the utility of the bloodline and the natural tendancies which are consistently passed to progeny. Lacking the history, I recommend mare owners look to conformation, first, because a well conformed horse will make its performance future bright- regardless of whether it gets hunter or dressage movement, lazy or hot temperament. What are the positive and negative conformational traits that your mare displays? What do you want to improve in her, and look for a stallion who has positive conformation traits where your mare is lacking, and evaluate his negative traits to see if they are something you can live with if your foal gets those? Long pasterns? good for the ride, but pair that with a short back and you could have a breakdown in early years with too much concussion to the pasterns. Longer backs and pasterns may work for dressage, but not so much so for Eventing or show jumping where you have to turn on a dime... You can only go so far on Heart- conformation gets you the rest of the way!
Speaking of Heart, temperament should reflect a balance between sire and dam, but also reflect what YOU want in a horse. Do you want ammie friendly and trainable, or do you want that horse that strives for perfection in every stride- never touching a jump, and always perfect form over fences, or do you want that crazy fun horse that would jump them moon but so blooded that only you can ride? Temperament is next. Figure out what you want, and look for it in your choice for stallion.
Understanding that a mare contributes 60% of the genetics to the foal, while the stallion only contributes 40%, when looking at movement and sport-specific style (like jump, cowiness, racing, or pleasure), I recommend that if movement and style are critical to your personal choice, look to OVER-improve on your mare's natural traits! Whether you are toning movement down, or ramping it up, or adding bascule to a jump or a natural Hunter stride, I recommend Mare Owners finding a stud which DOES these in spades. Movement and form are the hardest traits to breed for, and often are the most elusive.
Everyone wants to breed a superstar- whether it is for racing, western, or any form of english sports; we all have high hopes for our babies. In the end, as responsible breeders, we look to IMPROVE the mare, and through the combination of the mare and stallion genetics, look to improve the breed overall with quality foals. Whether for sale or for keep, we never know where our babies will end up one day, and ensuring that not only they have good conformation, movement, and temperament and a good start to life, we MUST do our part in bringing full circle, the circle of life! Cheers, and Happy stallion selection! Contact us if you want a deep dive analysis through our consulting service specifically for your mare and your requirements!