I started this thread over on CoTH but it didn't quite go the way I'd planned. While this question is less of a highly specific genetic question, I think it still falls within the parameters of genetics.
I think that most breeders WANT to breed a GP horse--or the equivalent in eventing. It's a question of excellence, I think, that everyone strives for.
So my question is: have you bred a GP horse? If you did, was it ... an "accident" or was it planned? How did you decide on the mare? The stallion? Was it just..."these look great on paper, I'm crossing my fingers and hoping." Or was it more strategic, involving a lot of research?
I'd like to know what your thinking was...(for anyone who has bred a GP horse.)
<I think that most breeders WANT to breed a GP horse--or the equivalent in eventing. It's a question of excellence, I think, that everyone strives for.
And there you go. As in any discipline, there will be those "accidents" of genetics that pop up....a special horse of "nothing specific" bloodlines that will swoon us all. However, taking history, genetics, athletic ability, and progeny lend us a better ability to breed for a specific purpose. Saying that...I have seen some amazing over fences horses pulled out of some pasture in the middle of nowhere and perform above and beyond their pricey constituants. So, it is always possible . There are many talented animals who's ability is never realized...it just takes the right person to come along and see it.
I think you start out with a plan, based on observation, research and disciplining yourself to ask and answer tough questions, such as:
1. What kind of horse do YOU think (or have you discovered or is it recognized by others) will get to the top?
2. What exactly are the characteristics of that horse?
3. What will it take for YOU (which might be different than for others) to "produce" those characteristics in a horse?
4. Are you willing to do what it takes--not just financially, but also in terms of management and networking--to focus on maximizing that horse's talents?
5. Are you willing to sacrifice lesser horses or restrict your emotional attachment to fewer horses so that, once produced, you will be able to support that talent?
6. Where will you finally draw the line in terms of sacrifice AND in terms of "success," and what will you do once those lines have been crossed?
7. WHY are you trying to do this?
I've done this three times now, two efforts failed because I didn't have my act together to make them succeed. I had a rock-solid Grand Prix dressage pony, took him to Florida intending to show the world what we could do, but simply didn't have the knowledge and foundation needed to take his talent into the ring regardless of my personal circumstances. Then I had a potential (as indicated by a slew of GP/BNT rider/trainers) GP show jumper. By then, I had more knowledge, a good foundation and a decent network, but I didn't make the sacrifices needed to make it happen for him. Now I have a three-star eventer and while I've certainly questioned myself every step of the way, I've also stood firm in my belief--and that firmness has enabled me to make the sacrifices I was unable to make with his brother.
A lot of this stuff comes with age, of course. I'm grateful to have been at it long enough to have learned enough and the message I want to leave folks with is that IT IS WORTH TRYING. Why? Well, for me, it's been that last question: Why try? I've always wanted to do horses full-time. They've been my life, of course, but as a conservative person, I could never see myself relying on some (too often crazy) horseperson for my livelihood. I couldn't work for someone else. I couldn't stand the insecurity of doing that.
So the only way I can do horses full time is to make them pay for themselves and for me--a nearly impossible task, most say. Horses just don't pay.
Well, impossible as it may seem, that, ultimately, has always been my goal: to make a profit so I can DO this. This "why" has helped me considerably in making decisions because I can remove the ego and the emotion from the process. That, too, is critical, IMO, to succeed in producing a top level horse out of a breeding program: let ego and emotion go.
I didn't know this when I began, of cousre, But you learn sooo much by trying, about yourself, your business, the people you interact with. All those things are so valuable as you keep trying. They are like the capital investments some people make in horses to achieve the same thing. But some of us will never have that kind of capital, so instead we need determination and experience, IMO. Less tangible, but just as valuable.
I agree with Heather. Although I am not into "GP" horses, I am into endurance horses which need to be bred within a certain standard to be successful. Arabians naturally excel at this sport, and I have seen many of my aquaintences go through many Arabian horses to finally get the winning athlete. And, like P. Wynn said you have to sacrifice your emotional attachement, or change your discipline so your horse can be successful. Some of the most successful Arabian endurance horses were actually bred by "backyard" breeders and others bred from successful stock breeding operations having certain bloodlines I have many friends that tell me I am foolish to breed my own horse and that there are great horses out there to buy for any discipline that you can get into. I bred to fulfill a dream; to finally have the finances, a decent facility, and the tenacity to raise and train my own pleasure horse.
Hi everyone. Thanks for inviting me to come over to this discussion Caroline. I'll do my best to not be long winded but still answer your questions...
Quote: "I think that most breeders WANT to breed a GP horse--or the equivalent in eventing. It's a question of excellence, I think, that everyone strives for."
Well, I think that breeding a GP dressage horse is something that is done with varying levels of trepidation, honestly. The horses that can do the high quality piaffe and passage are very tricky to ride in actuality (watch footage of Farhbenfroh from Sydney). Most riders (in my area)are Adult Amateurs and for a variety of circumstances, not able to ride that degree of 'hot'. So if you are breeding with that sort of extreme (albeit magnificent) movement, who is going to ride the resulting foal when it is mature? Someone will need to ride this 'well-bred' critter who moves so well. So you make compromises (or at least we do). The fancy moving stallion that is so appealing at 3-8 might not be the wisest choice for a hot pah-too-tie mare. A stallion who has a proven reputation for ridable, trainable (think GP kids out there in the ring) might be a good one to consider. If your mare is a lazy creature (and her parents were also), then you can consider the more modern/fancy/hot/fashionable stallion...IMO. In the end, there are only so many GP riders (due to talent/time/life), so why breed for a market that is very limited in actuality? Personally, I am pushed to do AM/PM chores and still get 7 ridden in one day. (not all GP horses either BTW)
Quote: So my question is: have you bred a GP horse? If you did, was it ... an "accident" or was it planned? How did you decide on the mare? The stallion? Was it just..."these look great on paper, I'm crossing my fingers and hoping." Or was it more strategic, involving a lot of research? End Quote.
We (my family) has bred several in the past (and fingers crossed for the present). The mares were selected to balance the qualities that the stallion was bringing to the table. For example, when my parents bred the older GP horses (those who are in their late 20's), they used Abundance who was compact and powerful with flat muscled, steeplechase-type TB mares. Some of those horses were either too 'dull' (not active enough from behind but very good minds/trainability) or too 'hot' (over-reacting but very exceptional gaits). The trick has been matching the next generation with the appropriate mare/stallion. It may have not been an accident per se but we have been lucky over the years! It is the strange balance between madness and genius, really. The horse has to be sensitive enough to piaffe and be submissive at the same time but not too sensitive that it will panic and proceed to leap around or shut down completely. So you look for mares and stallions that compliment one another. Traditionally, we have used the TB to improve the canter (add jump), add in elasticity/flexibility (think steeplechase/distance bloodlines), bring a pretty face & large eyes while the warmblood (for us - Hanoverian or Westphalian - with older bloodlines) brings a solid foundation, more efficient digestion and a good amount of power, engine/push from behind and scope to make it over a jump. One of the most important criteria (for us) is that the mare is from SOUND genetics (like CDI jog sound into her late teens) and the stallion is SOUND and competing or has SOUND offspring at GP. That might seem like an extreme statement but a GP horse is not hatched with all the training pre-programed. It takes a lot of hours/wet saddle pads/intense training to teach these animals the 'tricks', so it is pointless to breed your dreams on horses that haven't done the levels themselves or stayed sound long enough to train up to the GP and compete with success at that level.
For us, it is ideal if the resulting foal also has the ability to jump well, so we shy away from lines (warmblood or TB) that are lacking talent in this area. Granted we had a Hay Hook line mare that threw a colt by Dekor that was a terrible jumper and should have jumped the moon. But that is part of the roulette wheel of breeding! Sometimes, it just doesn't work in your favor! (that is where the luck comes in)
Stack the odds in your favor - do your homework, dig/research/pry and TALK to people who have ridden the offspring/sire/damsire/etc before making a commitment to breed anything!
So in short, for us a breeding cross is a success if the foal is a better 'package' (mental, conformation, movement and trainability) than the dam. If it is not a good enough mover (walk & canter) then we hope and pray it can jump because it will be tough to do more than 3rd level with only a good trot to stand on. The we put it on the market early and hope that it finds a new home...
FWIW - If the stallion is not a horse I would give up a major bodily function to ride, well, then he won't be in my breeding program.
Please keep in mind that there have been many 'modernizations' to dressage in the last 30 years! Back in the 80s riders were SEVERELY marked down for the horse being a millimeter behind the vertical, etc. There was a motion in front of the FEI (in the 80s) to have the piaffe removed from the GP (and the steeplechase from eventing) from a *cough cough* European country because their horses couldn't compete/make the times. So, suddenly there was an influx of TB, Anglo Arab and Selle Francais blood into various genepools. Dressage is not the same sport that it was back then. So breeding trends have a huge impact on the foals currently on the market.
Quote: I'd like to know what your thinking was...(for anyone who has bred a GP horse.
I hope that helps explain our philosophy for the past 30-odd years without boring you to tears!
Whew. At last I'm at work and can relax! Thanks everyone for replying. And there are such fascinating responses!
BY the way, just to clear up any question on this...I am not looking to breed a GP horse! I think it is pointless ... as Ellile said, there are only so many GP riders in the world. There are, however, endless AA's! That's my market! These questions are asked for educational purposes only.
Ellile...question for you. When you were deciding the various stallions for your various mares, were you actually TRYING to breed a GP horse?
I think the most important point that came out of your post is the: "One of the most important criteria (for us) is that the mare is from SOUND genetics (like CDI jog sound into her late teens) and the stallion is SOUND and competing or has SOUND offspring at GP."
Plus, Ellie, the "who is going to ride the hot horse you've bred" idea ... what if the baby isn't sold AS a baby. Who's going to start him/her and what's THAT going to cost?
Pwynnnorman, THANK YOU, for writing and encouraging. This is a good subject and I've learned at least one thing. Plus, I think it took a lot of guts to come out and say you've succeeded three times with the breeding but couldn't quite make it through the second half...training and showing. I have to agree, here in the US it's soooooo expensive. If you don't have a ton of money, it makes developping the horse much much much more difficult.
One of the elements I have found to be very interesting are the "heritability" studies done by Christmann (link: http://www.hanoverian.com/ludwigherit.html) While I'm not sure I understand them all, I think they are fascinating to read.
Anyway, just some thoughts. Anyone else read Christmann? Did it play a part in any stallion/mare decisions?
Quote: Ellie...question for you. When you were deciding the various stallions for your various mares, were you actually TRYING to breed a GP horse?
I think it depends on the mare, her background and her talents. I'd say it is a balancing act - we take the good qualities of the mare, rationally step back and evaluate why she might not be a GP horse and look for the stallion who would best compliment her flaws - all in the effort to produce with a good enough mind to perform at the highest level _any_ rider cares to take it. Many of them might not make it to that level and I am ok with that. But I want the talent to be available for the person who is riding the foal in the future, if they want to get to that level. Hopefully the foal will have enough talent, stay sound and be capable of doing whatever the future owner wants to do.
If it is one that we aren't breeding to sell and it stays with me - well, it would be silly to limit the talents of what I am 'stuck' with, now wouldn't it? PSG is half way to GP, so we aim for all the babies to have enough talent to get that far. 1/2 pirouettes, 3s, 4s and extensions W-T-C are all very teachable exercises. Now the level of competitive success a horse achieves is another matter, but we want the mind to be there no matter what for a keeper or sale horse.
Quote: I think the most important point that came out of your post is the: "One of the most important criteria (for us) is that the mare is from SOUND genetics (like CDI jog sound into her late teens) and the stallion is SOUND and competing or has SOUND offspring at GP."
I'm glad that it came across well! It has been very tiresome to watch stallions that are labelled as 'great' at ages 4-6 to never set foot in a competition arena under saddle again. My first GP mare retired at 23 - and we had done a CDI in August of that year and were 3rd at the Regional finals. She is still sound at 27 but a bit of handful to catch if she's feeling frisky!!
Plus, Ellie, the "who is going to ride the hot horse you've bred" idea ... what if the baby isn't sold AS a baby. Who's going to start him/her and what's THAT going to cost?
Ahh, that is the one we won't be breeding (hopefully)! I have a HOT seat and have a lot(!) of trouble riding hot horses. It can be done but it is very very hard for me to not do much with my seat...over the years, I've gotten better, but it is my second biggest weakness. (the first being my elbows staying in, followed up closely by my infatuation with chocolate in third) If the foal is something I worry will be too hot (and this hasn't happened *knock wood*, it will find a new home at a very early age). That is where the mental soundness of sire/dam/grandsire/etc comes into play for us. I have alot of respect for people who can ride HOT - when I get on those it is like gasoline and a match, set yer clock and watch the countdown to the ro-day-o!
BTW - I enjoyed Dr. Christman's article immensely! The part that jumped out at me was about the saddle position and how some stallions negatively impact that...we have a Wagner son in the barn (client's horse) and he has a very poor saddle position but can jump 5' like it doesn't matter! He is a nice PSG horse too, but boy he can JUMP and loves it.
PWynn - I can wholehearted relate to what you've said. Thank you for expressing what I have trouble articulating and for being so straightforward about one of the most overlooked facets of the higher level competition.
I really appreciated your details, too, Ellie. A lot of riders have commented on the hotness factor in the upper level horse--in just about every FEI discipline, except maybe endurance. (BTW, Kelly, I have heard--partly because my old stallion produced a 100-miler who is a stallion--that there are more and more folks looking to intentionally breed, instead of "find", endurance horses these days. The stallion I mentioned is actually out of a mare who did many 100s, in fact.)
Now what I really, really wonder is whether you can "breed for the top" and NOT breed hot? When I first put my website together, I had a page linked to my homepage where I copied quotes from famous riders about famous horses--where they talked about how quirky or difficult or sensitive the horse was. I had the page there to kind of back up what I have about the types my program produces (on my sale page, I use icons to indicate whether the pony is hot or quiet or a deadbeat). I erased the page eventually though because I decided it might not be such a great idea to argue that particular point too strenuously on one's website! :-)
Y'know what would be interesting? To hear from those who developed the greats more often. I miss the way Practial Horseman used to profile horses and riders. Those articles really got into what GOT the horse where it went, y'know what I mean?
Quote from P. Wynn - Now what I really, really wonder is whether you can "breed for the top" and NOT breed hot? When I first put my website together, I had a page linked to my homepage where I copied quotes from famous riders about famous horses--where they talked about how quirky or difficult or sensitive the horse was. I had the page there to kind of back up what I have about the types my program produces (on my sale page, I use icons to indicate whether the pony is hot or quiet or a deadbeat). I erased the page eventually though because I decided it might not be such a great idea to argue that particular point too strenuously on one's website! :-)
LOL - yeah, that might be a good thing to take off a sales page - although as a horse person, I think it is a good thing to be open about in a sales situation!! But some people might not see it that way...unfortunately.
I don't know if you can breed for 'not hot' and still have a piaffe and the one tempis. Too hot definitely can be a bad thing as can too cold - the ones that take the piaffe too far vs. the ones that won't do it at all...Perhaps a better way of defining 'hot' would be a quick thinking/reactive mind & body? Some horses ride as though the ears are in one county, the body in another, with the feet on the opposite coast. Those are tough to get 'organized' enough to do much of anything!!
I didn't read PH when they ran those articles...BIG sigh. Oh well. I wonder if BNRs would be willing to disclose the background/training methods at this point?
This is a great discussion going here. My suggestion is to read all three of Deb Bennett's books on conformation. Sounds like alot, but all three books can be bought for about $ 30 and each is about 100 pages long. She does have a section on performance, pedigree and phenotype as well as thorough conformation analysis. Then factor in disposition (and yes, some mares and stallions do stamp disposition, for better or for worse). And finally, don't forget that it is now extablished that the mitochondria (which effects how muscles perform) is inherited EXCLUSIVELY from the mare Mitochondria is inherited from the egg cell, and not the sperm - yes the TB race horse breeders were right all these years when they said "the mare is everything. Learn all you can, then roll the dice and see what you get.
I think the discussion should really be about nature vs nurture!!!!!!!!!
I strive to breed top gold winning dressage, showjumping and endurance horses everytime. I am hyper critical about my mares faults and work very hard to find the perfect!!! stallion to complement their short comings. All my mares have proven themselves in the competition arena and their pedigrees contain the best breeding I can find. I do agree that mares are the foundation and the stallion should be considered as a complement to them. Although I only choose stallion who have themselves proven records in their chosen career.
However, once sold I am no longer in control of what education these babies are going to receive. It can take five minutes to distroy a horse and a life time to put it back together. The new owner may not be interested in a Grand Prix career, an enjoyable all-rounder with good confimation and a reliable temperament might be just what they are looking for.
I have picked up many horses (either purchased, been given and some just throw at me) who were labeled as trouble makers only to find they were simply misunderstood. Several of these have reached the highest level both in showjumping and endurance. They are never easy horses and usually they are very intelligent and sensitive, but once a trust and understanding is reached they will give you their hearts.
I am at the moment working on a stallion for dressage who could not be mounted without broncing like a rodeo horse, 20 in a row, no problem. I have had him 3 years and in November he makes his Prix St. Georges debut. He is working all Grand Prix movements at home, showing a superb piaffe and passage, with not a buck in sight.
In conclusion anyone can breed a potential Grand Prix horse, either by luck or by genetic research. Two examples of this are:
Mr Polo : Top international showjumping pony, he won every medal and championship there was to win. He was the result of an unplanned mother and son mating.
Sandro Boy: World champion showjumping horse. He was the result of pedigree analysis and genetic selection.
but if that horse did not end up in the right hands, both from a pure riding talent point of view and, quite importantly, understanding and communication, the horse will simply never fulfill its potential.
I often wonder how many protential Grand Prix horses are hacking round the local villages or grazing contently in paddocks!!!!!!!!!!!
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