Saturday, October 20, 2007

A match made in Heaven, or a match made in Hell?

I want to talk a little today about what kind of stud you choose for a mare who is good but not great. I am somewhat of a realist. I will never say that the ONLY mares who should be bred are the perfect 10's. You are going to be able to fault most horses in some way. The point of selective breeding is to improve, so if you have a mare who's a 6 or a 7, it's entirely possible to get a baby who is an 8 or a 9 out of her if you breed intelligently (and yes, a bit of luck helps). You are not likely to get a 3 or a 4 (the kind of horse who shouldn't get born in the first place) out of her unless you make a really bad breeding choice. These mares are registered APHA mares that I do not think are 9's or 10's but I think are fine to breed from if you make intelligent choices.

This first mare was priced at $3500, and has sold (sounds like to a riding home). Here's what I really like about her: First of all, you could see from other pictures in the ad that she rides, so she's not just a baby machine. She is in beautiful condition, so kudos to her seller for that. I love her hip. She's slightly sickle hocked but that's not a flaw that bothers me much as it usually does not impact performance. Her tail is set on just where it should be for an APHA mare - she will carry it low and flat. Her back is a nice medium length. It's appropriate for pleasure but not so long that she would be unable to do something more athletic than the rail classes. Her neck is low set but it's not a "nest" - it comes out high enough that you can still see where the chest begins, and low set is what you want in an APHA pleasure horse. Her head is nice enough. It's not super fancy but she has cute little ears and that always makes for an attractive look. You can't fault her color - she's got nice overo markings dressing up a pretty dappled dark bay. The main flaws here are that the shoulder is upright and she's slightly back at the knee. She's got a nice pastern angle which is going to compensate somewhat for the shoulder.

While I would not call this mare a top broodmare prospect, she is the sort of mare where I wouldn't be upset if someone bred her, assuming they chose the stud wisely. For this mare, you definitely want a stallion with a great shoulder. Looking only at conformation, I do not have time to look at the bloodlines and see if these would indeed be a match, if I were breeding for halter, an example of something I might choose would be
Skips Rio Grande. The only thing I do not like so much about him is his neck, and she has a thinner, prettier one. If I were breeding for pleasure, an example of something I might choose would be Red Riot. This is a half-Thoroughbred overo with awesome bone, awesome feet and a lovely shoulder. She's got a better hip than he does. With any luck, you'd get his front end and her hip. (Obviously, more research goes into it than this. Again, I DID NOT LOOK AT PEDIGREES and if I were really breeding, I would, as well as looking at pictures of these stallions' existing foals.) Now, if you bred her to say, one of these stallions, then I would come to your house and beat you with a wet noodle.

J.K. Kind of.

This mare is quite the bargain - a Reserve World Champion selling for $2500 on DreamHorse. Yes, she's older and in pasture shape, but it's still a good deal. This is a bad picture, and I suspect it was taken out in the horse pasture with other loose horses and we could certainly comment about the wisdom of that, but I'm talking mares today. Even from this terrible picture, I can see that this mare has an awesome hip and a beautiful shoulder. I do not like how high her tail is set on. Her neck looks short due to the angle but I think it is average length. The head is a very classic type with a big cheekbone and small muzzle. You can't see her feet but you can see she's got good bone. Since she's old fashioned looking and I suspect not the world's greatest mover (a lot of halter horses from this era and with this look move with a ton of knee, I own one of them and that's how she ain't pretty), if I were going to breed her, I'd want to breed her to something modern, more elegant, and super good moving. Again, looking only at conformation and type, not trying to match up the pedigrees intelligently, I absolutely love The Big Sensation (video here - scroll down to find). Wow, what a nice horse. He's half Thoroughbred, too, and if you're thinking I'm partial to that cross, you're right.

What you don't want to breed her to is something like this. (video) Mind you, I think this stallion is a total SAINT and probably deserves a MEDAL (check out the first jumping picture at top, and then watch the whole video to see the appalling o/f form of the rider), but he is short, stumpy, old fashioned looking and has a ton of knee when he moves. He does appear to have a cute jump, and probably would be even cuter with a rider who didn't get left behind and whap all over his back like a sack of potatoes. I'm kind of thinking a better niche for this guy is as a hunter pony sire. The APHA world isn't interested in 15.0 hh high-kneed hunt seat horses.

This one is more borderline. Again, it's an awful picture. (I'm kind of deliberately choosing these today, it's a good drill to try to see through bad photography). And it's a cheap horse. $700 papered mare. You know what, I don't hate her. Admittedly she's got the croup, hip, and tail set of my rescued $500 blind mare, but the rest of her isn't so bad. This mare's got a pretty head and neck, good bone, good sized feet (pic was taken down so you have to account for that - that is why her head looks so big, it's not), nice sloping pasterns. She looks like a mare who'd stay sound for some serious work. I don't think a mare like this should be chosen for someone's breeding program, but if she winds up with an owner who loves her and really really really wants a foal out of her with at least the intent of keeping it, I won't be horrified so long as they choose a good registered stallion with an awesome back end. She isn't breeding quality in my opinion but I bet she's a sweet mare and I do have some understanding for those who say their mare is the best damn mare they've ever had and they want a baby out of her. Note, ONE baby. Don't get all excited after that and decide you're breeding her every year just because all of your friends think she is awesome. Note that they are your friends, and will also not tell you that you look like a stuffed sausage in those jeans. Your friends are not an unbiased source of information. If you want a genuine opinion on your horse's quality, take her to a horse show or better yet three horse shows and see what the judges think.

OK, you knew I would draw the line somewhere. Of course, this is the one that IS pregnant! Aaaaack! Ye gods, why did this mare have to take? Ewww! Ewww! Ewww!
The ONLY good thing about this mare is her color. Other than that, I can find almost nothing to like about her. Yes, she's somewhat underweight but that's not all of it. She's got a short little croup, no butt to speak of, posty hocks, straight shoulder, short neck, mutton withers, terrible topline, long back, ears like a mule, back at the knee and weak pasterns. On top of that, I think something ate her tail off. Poor dear. Oh, did I mention she is a whopping 14.0 hands?
*sigh* Of course, she's only going to run you $1200. If she's quiet, which they claim she is even though she's coming seven and nobody has bothered to break her out, she might make a flashy 4-H pony for a kid too young to need something competitive. If you can think of what to do with her foal (no idea who the sire is, only that he's "red and white"), you have more imagination than I do at this moment.

All right, enough procrastinating. It is still raining and either I have to go out and muck in the rain or go ride the filly that likes to grow roots but I can't sit here on the computer all day, much though I'd like to read the 421 e-mails I have left to read. Sorry, everybody. I just can't keep up. For those of you who are newer, no, I can't critique your personal horses, again, no time. Please take them to a show next season and they will get critiqued just fine. That's the best way to do it, particularly if you are thinking about breeding. A halter judge will be happy to tell you what's good and not so good about your mare. As I said before, 3 shows or 5 shows are even better. Not everybody has the same tastes but you will start to hear patterns in their comments and you can extract the truth from that, as well as from how you are placing. And if you're thinking of breeding, I mean go to the BREED show or the RATED show, not the local Yee Haw Riders Spring Fun Show.