This blog post is inspired by buck off banter’s horsey room 101’s. If you haven’t listened to Katie and Karla’s podcasts then where have you been all summer?? Now, you need to understand that I am a grumpy middle aged woman, and I could probably fill a book with equestrian room 101 blogs but I am going to start with equine breeding. Not the physical part of it as that bit is essential for the sustainability and longevity of our sport. I am talking about the slight one upmanship that is only ever valid if the horse A. Is top class, B. Goes on to be top class or C. Goes on to breed something that ends up top class. Otherwise, your superb breeding that you are telling everyone about is pretty much demonstrating to everyone that you have bought the ‘disappointment’ of the family or that you have more money than sense and have hopelessly over horsed yourself.
Before reading anymore of this please be aware of the following disclaimers:
1. I know really very little about breeding horses, my degree in Equine Science was done in the 90’s and my expertise in this field is as outdated as my regent leather boots (with garter straps) and my love of flappy over reach boots.
2. I identify with Barbara in this blog, because on more than one occasion in the past I may have been Barbara.
Now I know we love to be proud of our horses. They are our substitute children. They cost a fortune and take a lot of time to produce, however it always makes me giggle when people tell me proudly how well bred their horses are, particularly when that breeding is for an entirely different discipline. Yes it’s great Barbara that your Johnny is a second cousin to a horse that was once ridden by Sir Anthony McCoy, but last time I saw it, you were trotting down a centre line, not jumping the last at Cheltenham. And what’s more, it’s a gelding, it’s breeding means nothing because no matter how amazing it all turns out, Johnny will never be a daddy horse.
I’ve only bred one horse ever. I will never breed another. I feel like I did ok when I bred Beau, but I could have every right to have been a little disappointed – and this is the problem with breeding horses. It’s a fucking lottery. Now, I have a horse that is every bit as talented as it needs to be for the job of doddling around BE90’s, but I had bred from a mare that had Ramiro Z bloodlines (great grandsire so a bit like Johnnys racing anecdote – far enough away to not be too influential I guess). But she was put in foal to a stallion from the zangersheild stud, that also had (even more distantly) Ramiro Z (the king of sires for SJ) and also had Caretino Z more closely in his parentage. If nothing else, I should have got a half way decent SJ for the breeding strategy I had used. Sadly if you look at Beaus SJ record for the last 4 years on BE you will see he has only jumped one clear round. He’s never stopped, he’s just not that careful, he’s no show jumper. Show jumpers and dressage horses can have similar breeding (this may be a massive over simplification) but Beau’s sire was a Grand Prix dressage stallion- so he must do a nice test right?? Nope he really doesn’t. It’s ok, it’s not terrible and it’s better than his shit SJ but he ain’t no Valegro!!! In Beau’s breeding is a tiny tiny tiny bit of Welsh Section D. Well, which bit do you think has stamped his galloping technique?? So yes. I have a 16.3hh ‘sports horse’ with the galloping knee action of a 15hh cob. I would have taken the medium trot of a Welsh D!! The one thing this boy does, is the one thing he wasn’t bred for!! He absolutely loves XC. I can’t really moan about not having a good event horse I suppose, when I actually on paper seemed to be trying to breed a show jumper or dressage horse, but imagine if I had been trying to breed a show jumper?? I’d be standing in the collecting rings while the pole pickers lift the remains of his demolition job, telling everyone that he really should be like his famous equine cousins!!
So yes Barbara, it’s really interesting that your half TB, non racing horses’ distant relative once ran in a race, but I would be more interested in us just chatting about ways you can school it to ensure that free walk on a long rein isn’t done in free canter on a short rein…..
Furthermore, thank god we don’t talk about our children in these terms. I’m a teacher, imagine if at parents evening the mother sat down to tell me that little Johnnys great uncle’s wife was a Dr so we are hopeful that Johnny will do well…. We don’t put these expectations of grandeur on our children for such distantly related greatness. My grandfather has an MBE, how close am I to the queen awarding me anything?? (Approximately 59 years if I live to be 100, but that’s about it).
Worse than the horse thing, is talking about prize winning heritage in animals that you end up eating. We have a dexter cow that is from show winning stock (get me being just like Barbara). There was nothing to stop us from having bought her for the freezer. Would I be telling everyone whilst eating a medium rare dexter steak about the fact that it tastes nicer because it was from decent show stock. No, I probably would not. (PS we are not eating you Lily!!).
Admittedly (and rather obviously) good breeding is a massive advantage over something with unknown breeding. People paying for top lots at sports horse sales are not idiots but it’s not just a paper decision. That’s why they watch them loose jump or breeze up depending on disciplines. Being sired by Frankel is pretty awesome but when it starts to be more distant is where I lose interest listening. The other thing that properly makes my eyeballs itch is when people get confused with the terms ‘by’ and ‘out of’. Some pretty knowledgeable people I know have managed to get themselves demoted in my admiration of them when they have either said some thing is by the mare and out of the stallion…… literally, what the fuck!! That’s not even possible! Don’t even get me started on the TB’s half brother only being a half brother if it’s out of the same mare…. I know we don’t talk that way in real life but in breeding it only works that way.
Of course the reality is that the horse doesn’t know how it’s bred. It knows if it finds something easy, and life is easy if you have talent. This is where careful and considered production comes into play. This is the hard part. So my message is, please folks, be proud of something you and your horse have done, or that you plan to do, or that tiny bit of progress you have made in any area of your horsing. Telling me about the the tiny proportion of DNA that it shares with Eclipse will only result in me telling you 1. How much DNA your horse shares with a banana and 2. The story about how my father has brought me up my whole life telling me that I am related to Ghengis Khan.
1. I have nothing against anyone named Barbara.
2. I take all of this back if I ever manage to get a horse sired by Sadlers Wells because I will be telling everyone I see that I own Istabraqs half brother.