addendum to last post
What I would really like to see is the keuring jury making selections of two year old colts that can be sent on to the annual Hengstkeuring in Holland. I haven’t done a breakdown of the costs involved, but I’ll bet it’s no more expensive to send a colt to Holland, prepare him for the Hengstkeuring, and then put him through the 70 days test if he’s selected than it is to put a colt through the 100 days test in this country and compete him enough so that he makes a name for himself. This also allows the colt at least one breeding season with a much bigger mare base, as well as access to the stallion competitions. Of course, the option would still exist to go through the approval process here.
December 29, 2000
Topic: Na/WPN = or <= KWPN
There’s been a ton of discussion generated by the need to present Idocus (Equador x Zonneglans) to the KWPN even though he is already fully approved with the Na/WPN. The cynics out there are pointing fingers and doing the “I told you the Na/WPN wasn’t really equal to the KWPN.” I say, “Excellent. Now let’s send the rest of the stallions approved in the USA to the Netherlands and have them presented and judged in the homeland.” And, while we’re at it, why don’t we double check how the offspring of all of the stallions approved in the Netherlands and now standing here are doing in sport and breeding and re-evaluate their status. By now, those of you who read my journal on a regular basis will recognize “Scot on a Soapbox.”
I’m not worried about Idocus or Chris McCarthy (my friend and Idocus’s owner and breeder)–he’s got a great mareline; he’s done well in sport; his offspring are starting to do well in sport; he has been presented and accepted by most registries. He will be accepted by the KWPN and stand as an example of the quality that we can produce within the Na/WPN. I’m more worried about the number of stallions standing in the USA that wouldn’t be allowed to stand in Holland if they were still there. We Americans are our own worst enemies, however. We could change the system and accept the same published reports about our stallions in the USA that breeders and owners must accept in Holland. We will never be, and never should be, considered truly equal with the KWPN unless we are willing to accept the whole system.
There have been a number of circumstances that have necessitated lower standards within the Na/WPN. One, our mare base was insufficient in both quality and quantity to support the best stallions; two, geographically, it’s very difficult to pull together enough foals for an offspring inspection; three, we have had no system of tracking the performance results of offspring; and, four, due to the lack ofconfidence in frozen semen, we’ve had to rely upon the generosity of a few individuals who have purchased top stallions for their own use to stand them to the general, Na/WPN breeding public. As far as I’m concerned, we owe Mary Alice Malone and her staff at Iron Spring Farm a huge thank you. Not only has Ms. Malone imported some of the best KWPN horses available and made them available to us, she and her staff have also gone out of their way to educate us openly and honestly about issues ISF has had to confront, such as EVA, EPM, and the use of frozen semen.
So, we are not completely one with the KWPN and we shouldn’t be. I believe that a ster mare here is equivalent to a ster mare in Holland–same goes for keur, first premium, preferent, etc. Top Ten? Well, even though I’ve had my fair share of horses in the top ten, I can’t kid myself and believe that they would have ranked so high in comparison to all Dutch horses presented in Holland as well as here. Top ten is more of the breed show scenario–the better the horses presented during a given year the more weight the placing carries. Approved stallions? A USA approval means little to me. I want to see the sport results of the approved stallions in stallion competitions; I want an offspring report; I want to see how the stallion fares on the indices; I want testing results from the 70 Days test not some co-op test run in conjunction with four or five other registries. I think that Idocus can hold his own against his contemporaries in Europe. I’m not sure that’s true of many other horses approved here.
December 11, 2000
Topic: Whew! and www.warmblood.net
You people must have thought I deserted you and my horse business! In the past month and a half, we’ve closed on our old farm, started renovating and adding to the new barn, had the fences put up, moved about a dozen horses, spent a week in Holland shopping with clients, carried over a thousand (it must be that many) buckets of water across stonewalls because we have no water in the new barn yet, and I’ve…lost another 20 pounds!!!! That makes 40 so far–only about 180 more to go. Kidding. There are many days that I’d like to disappear for an hour or two, but I really have no desire to be the incredible shrinking man. Every lost pound has its price, however. I swear that guilt, frustration, and insecurity are stored in fat. So, as you lose each pound, you have to deal with all the shit that put the fat on your body to begin with. Right now, I’m headed into Junior High…it won’t be pretty for the next 25 pounds!
Second subject: www.warmblood.net. If you don’t visit this site, try it, but with caution. I would be a lot more comfortable if all posters’ names automatically attached to their posts. Many of the posts are from knowledgeable people with constructive things to say. Yet, every so often, the board is inundated with shameless self promotion or downright slander. Which brings me to the following statements: No stallion is perfect and no stallion is perfect for every mare.
If you look at the stallions that have been approved in the KWPN over the past few decades, you’ll see that the type has changed repeatedly as the needs of the mare base have changed. In North America, we are not as consistent in the needs of our mare base as are the breeders in Europe. Consequently, we need a bigger range of stallion types to reach success in our programs. Our job as breeders is to educate ourselves as completely as possible about all of the options, how those options affect our mare base, how the potential offspring reflect the current philosophy of the registry, and how the potential offspring reflect the current demands of the buying public. (I sat at dinner in my favorite restaurant in Holland a couple weeks ago, taking a rather sharp retort from a fellow American breeder when I included this last prerequisite in choosing a stallion. I was told that “elite” breeders aren’t concerned with selling their horses; they’re only concerned with the betterment of the breed. Well, I can still feel my hackles rising! An educated consumer is one a breeder’s most important tools in producing the best horses.)
So, I’m home. And, I’m beginning to feel like I’m “really” home in our new home. I promise that the next journal entry will be sooner rather than later, but, just in case, I hope you all have a lovely holiday season with your families. None of this makes any difference with out them.
October 15, 2000
Topic: SSF Keuring 2000
What a day! An absolutely beautiful, breezy blue sky and bright fall colors wrestled with the snow flurries of the day before and provided us with perfect horse showing weather. I must admit that I was a bit worried the afternoon before when snow globuals were smacking me in the face at about a 100 mph while we were setting up stalls and moving horses, but either the fates were with us or the hole in the ozone layer increased drastically overnight. Nonetheless, we were warm and not buried in 8” of snow (as was the vicious, but admittedly funny, rumor started by some trouble-making partiers at ISF the day before…).
The horses were hyped! Keurings always get my once-a-year-in-a-trailer herd pumped, but this is the first time we’ve had a keuring in the fall air of October. (If the KWPN schedules them much later, I’ll have to have my horses fitted with either skates or skis.) We had a few scratches and a couple transfers from other keurings, so I think our total was 37 horses shown (all but one handled by Mr. Henk “I had to have my Mom let out the button on my white pants” Nijhof), plus three or four accompanying mares not being shown. We ended the day with 10 first premiums out of the 37 horses shown. Shooting Star Farm in particular had an incredible day; of those 10 first premiums, 8 were either my horses or horses I bred. Unbelieveable. The two that were not SSF horses were from Judy Bernier’s Rosewood Farm which also owns Leoliet and Metallic. Judy had the top baby, a phenomenal Riverman filly out of her Manolita mare (Hamilton x Zeoliet). Manolita was a top ten star mare last year or the year before. Judy also had a first premium in the aux. foal class with her Baldwin (NRPS approved stallion by Nimmerdor, I believe) x Candyboy colt. Again, this is a lovely colt. Judy is breeding some very fine horses.
My loveable band of scatter brains really did well. The poor horses have been moved all over the county while we’ve been dealing with this whole two farms thing, but they showed well on Wednesday. Oladaula (Hierarch x Michelangelo) took the star mare class and high point mare for the keuring; Orchis (Jazz x Roemer) was second to her; and Oegelia (Ferro x Elan xx) was the third ster mare–3 out of 11 went star. I was in such a fog that I didn’t even hear any of the comments from Jacques. In the baby class, Judy Bernier’s Riverman was first in the ring order, then Oladaula’s filly by Zeoliet, Tiadaula SSF, then Thea Vita SSF (Vincent x Elcro). I was especially pleased at how well these two fillies behaved themselves. Tia had been out to pasture for two months and had had no handling; Thea had been shut in a stall by herself all morning panicking while we worked LaVita for the IBOP. In the two year old colts class, both Rodrigo SSF (Cocktail x Michelangelo) and Rocco SSF (Idocus x Elcaro) received first premiums. From what I’ve heard of other keurings, there have been very few first premiums given to two year old colts this year or last year, so these boys did well. And, finally, LaVita (Elcaro x Belisar), my pride and joy, completed her IBOP successfully and fulfilled her last requirement for her keur status. It was a good day.
As successful as the day was my horses and for my breeding program, it doesn’t compare to how successful the day was for my family. As I drove back from dropping off Henk at the airport, I just kept knocking on wood and giving thanks that I am so loved and so well supported by my family. All the first premiums in the world mean nothing if my children are not safe and my wife is not with me. Carol, the kids, and my 82 and 76 year old parents spent the entire day working for my dream. I am a lucky man.
October 6, 2000
Topic: Tirade Responses
I’ve received a number of responses to my last journal entry. Thank you all so much for your support and your readership. The following is a response from Stephen Barkaszi. With his permission, I’m posting it in my journal because he brings up a really important point that I missed.
I just read your recent Journal posting and I don’t agree with your comment about second premium: “So, yes, it hurts to have a horse get a second premium, but it hurts more if you let it keep happening”. Second premiums will keep happening and they are an important part of the breeding system. As I interpret the judging, second premium is basically
an average horse compared to an unattainable standard. Not the best, not the ideal, but still a good young horse. It does not necessarily mean that the horse will not be a good or even great competition horse at a level that people need. The majority of riders in America, and therefore the majority of horse buyers, are average riders (second premium riders). I do not want people to settle for second premium, the goal is first. I realize this and we try to breed first premium horses, but I also know that that is a very special reward, not something that should come easy. The goal of the program is to raise the average, not to leave anyone behind. As the average is raised so is the value of a second premium Dutch horse. That is the real goal as I see it. We should all strive for first but second does not indicate a looser. This years second premium may have been a first four or five years ago. That is the way it should be. People should still be proud of second premium and know that the next generation can and will improve within this system and within the system we know that we are right on par with our counterparts in Holland. It would be nice to have some official recognition of later performance of older horses, not just one for international competition. I think this would show the value of all horses within the system, not just those who received good marks on one day at a keuring. I also realize the difficulty associated with this suggestion and it is a whole other topic. The show results and sport results section of the NA/WPN newsletter is a good start and I think that I am correct in assuming that not every horse listed received a first premium at a keuring.
September 20, 2000
Topic: Reactions to 2000 Keurings
I’m going to paste a copy of a post I just made on www.warmbloods.net. I’d really like to get reactions from my regular journal readers and feedback. Drop me an email.
It’s not do any of us any good to bash the jury or the so called “KWPN agenda.” Jacques Verkerk may be extremely selective, but he is fair and consistent; Mary Giddens may be a bit grumpy before she’s had her coffee, but she has been out there fighting for issues that are important to North American breeders and is primarily responsible for the excellent reputation the Na/WPN enjoys; Debbie Harrison is a breeder who has proven that she can take her own horses and breed from US stallions an approved stallion who is competitive among the very best dressage horses in the country. This jury does not have an “agenda” to discourage North American breeders. It’s only agenda is to complete Gert van der Veen’s mission of bringing the North American KWPN horse and breeding program on an even par with the Netherlands. Do you attend the annual meetings? The Na/WPN and the KWPN have provided us with incredible educational experiences over the past ten years. We have better access to the KWPN decision makers than most of the KWPN members in the Netherlands. If people are buying horses in the Netherlands instead of here, the reason is that the very best KWPN horses are so expensive in North America that the average person can’t afford them. The dollar is worth 2.6 guilders this morning. That makes my budget get much more for its money in Holland than in the US. I stand a stallion here and sell frozen semen, and I’m here to tell you that, at the moment, the Dutch mare base is too small in North America to support many stallions. We had a great year and bred close to 40 mares to Zeoliet, but there will only be three or four Dutch stallions who breed that many. Most breed a dozen or fewer. Add your costs of feed, blacksmith, showing, promotion, advertising, breeding equipment, and special housing for a stallion and you’ll see that the stud fees from a dozen mares or fewer is not going to make the final line be in the black. We are a growing organization that is beginning to breed excellent horses. The quality of horses at keurings has skyrocketed over the past few years. And, to finish my tyrade, I resent anyone’s shortsightedness and jealousy of the fact that my or anyone else’s breeding program is based in imported horses and the use of frozen semen. I’m a poor farm boy up here in New Hampshire who has a passion for good horses. We didn’t go to Holland with half a million dollars and decide to buy some pretty horses; we scraped, begged, and borrowed to buy the best babies we could find with the hope that they would grow into a breeding program. I could have given up many times when the jury didn’t like my horses or my first stallion came in dead last in the 100 days test or my best mare died in her stall two days after foaling and had to be dragged out with a chain around her neck. So, yes, it hurts to have a horse get a second premium, but it hurts more if you let it keep happening.
September 10, 2000
Topic: Life is Relentless
Life is relentless. That’s my new quote. Probably I don’t have to call it a quote since I wrote it, but, nonetheless, I’m calling it a quote. How does so much time go by so quickly? I keep harping on this “Oh, my God, I’m 40!” theme, but oh, my God, I’m 40!
So much going on! My trip to Holland was a blast. I took Alicia Winter around to my favorite breeders and favorite restaurant. We found her a lovely Cabochon x Farrington filly that has just vetted–so, knock on wood, everything is working out well for Alicia to be importing one of the very few Cabochon’s in the USA. Congrats! I’m headed back at least two more times this year, then for the stallion show in February.
The New England keuring is going to be so much fun. We have over 40 horses coming, LaVita is getting ready for her IBOP, Thea Vita is no longer butt high and writing “I’m awkward as hell” with her toes in the dirt every time she moves. Oladaula and Orchis have yet to have a bit in their mouths, but, shoot, I’ve got a month. Tiadaula doesn’t lead yet….I’ll be busy right up to the Oct. 11th! Anybody from anywhere who’s interested in coming to the pre-keuring party, please let me know. It’s not often we get this many Dutch horses or Dutch horse people together in one place in New England–let’s take advantage of it! Only prerequisite is that you come with a dirty joke for Jacques Verkerk. It won’t change his mind about your horses, but it may encourage him to come back to New England for keurings every year!
Big disappointment about Rodrigo SSF (Cocktail x Michelangelo)–he only has one testicle. He had two when we bought him at four months old, but evidently he has hidden the other one now…or traded it or got it caught in a bear trap and had to chew it off….I don’t know, but it’s gone. This means that he’s probably ineligible for consideration as a stallion with the KWPN until he is a proven sport horse. Suck. My first impulse was to sell him. I made one post on the Warmblood board and had a number of responses. My second impulse is to keep him and breed my own mares. He’s the nicest horse we’ve imported; I know he can go FEI level; there are no more Cocktails; he’s gorgeous. So….we’re going to stand him to approved mares for $500. and start his dressage career. If his babies aren’t as nice as I expect them to be, then I will sell him to someone as a riding horse, but I just know that they’ll be spectacular.
I am riding again. Yes, LaVita and I are back in the saddle–actually I’m in the saddle and she’s on the ground, but we’re working together, and it’s great! I have planned to send her to Madeleine and Elizabeth Austin so they could get her ready for her IBOP, but I haven’t been able to get her to them yet, so I had to start getting her fit. She is such a fun mare to ride. Those of you coming to the keuring do not, I
repeat, do not get to see me ride, however! Elizabeth will ride her for the keuring. I will be on the microphone once again narrating the events of the day and prompting your spontaneous cheers for my horses…
Well, I’ve got to go collect Zeoliet–yes, we’re still collecting. We’ve just booked two new breedings for this season! So cool. It’s been a great year. I think we have close to 35 pregnancies around the USA and Canada so far!
August 8, 2000
Topic: Recap of the past few months
What a summer! Thank you to all of you who have contacted me to make sure I’m OK. I am OK. I’d kind of like to be committed into a psychiatric ward for a nice long weekend, but I’m OK. We have officially moved two horses, two goats, three dogs, six cats, one parakeet, one rabbit, one chicken, two children, two increasingly crabby adults, and way too much furniture to our new farm. Our old farm is still home to the rest of the horses, chickens, and “Bob” the turkey. Since these farms are twenty minutes apart, we’ve added close to two hours a day of traveling time to our chore routine for almost two months now…in addition, I’ve been teaching the 6am aerobics class at Gold’s Gym three days a week and filling in for vacations at the restaurant. Time to write? Nothing is funny anymore–why bother. That’s why I would sincerely enjoy a long weekend in a padded room with constant surveillance–somebody would come around occasionally and wipe the drool off my chin–maybe I would get a nice, warm sponge bath and get parked in front of reruns of “I Love Lucy” in my straight jacket. Then a nice man or woman in a white lab coat would come by with his or her note pad and say something like, “How are you feeling?” I would stare back incoherently and give him or her a vacant, drooly grin and say, “I’m fine. Just fine.” All of this would have been easier to deal with if I hadn’t made the idiotic decision to give up bourbon as a form of calorie reduction. It’s been since the end of April–over three months. Of course, now I eat ice cream three times a day instead, so what’s the point? August 9th, at approximately 8:53 pm when we’re over international waters heading for Holland, I say to the flight attendant, “Double bourbon and coke, please.”
The horses? Oh, yes, this is a website about Dutch Warmbloods….We’ve now bred LaVita (Elcaro x Belisar) over six cycles. Four months and $2,000 in vet fees later, I won’t know if she is finally pregnant or not until I get back from Holland. Oladaula (Hierarch x Michelangelo), Orchis (Jazz x Roemer), and Dynamite (Voltaire x Ramiro) are all pregnant to Zeoliet. Our new mare in Holland, Pioendaula (Pion x Michelangelo) is pregnant to Cabochon. Hopefully, among all the tidbits I can report when I return from my buying trip will be that LaVita is pregnant to Contango. The folks at Iron Spring Farm have been just fabulous to deal with–this all a LaVita problem.
Zeoliet has been doing really well. He looks phenomenal; he’s shipping really well; we have pregnancies everywhere (even in Texas…); and we’re still getting an occasional new booking this late in the season. If any of you haven’t been able to get your mares pregnant, give me a shout. We’re collecting as late as anyone needs semen this year.
What am I doing in Holland next week?
Have you folks seen the exchange rate lately? I wish I had some money right now; I’d be buying two or three stallion prospects. This morning, one dollar would buy you 2.41 guilders–that’s incredible! That means that the average baby at the SELL auction (formerly Liessel) on August 12th will probably go for between $4,000 and $8,000 US. If anyone is interested, take a look at the veulenveiling info. on Horses of the Dutch. They’ve scanned in pictures of most of the foals at the auction. This is the way we’ve started our whole program–buying babies and raising them into super broodmares. I’ll be happy to bid for you!
I’m also working on getting Cabochon frozen semen here for the 2001 breeding season. He’s a super horse, and his bloodlines just aren’t here in the US.
I’ll be making the rounds at my favorite breeders, so let me know if you’re looking for anything in particular. I’m looking for car rides and muddy fields–people speaking a different language in which I’m not expected to respond–somebody else cooking for five days–European coffee–total saturation of Dutch horses and bloodlines and breeding trends and prejudices and the latest news…my kind of a vacation!
April 18, 2000
Thought I’d share the results of my favorite bloodline…
Michaela and Keagan Tolman
(Tolman x Morin)
with the much beloved
Essie Mildred Tolman
…note the logo on the T shirt!
April 12, 2000
Hey, folks! I’m back to Holland next week on a mare hunt–gotta love this job!
Speaking of mares, I’ve had the most frustrating, but interesting time working on an article for the Warmblood magazine. The next issue will focus on mares and Hannoverians (never know how to spell that word–I see it spelled differently all over the place). I’ve been asked to write an article on a specific mare that has contributed significantly to the modern Hannoverian…Sounds simple enough. Well, think again.
Almost everyone you talk to knows the stallions and stallion lineage cold, to a tee, and out of which nostril each breathed better–ask a question about a mare and, “Oh, sorry, can’t help you.” I’ve been thinking that it’s just that I don’t know German lines well, and, therefore, have a limited base of knowledge from which to ask the questions. Then I got to thinking, what mare would I choose from the Dutch lines? Hmmm. I know my Dutch lines inside and out, to a tee, and Ferro breathes heavier on the left side (this I know for a fact because Coby’s whip brushed against me as I inappropriately leaned in as she and Ferro passed in the warm-up ring…WOW!!! So I get star struck–give me a break.) I don’t know which one. And, to make matters worse, I could only figure it out by going through stallions to see where they came from. There’s something wrong with this picture.
My mares are the heart and soul of my program. They live with me. I cherish LaVita and the girls in a way I can never care for a stallion, even Zeoliet or Roddy. I can dismiss people who say something negative about Zeoliet or Roddy or Cabochon or Vincent or Cocktail–so the stallion doesn’t fit their mare. I can deal with that. Say something negative about LaVita or Oladaula and you’re obviously an idiot who knows nothing about fine mares. Orchis, OK, she’s a little geeky, but don’t go too far. Thea Vita SSF–well, she’s perfect, and that’s all there is to it. Can’t you recognize that she is going to produce the sport horses and breeding stock of the future? So what she’s only eleven days old–any idiot who knows anything about quality mares can see she’s just “got it.”
Maybe I am a good person to write this article on mares after all. Be sure to check it out.
April 4, 2000
Topic: A Few Notes from the Annual Meeting
Let me tell you…people are scared. I received a copy of an article I had requested from John Sanzo. He included a note saying that he didn’t attend the annual meeting, “It was my evil twin.” Kathy Hickerson came over this weekend to see the new filly and video taped me stuffing a hot dog into my mouth. She has edited a most unattractive still shot with which to blackmail me if I spill any news of the “late night escapades” of San Diego. There are stories to tell, folks…stories to tell.
Some interesting things I learned:
Dr. Debbie Harrison gave a really interesting talk on some research done in New Zealand concerning supplementation to prevent or lessen the degree of OCD in growing horses. (I don’t typically take notes; so understand that these are purely information bits that I have somehow absorbed.) It’s been known for some time that copper has a positive influence in lessening the degree to which OCD develops in the joints of growing horses. No one has known exactly when to supplement or how much, however. It seems that the most crucial time is during the ninth and tenth month of gestation, while the foal is still in utero. Evidently, this is when the liver stores the minerals it will use to supply the growing foal with the proper nutrients during the first few months to year of its life. Supplementation after birth had almost no effect whatsoever. So, if you haven’t made sure that your broodmare is properly supplemented, you are too late in having much effect on the development of OCD in your foal. Of course, genetically some horses are going to be more prone to the development of OCD than others, and, as we learned last year, the environment in which the foal grows also has an effect. As far as supplementation is concerned, however, it appears that we can have little to no effect unless the supplementation has occurred while the foal is still in utero.
Hans Horn, the newest member of the KWPN stallion selection committee, gave a series of lectures and demos on selecting jumpers for the breeding program. Mr. Horn is a renowned breeder, rider, coach, and trainer. I took away much more information that I’m going to be able to detail here, but I’ll try and give you folks some highlights. As with any sport horse, Mr. Horn wanted to see a well balanced, supple horse who was careful and learned from his mistakes. He called our attention to undesirable specifics of form, such as hanging front legs, jumps that peaked either before or after the center of the jump, horses that took off too close to the fence, horses that broke into a trot immediately after jumping, and insufficient bascules. We were told to look for a horse that jumped appropriate to the jump–not too high; to look for horses that set themselves back and didn’t rush the fences; he wanted to see horses fall easily into the canter after the fence; he wanted horses to use their backs well and stay supple over the fence…and on and on and on. I learned a lot!
Mr. Horn also detailed a study being conducted at the University of Utrecht on training jumpers and the effects of early training on their eventual abilities and soundness. This study will follow the same group of horses until they are six years old. The study evaluates three different groups of jumper prospects; the control group is basically turned out and brought into training as three year olds; another group is free jumped regularly and was put on a training regimen from the get go; and the third group is more minimally trained and free jumped at decided intervals. This should yield fascinating results that will affect our selection and training of jumpers greatly in years to come.
I’ve got more to tell–especially about the after hours demos…
March 21, 2000
Topic: A Busy Month and Bribes will be Accepted…
Well, it’s been nearly a month since my last journal entry, but I don’t want you to think that I haven’t been busy. Let me give you a highlighted version of the major events of the last month:
-we had an offer to sell our farm
-we said we’d think about it, and then almost immediately found our perfect “next step” location on 60 acres adjacent to a state park
-the offer fell through on our farm, but we decided that our growing horse business really needs to make the next step…we’re under contract for the new property and have somewhat sadly put our lovely farm on the market
-I turned 40
-our lunch waitress, Ursula, took the month off leaving me to play waitress…
-I decided to whom I’m breeding LaVita (but I’m too scared to tell ya…)
-We closed the restaurant for a week and took of for the Na/WPN annual meeting in San Diego–lots of stories coming about this one!!!!! And, yes, meeting attendees, I do accept bribes for withholding information.
-LaVita still has not foaled
-I just went on an “Oh, my god, I’m 40!” diet.
It’s been a busy month, and I will write more soon.
February 28, 2000
Topic: The Count Down Begins!
It’s school vacation week for the Tolman family, so that means the VCR is pulled out of the closet, the TV moves from the garage to one of the bedrooms, and Scot gets to watch horse videos! Yes. Of course, at the moment, recently dyed-blond, seven year old Keagan (I told him he could do what he wanted with his hair as long as he has it, since, genetically, it won’t be there that long…) is watching Lake Placid, but only after I got to watch the Silvano N tape, the clip on Vincent, our new sales tape, and Zeoliet’s promo. CNN, MTV, and horse tapes…I don’t need much else. Of course, the TV lives above the garage and the VCR in the closet unless it’s school vacation. I’m not sure who misses it more, me or the kids!
Those of you who have been reading this journal over the past year will know that I’m in the final weeks of my Vincent x LaVita countdown. It was the winter of 1995 or 1996 that I sent the check for $2500 for those first three doses of Vincent. Unbelievable. I see this baby bouncing around LaVita’s uterus and I’m sure it’s just had it’s umbilical chord compromised or some other atrocity has occurred. I hope it’s at least cute because I’m sure I can never afford either emotionally or financially to sell this foal.
This has to be a fated foal. We had LaVita on Regumate for embryo transfer because I had been riding her and we were doing so well, and I’d ordered Jazz semen for her. Well, we took her and the host mare off the Regumate because the Jazz semen was due the next day. It didn’t arrive. LaVita came into an immediate back-up-to-the-nearest-fencepost heat (sorry for the graphics…) and ovulated on the fourth day off Regumate. It happened to be my belated, younger brother’s birthday (he was killed in a snowmobile accident in 1989), and the Jazz semen still hadn’t arrived. I had two doses of Vincent semen sitting in my tank; I told my daughter, Michaela, to pick one; we tossed it in. I didn’t flush her for a transfer because the semen had never worked…I’m now two weeks and two days away from my 40th birthday and the due date of our Vincent x LaVita. Amazing.
When I was in Holland for the stallion show, I saw a Vincent x Elcaro gelding that blew my socks off. He had that special lift and suspension that only Vincent babies have. He was a little short in the back, but I’ll take it. Actually, I want a filly; Totally Vita SSF.
I’ll take whatever I get, however, and be delighted with it. Keep your fingers crossed for us, and send positive thoughts toward the southwestern corner of New Hampshire!
February 24, 2000
Topic: A Certain Stallion, Philosophy, Family…
I can’t get this one horse out of my head. Does that ever happen to you? What’s worse, he’s for sale. What’s worse still, he’s an approved stallion. He’s too small. He’s the wrong color. Few breeders in Holland have bred to him… but the ones that have are the best breeders. He’s produced a stallion going to the 70 Days test–he’s produced solid auction babies. He’s got one of the best temperaments I’ve ever seen on a stallion. He’s too expensive for me. AAAGGGHHHH!!!!
Yes, I have a tendency to drive myself crazy. Why do I do this? It’s genetic. We don’t get to choose our DNA. If we did, I’m not sure we’d make the right choices anyway, because most people aren’t born breeders (born to breed and born breeders are completely different things…). I call my mother Elizabeth. My mom and dad both work for me in my restaurant; she’s going to be 76 and he’s going to be 82. Carroll, my dad, is everybody’s friend, the perennial drinking buddy, super nice guy, do anything for you, knows more jokes than have been recorded. Elizabeth is Elizabeth. She, too, would do anything for you, but she would also make sure that you knew she had, and how much it had pained/cost/aged her. I’m a perpetual source of pride and embarrassment. Last summer, I created this cold pasta and fresh fruit dish with a Grand Marnier sauce and fresh pansies. It was really lovely. All week long, I didn’t sell a single one. The weekend hits, and we have a second waitress on–all of a sudden, I’m selling at least one of these cold pasta dishes at every table. Then, I overhear Elizabeth describing the specials at one of her tables. When she gets to the pasta dish, she adds, with a little shake of her head, “…but it’s “cold”.” That’s my mother–as much as she loves her son, she would be too embarrassed to serve something she wouldn’t eat!
How did I get onto the subject of my mother? Freudian, obviously. Actually, I’m a Transcendentalist, so Freudian philosophy is merely interesting and a predictable part of nature…
You know, I’ve done pretty well to write this journal for over a year and not branch out into philosophy. Back to the stallion.
Nice horse. I’d really like him in my breeding program. Oh, well, the Powerball Jackpot is over 80 million! Actually, I’m always happy to buy a ticket; how else can you spend a dollar and make someone a millionaire?
February 22, 2000
Topic: My Day Today
Did you ever have one of those days? It’s 8:35. I walk out to the barn this morning, and, as I pass Zeoliet’s in and out round pen, I realize that I don’t have his customary carrot or piece of apple stuffed among the hay chaff in my fleece, barn pullover. I apologize, but it is no use; he gives me the evil-eye treatment and then proceeds to put up a huge protest in the form of “I am the king and the big guy covered with hay chaff didn’t give me my treat. Somebody do something about this moron.”
I accept my fate and trudge the last few steps of the icy path, my calves and knees balancing me with the two foot snow walls on either side. I reach for the grain room door and pull. Nothing. I pull again. Still nothing. It’s frozen shut. The barn doors have been frozen open (this is a choice–what do you do if they’re frozen shut and you have eight horses inside?) and the warm weather of yesterday created a puddle outside the grain room door, which is just inside the end of the barn facing our house, and the puddle is now two inches thick of ice surrounding the bottom of my grain room door. Well, do I break the door or take the time to chop away the ice because I know if I break the door I won’t fix it for at least a year and a half? The decision does not happen as quickly as you might imagine, but I do eventually chop away enough of the ice so I can squeeze in the door to my grain room which has had the misfortune of housing a small, black, furry kitten all night. A small, black, furry kitten that shit his brains out in my grain room during the night. Perfect.
Now, as we know, Zeoliet must be fed first. LaVita, however, takes exception to this on a regular basis. This morning, it seems that my tardiness and my chopping of ice are just too much of a delay for her, so she lands one hind hoof, the left I believe, against the side of her stall and sends every bottle, brush, hoofpick, and steak knife (don’t get any ideas, animal activists out there, Keagan uses them for digging in the dog’s hole beside the barn) flying onto the floor.
Things calm down for a moment or two. The sun is shining. I’ve stopped wording the advertisements for seven Dutch warmbloods…”well known breeder goes off deep end and his wife is holding a dispersal sale”…”10,00 pounds of imported horseflesh–Best Offer”…”will trade seven, imported Dutch Warmbloods for a condo on an island anywhere”…I’m even starting to have thoughts of the impending Vincent x Elcaro running through my brain. I’ve got a real turn around happening here. . . In case you couldn’t guess, it doesn’t last.
We call Orchis, our Jazz x Roemer mare, our “distracted” child. If the cues are definite and repeated once or twice, she understands them, after a seven or eight second lapse time. If the cues are at all muttered or infrequent or not transmitted via her particular learning style, then she is very much like an ADHD teenager at a mall. Well, her halter is broken, like so many other leather halters before it, so I fashion a leadrope into a halter and Orchis and I make our way through the knee deep snow toward her paddock–I try to stay on the path, but, so does she. Once inside the paddock, she has an “I’m free!!!” moment before she actually is and the leadrope becomes tangled in her mane. It dangles there harmlessly for a moment or two. Then she moves. Suddenly, this benign leadrope becomes a giant snake wrapping itself around her head and whipping through the air as she rushes back and forth across the paddock. Now, I have mentioned that I am primarily a breeder of dressage horses, haven’t I? Well, John Sanzo (personal joke here), talk about not being quick enough off the ground…You see, when I see my horses rushing toward the fence, I know that they know that they are dressage horses and not jumpers. They know they’re going to stop; I know they’re going to stop. Orchis didn’t know she was going to stop. She kind of looked like a really graceful deer that couldn’t pick up her hind legs but hoped the momentum would help complete the jump. Yes, I made the right decision in avoiding spending the next year and a half feeling guilty about not fixing the door I broke to get into the grain room because now I had fence to fix.
Headlines: CRAZED NEW HAMPSHIRE HORSE BREEDER JAILED FOR ATTACKING FOUR YEAR OLD MARE WITH STEAK KNIFE
It’s now 9:00. I’m more than slightly irritated that a small part of me is enjoying seeing Orchis’s lovely passage through the deep snow. I decide it’s too much work to run to the barn, get the steak knife, chase the horse, stab her…so, instead, I open the gate and she passages back into the paddock.
I prop the fence back into place, realizing that, since I’m relying on the snow bank for leverage, my support pole (a broken rail from a fault in one of Orchis’s previous rounds) will have fallen before night chores. Cursing my fate, I make my way back to the barn only to hear a coughing goat. Now, those of you who know anything about goats know that when one end coughs the other end…coughs, so it’s always precarious at best to apprehend a grotesquely pregnant Nubian with her head stuffed into the grain bin. I’m successful in this endeavor, however, and even avoid the machine gun like fire of her caprine pellets. We wrestle for only a moment and I have her heading out of the grain room. Picture this: the grotesquely pregnant Nubian in front, the large, irate horse farmer who didn’t have the energy to chase the learning disabled, Dutch filly with a steak knife behind…we hit the ice in the doorway of the grain room…I’ll say no more; it’s just not pretty.
Emergency room report: GOAT HORN REMOVED FROM KEENE RESTAURANTEUR’S FOREHEAD
February 18, 2000
Topic: Hengst Keuring cont.
I’ve got to tell you that I love the responses I get from this journal. The conversations that have been generated are exactly what we need as breeders in the USA in order to grow and learn. I’m the kind of person who can never get enough information. So, thank you to all of you who have emailed and called; you teach me so much.
On to the stallion show once again! Krack C. What a horse and what a rider. You have never seen front leg movement as expressive as his (the horse’s). He is absolutely lovely. Unfortunately, I don’t believe he can reproduce himself. Genetically, he’s a freak. Most equine genetic experts will tell you to breed to the second or third place horse because he is going to produce more consistently. I don’t always follow this philosophy, but, in Krack C’s case, I would. There’s no reason to believe that he wouldn’t produce lovely offspring, but it will be an off chance that any of them will move like he moves.
The responses to my take on the quality of the jumping bred stallion prospects vs. the dressage bred prospects has been really interesting. Dressage breeders have agreed with me wholeheartedly and jumper breeders have disagreed with me equally wholeheartedly. I am primarily a dressage breeder (although, that is changing with our recent purchase of a Heartbreaker x Iroko filly), and I was, for the most part, disappointed in the dressage prospects. I saw a lot of nice geldings, including the champion of the keuring. The Kojak x Nimmerdor and the Heartbreaker x Grannus were enough to convince me that the jumping prospects were better than the dressage. In particular of the jumpers, I liked the Heartbreakers and I liked Calvados. Calvados himself is fairly plain, but his offspring are so damn powerful that I’d breed to him. When I was at the Rabobank Horse Days in August, a Calvados x Nimmerdor son won the weanling championship. He was gorgeous! I’ve seen a lot of Voltaire’s and Voltaire second generation, and they’re consistently good and consistently of a similar type. I’ve seen a lot of Nimmerdor’s and Nimmerdor grandchildren; they, too, are consistently talented. The Calvados are the most powerful, however. They jump so that you feel it in your bones.
Heartbreaker, who is a Nimmerdor son, has such finesse and such wonderful form over fences that I immediately was drawn to him. His conformation doesn’t thrill me, but he tucks so well and has such spring that I overlook it. I’ve also seen a number of his babies, and all of them have a pizzazz and a “trot up to you to see what you’re all about” quality to which I’m really drawn. Hence, my purchase of a Heartbreaker filly whom I will breed to Calvados in a couple of years!
OK, let’s get back to dressage. It may be true that the Ferro’s show true ability and strength for collection, plus the “in vogue” color, but the horse who was most correct at the stallion show was Houston. This Belisar son is quite small–even stubby, but he was so exact and so easy and so correct in all of his movements that any dressage enthusiast would have to fall in love with him. Fortunately, the Houston sons and daughters that I’ve seen aren’t as small as their father. He produces fairly leggy, supple dressage horses. I’m a Belisar fan (look at LaVita’s, one month away from foaling, pedigree), so I may not be impartial, but if I were a not-too-tall woman or a really small man either of which who wanted a top stallion and top dressage mount, I’d look into buying Houston. Since I’m not female, let alone a “not-too-tall” female, or a small man, then I’m not buying him. He is for sale, however, and a super horse.
Since I’m still up (it’s 11pm and I’ve been cooking (literally) since 6:30 this morning), I’ll talk about Havidoff for a second. Whooooo! Cool horse. Hot. Let me say that again; hot. Lovely, lovely types–long lined, long legs, elegant, but, again, hot. I watched the two Havidoff offspring in the warm-up arena before the presentation of him with his offspring (part of the program was that a number of famous stallions were presented with two offspring demonstrating either dressage or jumping); both horses were really lovely and both horses needed “good” riders. This wouldn’t stop me from breeding to him if his semen were available, but I wouldn’t cross a really hot mare with him.
Summation: The stallion show is a good place for prospective breeders to go. You learn so much, and, hopefully, you get a better picture of where the organization is headed and how your breeding program can fit into it. It’s clear to me that the KWPN has made a shift to either the jumper or dressage horse and not an all rounder. I’m not completely convinced that this is wise, but that is clearly the shift.
February 13 and 15, 2000
Topic: Hengst Keuring 2000
Recent North American keuring participants are not the only breeders and owners feeling the effects of the new stricter standards for the KWPN breeding population; fewer stallions were selected this year to go on to the 70 Days Test than ever before. We were told that the jury was looking for “perfect” horses. There were a number of unselected colts to whom I would have happily bred my mares. Overall, I thought the quality of the jumper bred colts was higher than that of the dressage bred colts. Although the movement was lovely on many of these boys, only one or two of the dressage bred colts really used the hind leg the way I like to see it used. The jumpers, on the other hand, were much more consistent in the quality of their form and scope. As my faithful readers can imagine, I have a few opinions and observations to mention!
Firstly, mare lines, mare lines, mare lines…almost every stallion selected for the 70 Days Test is from a successful and proven mare line. Everytime I go to Holland the importance of the mare line is reinforced over and over. Stallions may have that special magazine cover appeal, but the girls in the background are the ones who will build you a successful breeding program. Virtually every selected stallion was from a proven sport line or heavily predicated line.
Different mares require different stallions for a successful matching–this requires different types of stallions being selected for approval. No one type is necessarily good or bad. All of the chosen stallions resembled each other in that they are well proportioned and athletic, but some are short and some are tall; some are really light and some are heavier. This became really clear to me as the older keur and preferent stallions were presented–they were all such different types. They were also excellent representatives of their given types, however, and there in lies the key; quality is more important than type. You may be saying, “Wake up, Scot, the rest of the world has known this for three centuries.” but I hadn’t really thought about it as part of the selection process. I had always made type and quality synonymous.
Let’s talk specific stallions. Ferro is cool. You can’t deny it, you can’t run from it, you can’t escape it. He is most likely the most important stallion in the history of the KWPN. He had three or four sons or grandsons in the final ten of the selection, including the champion and the reserve. Does this mean I liked every son of his that I saw? No, but they were all consistently strong, balanced, and black, and they all had these hindquarters of death just built for collection. There were a number of less than desireable heads on the Ferro sons, but this seems to disappear with the grandsons. All of them have a presence, however. Ferro himself appears almost godlike. I positioned myself in the doorway separating the two warm-up rings just so I could see if he really breathes or not. Spectacular collection. I was standing so close that Coby’s dressage whip brushed against my arm…OK, I’m a stupid American. I won’t even get into Dan Sneddon getting Anky’s autograph….
For me, Cabochon stole the show. His breeder and owner had refused to present any of his stallion prospects because he is protesting some of the reorganization of the KWPN, so we didn’t get to see many Cabochon sons. We did get to see the boy himself, however. Wow. You have never seen so much power in one horse. He is a bright, shiny chestnut with a white blaze and a couple of white feet and about 1500 pounds of elastic muscle. Simply unbelieveable movement. He’s the kind of horse that just lifts the audience into applause. We’re currently in negotiations to bring Cabochon semen to the USA! I also have included a number of Cabochon offspring on our import prospects video.
Big news for American breeders. Chris McCarthy, owner of Idocus, had a half brother to Idocus by Cocktail selected for the 70 Days test!!! This makes Chris only the second US breeder to have a stallion get this far in the selection process. Keep your fingers crossed that Popstar makes it all the way.
Keep checking back for more on my recent trip to Holland.
January 9, 2000
Some days, I have to pinch myself that I can look out my window and see Zeoliet standing in the round pen attached to the barn. He is so gorgeous. I had never seen him in person before we imported him. The Nijhofs and I had become friendly over the past couple of years, and I contacted Jeannette because I wanted to buy frozen semen from Zeoliet for my Olympic Cocktail granddaughters. Before the conversation was over, we had broached the idea of me importing Zeoliet himself instead of the frozen semen. We went through weeks of negotiations and, in January of last year, I got the word that he would be coming to the USA. Wow. Shell shock. I didn’t dare advertise or even tell that many people that it could be a possibility until he was on the plane and the plane had departed Dutch soil. Once Zeoliet was over the Atlantic, I took a deep breath…and jumped up and down with pure, “I can’t believe this happening!!!” out of my skin excitement.
I’d made arrangements for Zeoliet to be shipped to California to stand with Paul Mennick. It made sense to me that such an important horse shouldn’t be stuck in Swanzey Center, New Hampshire, being collected on the phantom that was no longer on the back side of my barn because I had traded it to Chris McCarthy for an Idocus breeding. This all changed during our first visit to Cornell’s quarantine facility to see Zippy. We were driving up to the facility, and I saw a really old fashioned, huge, bay stallion with a white stripe on his face and four white feet standing in the paddock next to the first barn. I told Carol, my wife, that he was Zeoliet. As we were making our way over to the paddock, one of the employees greeted us and asked us whom we were there to see.
“Zeoliet? Oh, he’s up there in the stallion paddock.”
I turned around and there was this leggy, supple, incredible horse bounding around the chain link stallion enclosure. Goose bumps covered me. I turned to the employee and asked,
“Are you sure that ‘s Zeoliet?”
“Oh, yes,” she said, and pointed us to the office.
I started unintelligibly muttering to Carol about how incredible he was and how leggy he was and how supple he was and what a phenomenal cross he was going to be on our girls and…Carol gave me her standard, bring-me-down-to-earth, horse comment,
“He’s a pretty color.”
Well, needless to say, I had decided at that moment that Zeoliet was not going anywhere where I couldn’t see him constantly. Immediately upon returning home, I ordered another phantom, all of the breeding apparati, a stallion-proof round pen, and a new door on the side of the barn so Zeoliet could be free to go in and out of his stall as he pleased. Fortunately, Paul Mennick was extremely gracious, and said something like,
“Sounds to me like you’ve fallen in love with your horse.”
The weeks that followed were both joyous and heart wrenching. It was just incredible to be able to look out of my bedroom window in the morning and have my first sight be Zeoliet. If you’ve never seen him in person, you can’t imagine how animated he is. His pictures always make him look heavier that he is, somehow, and stiller; he’s a mover and a shaker! Yet, although we knew that he had recently contracted EVA and that he is a shedder, I hadn’t counted on the difficulties that would ensue. I’ve detailed some of this earlier in my journal, so I won’t go into detail now, but it still hurts to have people be so uninformed and judgemental about it. Plus, financially, standing the highest ranked Dutch stallion in the country should have warranted more than 15 breedings in his first season. It’s an interesting thing about education (in this case, EVA education); you assume as you go along that you’re learning things everyone else has always known. You don’t assume that you’re learning things that few people know. Anyway, there are about a dozen lucky people out there expecting Zeoliet babies this year. And, by the turn of the century, we had already sold more than half the number of breedings for 2000 that we sold in 1999! It could be worse.
Many people have asked me what he’s like. Well, he’s a character. I never grow fond of horses with whom I don’t connect or don’t understand. As a matter of fact, I sold an Olympic Ferro filly out my favorite mare of all time, Weigelia, because Oegelia and I just didn’t click. She is probably one of the finest horses I’ve ever bred, but our personalities are not a match. Zeoliet fits, however. In describing him, I’d have to say that, first, he’s an athlete. Even at 19 years old, he’s still elastic and lovely to watch move. Most of the time he’s moving in order to chase the errant chicken or pigeon out of round pen or to warn Nightlight (Keagan’s Shetland pony in the next paddock) that he best not have any ideas about getting close to any of those fine looking Dutch girls across the way. (This Shetland pony is much less intimidated by 1400 pounds of Dutch fury coming at him that I would be, by the way!) Secondly, he’s a worker. I’m sure that he would prefer to still be in training rather than retired. Since he’s not in riding, he assumes that his job is protecting the farm and making sure that all horses, goats, chickens, and dogs are where they’re supposed to be. If they’re not, I hear about it. He will sulk and fret until I either consult him or return the misplaced horse, goat, chicken, or dog to its proper place. Thirdly, he’s royalty. He expects his due admiration. We are not allowed to feed other horses first. We are not allowed to pay any attention to Roddy, our Olympic Cocktail stallion prospect. We are especially not allowed pass Zeoliet’s paddock without the obligatory handful of grass or preferred carrot. Of course, behind closed doors (and secret entrances), all of these things occur, but not within the view or his highness, Zeoliet.
I guess when you’re a person and this beautiful and successful, you still have enough societally reinforced insecurities that you don’t take yourself too seriously. When you’re a horse and you’re this beautiful and successful, you take yourself pretty seriously! It’s OK; he deserves it.
January 3, 2000
Topic: Start of an article for NEDA’s TIP
I breed horses because I love to breed horses. I love to spend days, weeks, and months researching bloodlines, viewing stallion videos, traveling to see stallions and their offspring, and fantasizing about the ideal horse that I will have taken part in creating by choosing just the right stallion for my mare. But it ain’t all roses, folks. We have been fortunate to breed and own some of the best Dutch horses in North America, but we’ve also had to drag our best mare out of her stall after she prolapsed her uterus and left us with an orphan foal; we’ve spent over $8,000. on frozen semen and vet bills (this doesn’t include the cost of keeping the mare for all this time) for one breeding that has taken us five years to be within two months of actualizing; we’ve lost thousands of dollars in stud fees by signing contracts that didn’t guarantee a live foal; we’ve lost a month old filly after two colic surgeries; we’ve had a mare fall on ice and miscarry in her tenth month; we’ve had a well-known, commercial shipper destroy a shipment of frozen semen from Europe and had no recourse because the sender had not insured the package….so I’ll go back to my opening line–I breed horses because I love to breed horses. If you don’t absolutely love it, stop reading now, and go invest the money you would have spent breeding on a promising four year old.
My breeding philosophy and, hence, my breeding program is based on my passion for creating the ideal horse. I want a horse that becomes a partner, has the personality to absolutely delight me, and gives me goose bumps when I see him or her passage across the pasture. Part of me is still the little, fat kid who drew horses on all his notebooks and had the Swanzey town librarian, Mrs. Palm, sending for horse books all over the state. I tell people that my research on breeding started nearly 40 years ago, and indeed it did. The Black Stallion , Man o War, Black Beauty, and every riding/handling/breeding/training manual Mrs. Palm or I could find were certainly the basis of my understanding of horses. They were super heroes. I’ve refined my methodology somewhat over the years (and I’ve stopped carrying the jackknife in my pocket just in case I have to cut the rope off me instead of being dragged up the beach by the Black like Alec Ramsey), nonetheless, I still seek the perfect horse. I dream of the ideal–the Grecian cast of “the Piaffe”. I spend my days pouring over the phenotypes and genotypes of stallion and mare puzzle pieces until I see the picture on the cover of the box.
I start at the only place you can start–with the mare. We currently have four mares in our breeding program, but, for the sake of efficiency, I’ll concentrate on one, my favorite mare, LaVita SSF (Elcaro x Belisar). LaVita was ranked number one star mare in the USA and Canada in 1996, ranking above the grand champion of Devon. I have elevated her to the level of sainthood; my family is convinced that I would save LaVita first if my two children, my wife, and she were all drowning in the same body of water at the same time. Is she perfect? Yes…and no. The horse lover in me is completely satisfied; the breeder (and the overriding vote) sees a neck set that could be a smidge higher and a tail set that could be a smidge lower. If pushed, I would also be forced to admit that, although LaVita’s trot is certainly spectacular and worthy of goose bumps, I would be happier if it had a little more knee action. Now, I may have mentioned weaknesses first, but rest assured the strengths of this mare are many (and awe-inspiring…) and not to be lost. This is a key point, so I’ll say it again, “not to be lost.” LaVita is a research based mare. Her bloodlines are exactly the blend of modern Dutch, Dutch foundation blood, and foreign infusion that I want; her mare line is strong with highly rated mares (this is an especially important point here if you consider that each mare in each pedigree has contributed 50% of the genetic material that has produced your foal and 100% of the environment, which makes the mares’ contributions in a pedigree much greater than the sires’), a consistent type, and performance offspring; and, she herself has the temperament and personality which I want to reproduce. I know that this mare has a consistency in her genotype that is going to produce well if I match it well. So, I have determined that LaVita is worth reproducing and I have a good idea of what contributions she’s going to make toward my ideal horse
As I begin my search for the perfect mate for LaVita, I keep her weaknesses in mind, but, more importantly, I keep her strengths in mind because I must find a stallion of a similar type with similar strengths. You can’t pair Isabella Rosselini with Woody Allen and think you’re going to get only children who look like Rosselini. The F1 cross, or hybrid, is a genetic gamble and the Woody Allen horse is not the horse on the cover of my puzzle box or achieving super hero status in any Walter Farley novel. I’m not willing to take the risk. So I’m looking for a stallion that has the same powerful use and reach of the hind leg, but uses his knees a little more in the trot. I want the suppleness and fluidity through her back. I want a stallion that is conformationally similar to LaVita, but has a slightly higher neck set and a slightly lower tail set than hers. It’s not necessary for his to be perfect, just closer to the ideal than hers. The stallion must also be of the same impeccable temperament, the same physical and mental predisposition for dressage, and be “goose bump” handsome to boot.
Let’s talk a little more generally about stallions. I’m a believer in pedigree. I’ve been known to spend tens of thousands of dollars for horses sight unseen based solely on pedigree for two basic reasons. One, the breeders involved are well known, well respected and have produced international sport horses. Two, the horses involved are all of a similar type with similar strengths. Horses that have been carefully bred will have a tighter genetic pool than those who have not. It doesn’t mean that you’re not going to get a Woody Allen horse occasionally, but, if I know the breeders of the horses involved as well as the horses themselves, I’m willing to gamble that even if the phenotype of the individual I’m purchasing may not be my ideal, the genotype to create it exists within that horse. So, when I look at a stallion, I want to know who bred him and I want to know the horses that created him.
We are fortunate in the Dutch registry that all of our stallions must pass careful pedigree analysis, extensive radiographs, a performance test, and an offspring evaluation before they will be allowed to stand at stud. This doesn’t mean that I personally like every stallion that the KWPN or the Na/WPN approves, but at least I know that the stallions available have passed through a strict process of selection and are seen as examples of or contributors to the betterment of the breed. And, as years go by, Dutch stallions are regularly competed, evaluated, rated, and culled. This provides me with a pool of talented and proven stallions from which to choose. I’m not saying that other breed organizations don’t have stellar stallion representatives that would be viable choices–it’s a personal decision that I stick with the system that I know and trust best.
to be continued…
January 2, 2000
Topic: Politics and Their Place in Breeding Horses
If any of you have been following any of the breeding oriented bulletin boards at www.warmbloods or the USDF site, you will have been witness to the ugliest hazard on the road to breeding horses: politics. I really want to believe in the innate goodness of my fellow man or woman in much the same way I want believe in the possibility of the ideal horse. That piece of our souls that can artfully hold the ideal horse as the center of our breeding goals has to be injured and irrevocabally tainted if it is exposed to such bitterness and lack of grace. I find that I want to distance myself from both the people involved and the breed organizations they so fervently champion. In a world where we must deal with the Columbines, the Saddam Husseins, and the scores of natural disasters, we can choose not to take part in unnecessary and purposefully hurtful discussions that can do nothing but scar or permanently blemish the souls and reputations of all involved.