And, so begins another year. 2019. I remember sitting in my second grade classroom thinking I’d be 40 in the year 2000, and feeling that that was really old. Forty doesn’t seem so old anymore.
2018 was a great year for SSF. We purchased Gaudi, and he was really well received by breeders; we sold out of sales horses; we already have sales or options on a number of our 2019 breedings; and, most importantly, we welcomed Ava Tolman Low, our first grandchild. I am systematically and calculatingly layering as many horsey-themed books, conversation, videos, toys, and clothing as one who is existentially aware of the survival of his breeding program would be expected to proffer. Shameless, blatant, and self serving, I know. I accept this reality.
First Round Selection
I’m a bit remiss in not posting about my observations sooner, but it’s taken me some time to process my observations and distill them into some kind of coherent statement.
First, I found attending the first round selection more helpful than attending the Stallion Show itself. Most people, and me included to some extent, make the bulk of their breeding decisions based on a stallion and a stallion’s offspring’s appearance on the internet, whether it be through the stallion owner’s promotional material, some live stream event, or random sales or auction videos. What we’re exposed to are the better offspring of any given stallion, giving us only a partial picture of what the horse produces. We have the advantage of breeding Dutch horses, so we get linear scoring of a stallion’s offspring, but a chart of traits, strengths, and weaknesses isn’t as effective in making an impression as actually seeing the horses in the flesh, for me, at least. Of course, the first round doesn’t complete the picture, because someone has decided that his or her horse is special enough to be presented–but it does open the lense a bit. There are stallions I’ve been crazy about to whom I would no longer breed now that I’ve seen how inconsistent they are in what they produce. And, on the flip side, there are stallions I’m now considering because of what I observed. A New Year’s resolution: I’m not going to mention specific names. I have too many professional and personal connections with stallion owners and breeders both here and in Holland to be discussing their horses publicly. Of course, the jury openly states their reasons for not selecting a horse, but that’s its job. And, since it’s in Dutch, few Americans are going to know what was said anyway. My rather blunt and occasionally reactive comments in my journal often have unintended consequences. More importantly, Carol gets mad at me when I share too much information. We’re heading into our 29th wedding anniversary…I’d like not only to get there, but also to make it to 30, 31, 32, and so on!
Second, although I only disagreed with the jury’s decision on about half a dozen stallions, given the horses that were presented and the need to select enough for the Stallion Show, I continue to believe the jury currently focuses too obsessively on “correctness”, to the point at which it turns down some really special horses for minor issues. There were a number of really good, “correct” geldings selected over a couple true “breeding” horses who were sent home because of slight irregularity in the foundation. Of course, long-term soundness is crucial–I’m not asking for that to be compromised. I’m just asking that we not throw out the baby with the bathwater, as it were. I maintain that there is a difference in selecting a “breeding” horse than there is in selecting a correct animal who no one is going to breed to because he’s not special enough.
Third, the foundation marelines continue to be the most important factor in the equation. A close second is recognizing which stallion lines are producing the future of the studbook. Some stallion lines produce for the past, some maintain the status quo, and some are truly progressive. Few stallions fall in more than one category. Some are much less consistent than others, but the progress of the breed lies within a fairly small pool of stallions.
This Year’s Breeding Picks
Even with the influx of some new, quality stallions now available in North America, there’s no stallion standing here more perfect for our marebase than Gaudi. There isn’t a better mareline available. He’s the only one available who is free of Jazz, Ferro, and Flemmingh. He produced a finalist at the National Mare Show this year. His sister and niece produced two of the best horses in the First Round Selection. Plus, we’re getting lots of inquiries for options on his upcoming foals. Given both that we own him and don’t have to pay for a stud fee and we have incentive to breed him to top mares to prove his value through his foals, it doesn’t make much sense to breed to outside fresh-cooled stallions or go through the hassle of frozen semen. So, I find myself in the bizarre position of vacillating over breeding picks for only a couple of mares.
D’Orites SSF (Donatelli x Jazz) will go back to Secret, since I have one dose left. If that doesn’t work, then I get to think about other options for her.
Hyacintia (Charmeur x Santano) is due with a For Ferrero baby. I know to whom I want to breed her, but need to wait until after the Stallion Show to commit. I’m convinced this mare can produce stallions and top broodmares for us.
Galearites SSF (Totilas x Jazz) is my quandary. For one, she deserves to be under saddle and have an opportunity to demonstrate just how talented she is. Maybe I won’t breed her. Also, I’m not sure she’s a top broodmare. Her first two foals have been nice, even really nice, but they’re not as special as she is. Both were default breedings because of needing super fertile semen after many failed ET attempts, so I’m not sure she’s had the chance to prove her reproductive ability. This year, I’m excited about the cross to For Romance, but he wasn’t my first choice for her–Springbank was. Once Helgstrand announced his WFFS status, the family decision was to sell the two doses of frozen and go with a different stallion. We’ll see. We can’t afford to have a second horse in training all the time, and I want to believe I’ve given her the best shot at reproducing something special. My pick for her this morning is a Luisitano stallion that I’m kind of in love with…Other than that, both Spielberg and San Amour are high on my list for her. I wish the Spielbergs were just a little leggier, and I wish the San Amours had easier characters. This morning I saw that Global Equine is selling Rubinstein frozen for $2650/dose. If I could be guaranteed it were top quality semen that has resulted in multiple pregnancies, I might be tempted to give that a try on her. I’d also try Vivaldi if his semen quality were better. The Vivaldi sons available to us don’t quite work for me on her. Dreamboy is cool, but he produces some really short-coupled horses–she needs more length, plus his frozen is crap. I’ve loved our Vitalis babies, but, for some reason, it’s not a click in my gut for her. We’ll see. I wouldn’t be happy without at least one breeding pick to obsess over. Poor Judy Yancey. She’s most likely the one who will be on the receiving end of my never-ending succession of possibilities. She’s going to look at her phone and delete the text as soon as she sees it’s from me.