Reflections on the KWPN Stallion Selection Process
Take a nap or write a journal entry? That’s where I’m at right now. It’s a beautiful, bright, sunny day in New Hampshire, albeit a bit chilly. We haven’t been above freezing day or night for four or five days. Nonetheless, it’s really nice out. I could go for a walk. Or, I could take a nap. My sleep schedule has been screwed up ever since I got up at 2:30 am for a few days in a row to watch the KWPN Stallion Show. Now, for some reason, I can’t sleep much past 5:00 am, regardless of when I go to bed. My normal eight hours of snooze time has been shortened to five or six hours at best. Not that you care. Not that I expect you to care! LOL! I’m just trying to gather my thoughts about the selection process and the jury’s decisions this year to sufficiently write a journal entry about the Stallion Show. I’ve made numerous attempts over the last month without much success. I don’t know if my lack of motivation to write about this year’s Stallion Show is due to our own involvement in it with Nadal SSF, my difficulty finding a horse I would breed to out of the 40+ selected stallions, or sleep deprivation. Probably a combination of all three.
Let’s start with Nadal. Of course I’m disappointed he wasn’t selected for the testing, but, overall, it was an exciting, rewarding experience. He was one of the best movers of the entire selection, and, for my goals, his overall movement mechanism was among the very best. It was thrilling seeing such a good horse presented so beautifully in a process I have always revered, knowing that he is a product of our program. He’s just too small for the KWPN breeding goal. If I didn’t ascribe to this aforementioned KWPN breeding goal, or, at least, the philosophy and intention behind it, then I might have been able to see more options for keeping him a stallion and going for approval in another studbook, then bring him back as an older horse under saddle. Both from a personal and business point of view, that wasn’t going to work for us. He is too small right now. I think he’ll grow, but, as you all know, every day you keep a horse you could sell, you risk losing everything. Nadal is going to have a happy life as a very-much-adored gelding with Lucy Courchaine. He will have a chance at becoming an upper level competition horse, and he will serve as a very fancy ambassador of the quality and talent we produce in our program. There was a fairly well-known Elizabethan guy who used these words way before me, but “all’s well that ends well.” We’re already starting the process for our next guy, On Top SSF (For Romance I x Totilas x Jazz). I’ve sent off his DNA sample for his D-OC test, and he goes for his x-rays next month. Fingers crossed we make it all the way with Topper.
I guess I better give some context to how I’m about to respond to the selected stallions. First, although I just mentioned that I subscribe to the KWPN breeding goals, I also don’t allow myself to be limited by those goals. They are a base from which to work. A guideline. My specific breeding goals for our program are more specific, especially in a horse’s use of his or her body/dressage mechanism. Second, a point I’m sure I’ve mentioned at some point in the past 30 years of keeping this journal, and as I am always reminding my family when we make breeding picks, stallions fall into three categories: The past, the present, and the future. It’s the most important question I ask myself when I’m considering stallions for our mares. Does this stallion take our program back a generation or two, does he maintain what we currently have, or does he help carry us into the next generation of our program and beyond? The good thing is that I’m not seeing more than a few of the selected stallions that would take our breeding program backwards. However, I’m also only seeing one or two stallions that will take us into the future. That means almost all the selected stallions would function as a maintenance horse for our program. So, the bad news is our breeding goals, although firmly rooted in the KWPN philosophy, can not be met by using the vast majority of KWPN stallions.
Again, this is not to say that there were not some very good horses selected. There were. Of all the selected colts, I only have one “Really???” written in my notes and one number Xed out because I was sure they weren’t going to select him, so I had to scribble out the X and circle the number. The jury’s selections make sense for the direction in which the KWPN is heading and the identified needs of the dressage-breeding population. They just don’t make a lot of sense for the direction SSF is headed. Which, if you look at our breeding picks over the last few years, is pretty obvious. I just did a quick count of the last 40 breedings we’ve done, including the planned breedings for this year: Thirty-four stallions not approved by the KWPN or approved but in a different breeding direction. That means, including this year’s breedings, we will have used a KWPN-approved dressage stallion only six times out of 40. And, two of those are German stallions, with no Dutch names in their pedigrees, accepted for breeding by the KWPN. Even I’m a little stunned at this. (Kind of like when I hadn’t broken down how much it was costing me to keep a boarder in the barn. I was basically paying them a little every month to allow me to keep their horse for them…Don’t tell Carol. I don’t think she reads this journal anyway.)
So, what do I take from all this? The KWPN is selecting horses consistent with its breeding goals and addressing the identified/perceived needs of the breeding population. It’s a baseline, not a directive. It’s not the KWPN’s job to provide the vision–that’s my job as an individual breeder. The KWPN’s breeding goals provide me a solid foundation upon which to base my own breeding goals. What did Thoreau say? “If you have built your castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put foundations under them.”