OK, I’ll admit it, I get a little irritated with some of the ideas I hear and read about horse breeding. It seems that often decisions about what stallion or which mare should be used to produce the next generation are not based on useful information. As a rider and trainer, in fact a trainer frequently of last resort whose work might make the difference between a horse finding a useful life or work versus being shipped off to become “dog Tucker” as they say down under, I feel that my words need to be heard.
First I ask, what is a horse to be used for. If all we want is a pasture ornament, then you can stop reading here. However if you are a rider, or a driver, someone who puts his or her pink (or brown or black or yellow) body in the middle of their back or God forbid in a wheeled vehicle dragging behind them, I submit that you will find that there are a constellation of traits that need to be considered in breeding horses.
Simply put a horse needs to be sound, that means sound of mind as well as sound of body. Additionally a riding horse needs to be smooth, whether a diagonally gaited horse or a laterally based gaited horse, no rider truly wants to be banged around and made uncomfortable. Unfortunately a horse can be made to look smooth by the way he is ridden. And horse shows can be misleading as a breeding selection criterion. Judges only have a short time to sort out a class of horses. Breeding decisions should be made slowly and deliberately, taking in all the available information, not just breeding to the “in vogue” national champion.
Sound of mind also means trainable. Horses need to be friendly and willing to use all their wonderful power and speed to help us not to hurt us. Fear is a natural trait in a prey animal, but a saddle horse, and particularly a driving horse, needs to have self-control. Everything else is details.