When the then sport horse breeding editor asked if I would write the inaugural Horse & Hound breeding column, I had no idea whether there was enough material to sustain a regular opinion piece, let alone whether readers wanted to read one. Well, 12 years — or three horse generations — later, we are both still here. However, all good things come to an end — this column is my final say.
Looking back, there has been plenty to say, although some topics have cropped up a few times and several have seemingly become a mantra. And so some advice, for the final time, from me:
• Please register your foals with a British studbook. Initial registration with any European book means that studbook will receive recognition for any future success of the horse. Foreign registration does not help British breeding one bit. British studbooks need British-born horses to be registered with them, and it will also cost a lot less.
• Please DNA test your foals. Your horse will only have “verified” breeding in its passport if it has been DNA tested. Lack of verified breeding can result in much disappointment and potential cost for unknowing future owners when they realise that the omission of verified breeding means they can’t fully grade their mare or stallion or compete in international young horse classes.
• Please use a stallion that is graded with a recognised studbook. You may think that in this day and age, no one would use a stallion that has not had an assessment as a breeding animal, but they do. There are enough graded stallions to choose from and one to suit every mare and pocket.
• Not every male horse has to be a stallion. There are plenty of stallions in the world and they are best left to the experts. There can be much more breeder/owner satisfaction in producing a successful gelding. For many stallions, the reality is enduring a miserable and lonely life of confinement waiting for three mares a year.
• Please take off your rose-tinted spectacles when assessing your own horses. All horses, especially stallions, seem to be described as “stunning”, but it’s usually by their owners. Learn to accept critical assessment from others gracefully, especially judges and graders.
• Learn the difference between poor, better and good conformation (with an o not an i) and please accept that conformation matters.
• Avoid using rugs on foals unless absolutely necessary, such as if they are ill. Foals do not need rugs, and they present a potentially fatal hazard to the short-necked, long-legged, unbalanced foal.
• Please do your homework. Before putting any mare in foal, all breeders need to be realistic, not only about practicalities and costs, but about what the future might hold for this potential horse.
Thank you everyone
Of course, there are many breeders that have and do produce successful, British-bred, registered, DNA-ed and if necessary graded horses suitable for all walks of life, and I truly appreciate what you do.
Finally, thank you to Horse & Hound and all the readers who have supported this column over the years. It has been a privilege. Yes, there have been a few brickbats, but they’re outnumbered by bouquets, which have been much appreciated. Thank you.
Ref Horse & Hound; 2 May 2019