Sacha Shaw’s breeding blog: breeding for a specific market

  • It’s been an interesting week with regards to our Volatis-bred babies — one that has made me think again (never a bad thing) about how specific a market a commercial breeder should breed for.

    I was brought up in Central Africa, where the horses were expected to turn their hooves to a bit of everything, from showing to three-day eventing. As a result I want to breed horses with the quality and conformation for the show ring, but with the athleticism for dressage, and the ability to jump a decent fence. Add to this, they have to be trainable as its my job to back anything we retain!

    But does this mean I will end up with just some nice all-rounders, without focused specialisation? And does it mean my potential market is weakened by not breeding for just one discipline? I hope not, as I look at each mare as an individual, examine her strengths and weaknesses, and not try and shoehorn her into an area that just suits me or the market.

    The reason for these thoughts at this particular time, is due to some homebreds moving in slightly different directions, but all with success.

    Volatis Diva, a 4yo mare by Vincent II x Broadstone Dingle Dell, was sold to a showing home as a foal, and after a successful in-hand career, recently won her ridden class at Northumberland County Show. Although not specifically bred for the show ring, she has correct conformation, good straight movement and ring presence.

    The year older Volatis Callista was bred with a dressage career in mind. Her sire Goshka Festivo was a son of the Grand Prix stallion Fidermark and her dam Cover Girl is a half sister to Elite Trakehner stallion Connery. However, Callista’s athleticism has been channelled into the show jumping arena where her success has attracted interest from professional riders.

    When I look at the pedigrees of horses around me here in Germany, on the surface the breeding decisions look very specialised. And with the show jumpers they are, with nearly every class being filled with very purpose-bred horses. However, the dressage horses often have a bit of jumping blood in evidence, an obvious example being the legendary Sandro Hit, whose pedigree contains many famous jumping sires.

    I know that when looking for stallions this season for my own mares, the key factors have been correct conformation, athleticism and trainability, and I have been selecting stallions that both jump and move well, without specifically looking within just one discipline.

    The backing process with our young colt Defiant (pictured above) has continued slowly, with his first experience of the outdoor school and being ridden off the lunge, all of which went very smoothly. So far he has easily ticked the box of trainability, and his good conformation and athleticism are in evidence in the way he carries himself in natural balance under his rider.

    Although a dressage career is probably the way he will channelled, he wouldn’t look out of place in the show ring either, and I’m certainly not going to be disappointed if he turns out to be a ‘nice all-rounder’ at all.


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