From the Foaling Barn

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Which Mare To Which Stallion: Part Two

Once I settle on a list of stallions I want to breed to, I begin the process of assessing the stallions and mares to determine the best crosses .The very first thing I do when trying to decide which mare to breed to which stallion is to thoroughly and truthfully consider my mare's strengths and weaknesses. It's nice to think you could breed any good mare to any good stallion resulting in a superlative foal. But that's just not the case; it's just not that easy.Here are some of the things I consider. If the mare was shown, was she hot in the show ring, or laid back? Did she have a lot of feel or was she dull-sided? Was she soft in the face?
Conformationally, is she long-backed, tight coupled, low-headed, short necked, slight in the hip, upright in the shoulder, pretty-headed, plain-headed, tall, short, stocky, small-boned,etc?

Then I do the same thing with the stallion--consider all his plusses and minuses. Of course this is a lot more difficult than assessing your own mare. This process takes a lot of investigation. In my next post, I'll tell you how I go about getting the stallion information I need to make a good decision. Besides the issue of the stallion's conformation, feel and personality, I consider a couple of other factors as well. Color is not too important to me, but I do know that flash sells, so it is a minor consideration. Given an equal choice, I'll try to breed for some color. Buyers seem to be crazy for splash overos, which gives me some pause. I wonder what we're doing to the breed when we overlook the fact that we are breeding so many deaf horses just because we like the flash.

Another thing that is really important to me is how easy it is to work with the breeding manager or owner. Several years ago I had a very bad experience trying to breed two mares to a popular stallion. The breeding manager was a nightmare--never returning my calls or even talking to me directly about the mares (she had an assistant handle everything). After four tries we got one mare in foal for a June baby. The other mare did not get in foal. Over a five-year period, this particular stallion was moved around from stallion station to stallion station, with a different breeding manager every year. I quit breeding to the stallion until finally he got into a more stable situation. I'm also wary of difficult owners, who put a lot of restrictions and regulations on the mare owners. There are a few owners out there who seem to forget they are selling a product.

That said, the vast majority of owners and breeding managers are great and really want you to get your mare if foal. I just bring it up because, a bad breeding manager or an impossible owner can wreck you breeding plans.

Finally, there's one more thing that is more important than anything I've said so far. Have your mares checked for genetic disease, and ask the stallion owners if their studs have been checked as well. Almost all the diseases that we can determine by DNA, are recessive. Which means you can still breed to a carrier stallion as long as your mare is not a carrier also. You just need to know.

When I'm trying to fit all the pieces together, it's never straight forward or foolproof. I usually have ot make some compromises. If I think the body-types will work well together, I may overlook the fact that the horses aren't quite as good together is some other way. Or if everything else looks great, I'll breed plain-headed to plain-headed. Really, when you get down to it, trying to find the perfect cross, is a little more art than science. For example, I have a really plain, long-backed Chic mare, who always out-produces herself every year.

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