Monday, August 3, 2009


When discussing pedigree, I'm often drawn into the larger subject of breeding as a whole.

My personal philosophy is to conscientiously breed the most correct and durable thoroughbreds possible, because longevity creates ethical profit. (Pictured left: Austin Runner and 2009
Ten Most Wanted colt)

However, on the business side of horse-racing, most owners are looking for a quick turnover on their investment. Rather than truly loving the horse or genuinely respecting the sport they inbreed for speed producing fast, fragile-boned babies giving no thought to their future or the reliability of any offspring they might produce. This is not to say that being business-oriented implies carelessness in the industry--on the contrary, breeding big, solid, sound horses will ultimately reward the owner far and above both financially and ethically than any one-race wonder ever could. Without strength and soundness, a horse will not likely make it past its 3 y.o. year, and miss out on the many opportunities older horses have in their division to win large stakes race purses.

On international tracks, it is much more common to see 5 and 6 y.o. thoroughbreds who have been bred and raised to acclimate to the pressures of racing through strong bone structure, size, and correct conformation. However in American racing, all too often young horses are retired from racing after one big win for the sake of recouping expenses in the short-term.

What does this all mean for the thoroughbred? The best scenarios are all too rare; many beautiful animals that worked tirelessly for their owners are simply led to slaughter when there is no profit to be made from them. A perfect example of this kind of brutality is the recent tragedy caused by owner Ernie Paragallo, who allowed the starvation and neglect of 177 thoroughbreds, many of which were valuable, prize-winning horses in recent years, on his New York farm.

To me, the real question is, how many horses have been neglected or slaughtered that don't make it to the news?

As a part of the industry, I am appalled at the trend of these kind of practices. This is why I approach breeding, owning, and managing racehorses with the greatest degree of care and humane treatment as possible, and this process begins with pedigree. A legacy of successful lineage is of course, the best place to start when getting in
volved with breeding, but taking a hard look at the physique and attitude of a potential stud is also important.

Without practically flawless conformation, I personally will not consider breeding to any thoroughbred no matter what the hype is surrounding him. He needs to be big, durable, and sound of body and mind like millionaire
Wild Desert pictured winning Canada's greatest race the Queen's Plate in 2005. I am not looking for a baby who might win a race or two early in his career, but rather, an athlete made for endurance and stamina that will provide consistency I can bank on over time.

Broodmares should also be selected with lineage and conformation in mind, and if timing allows, taking a look at her skills as mother is helpful. Some mares are more attentive and protective than others, so choosing one with intelligence, a good attitude, and excellent care for her babies is practically like buying another form of insurance on your potential foal.

If and when you decide to get involved with the exciting process of thoroughbred breeding, think about the future of the horse you aim to bring into the world. Protect that future by making smart decisions about pedigree that will carry your colt or filly firmly through his or her career and beyond. It will prove rewarding in every sense!

Things to Remember:

-- After studying up on the lineage of potential mates for your mare and the history of their careers, take visits to as many farms as necessary to really get a solid grasp on what your options are; looking at conformation and attitude should be critical in finalizing your decision!

--Take a stand on humane measures within the industry by being an example. The higher the quality and durability of the thoroughbreds you produce, the more you are advocating for positive change. Overpopulation benefits no horse and no person within racing, so choose wisely and carefully.

This formula has served us well and I am sure you will find it beneficial too so get yourself to the rail and study the great horses at Saratoga this season -- Rachel Alexandra, Mine That Bird and Summer Bird to name a few....

1 comment:

Erin said...

There's a Reason Why Unbridled's Songs are Fast AND Fragile

I love your theory but there are three things to keep in mind in your noble pursuit.

1. Speed is relative. What's a fast quarter for a Thoroughbred running a mile and an eighth is slow for a Quarter Horse running 550 yards. The average speed of a Thoroughbred in 1791 is slower than the average speed of a Thoroughbred today.

2. We owe number two to the eloquence of Dr. Larry Bramlage, DVM. (Vet of Barabaro, Eight Belles, Charismatic)
Essentially, the less skeletal weight a horse's body has to carry, the faster those same organs can permit the horse to run. The less skeleton a horse has to carry, the less durable he is. Main idea from Mr. Bramlage is, and this is a phrase that has echoed through my brain many times, is: race horses run on the edge of their physiology.

Check out this, in my mind, profound interview:

"We could race draft horses over most any surface, and their bones are strong enough it wouldn't matter. But, the thoroughbred maintains only the minimum skeleton that is sufficient to carry them around the track. Excess skeleton is added weight and penalized the horse's speed. So, the light skeleton is a speed advantage, unless it gets too light to carry its owner, and then it fails. This is why we will never eliminate injuries totally. Success is predicated on the fact that our athletes carry the minimum skeleton necessary. They run right on the edge of their physiology."

Now imagine you created some circuit of racing only for breeders who select for durability first and speed second. You could all compete with each other, breed on, and develop a new 'type' of Thoroughbred. Much like the halter, racing, and performance disciplines have done to the Quarter Horse. Three of those in a row look like different breeds. Anyway, your new circuit could compete against each other. But you'd be slower and could not compete against the type selected for speed first and durability...somewhere after first.

3. Inbreeding. It runs rampant in blue blooded horses everywhere. It produces fast, fragile horses because it concentrates those good genes - and therefore increases the heritibility of the desired genes. Best avoided but reduces the statistical probability of producing a winner.

If it were me I would look at the top ten leading sires in the world and pick the most durable ones. And you're right, there is something to be said about the ability of longevity (racing3 or more seasons) to compensate for a lack brilliance (precocious 2 and 3 year old years, and that's it).

And reading about Darwin's finches I do not doubt that living creatures have the ability to evolve bone the strength and weight of titanium. Look around in nature to see much more crazy adaptations. But that would take more brains and time than any one Thoroughbred breeder would be alive.