Excerpt from the book: The Stallion: A Guide for Owners and Handlers

  Selecting a Stallion Prospect

Selecting a stock horse or show horse stallion also begins with an analysis of his superlative potential in each of the four basic marketing traits of a stud prospect: disposition, conformation, pedigree and performance. In a survey done several years ago, several large ranching operations were asked to list, in order, the characteristics for which they selected and bred. Invariably, disposition was listed first or second. While I, personally, agree with this ranking, (and so does most anyone who is going to ride and train his babies) disposition is not an easy trait to market as an outstanding reason to breed to a particular horse. Disposition is difficult to quantify and we do not have competitions for the best "disposed" horse. The owner of the stallion may believe his horse has the best personality in the world but convincing mare owners of this fact and its economic worth is not an easy task.

Experience has borne this out. Over the years I have stood at stud three horses with notoriously bad reputations as mean, ornery cusses a son of King (AQHA), a son of Sugar Bars (AQHA) and a son of Native Dancer (TB). They were all relatively superior individuals in the other categories and they all booked mares in sufficient numbers to be profitable stallions - a rare phenomenon, in and of itself.

With the importance of disposition limited to individual interpretation, three areas remain in which the stallion prospect can reach the superlative: conformation, pedigree, and performance. It is always possible to breed mares to an absolutely, beautifully conformed horse. This does not mean that differences of opinion do not exist on ideal type but almost all horsemen can agree on those horses which have attained the pinnacle of conformational excellence. And there is a way of competing for the best conformed breeding animal. In fact, there is a whole industry where conformation is the dominant characteristic in establishing the value of the individual, as well as his stud fee and his appeal to mare owners. For a stallion in this category to gain success with longevity, his offspring must also possess the ideal type of the sire but, in the beginning, the looks and halter record of the horse himself will suffice as the superlative. His wins and grand championships make it relatively easy to establish his superiority over the competition for mares within a specific region or, even, nationally.

Outside of the area of halter horses, conformation still exists as a very marketable trait. Good looks on a barrel horse or a cutting horse will enhance their marketability. Even though, mare owners in this category may be breeding for a performance event as the primary goal, horseman are generally more amenable towards a beautiful animal.

Not only is it just plain more enjoyable to own a well conformed winner, it makes economic sense. The offspring of a potential race horse sire who fall short of the mark, have more salvage value if they are good looking. While "there are no ugly horses in the winner's circle", there are lots of good looking horses who are losers but who have not lost their aesthetic value. It should now be clear why one of the characteristics with the broadest economic impact in the selection of the stallion prospect is eye appeal.

A superlative in performance is another matter. There are many specialized events for which horses are bred for today and the level of competition in all of them has become very keen. It is an era of specialization. This specialization has led to the selection of specific body types; smaller, slight built horses for cutting, taller more powerful horses for jumping. This parallels the dramatic difference that can be found in human athletes; the small, tough little humans we called jockeys and the large, heavy, extremely strong men are known as summo wrestlers. Each group of athletes has the potential to produce superior offspring to compete in his area; however no one would expect that Bill Shoemaker's offspring would be a good candidate to win the heavyweight championship of the world. And it is also true with horses.

When seeking the horse with the superlative performance record, we again need to consider the mare population which might be interested in producing for that event. For example, the number of sires competing for the title of best cutting horse in Maine is much less than the number in central Texas. Yet the number of mare owners seeking a cutting horse sire is correspondingly high in Texas. To get a good book of mares in Maine you would need the top horse in that part of the country; whereas, to get a good book of mares in central Texas, you might simply need to have one of the dozen or so good cutting horse sires in the area.

Weighing the importance of performance as one of the superlatives should take into consideration the heritability of the trait used in the event. The heritability of speed is estimated at 40% 60% which is relatively high compared to jumping or pleasure ability. It then starts to become evident that the importance and marketability of performance is reflected by a particular event and the mare population seeking to produce offspring for the performance of that event.

The final category is pedigree since the emphasis on heritability and production performance is often times replaced by names in a pedigree. Pedigree for breeding animals becomes tremendously important in the selection of sires. This is not only true as an estimate of potential performance but in determining the marketability of the offspring (market breeding). To excel in pedigree for the marketing of stud fees, a horse must be by one of the fashionable sire lines of the period. Historically, this will limit the top half of the pedigree to very few individuals within a given performance event while the bottom half is open to a wider range of individual names (although the number of females capable of producing fashionably bred sons is also a rarefied group).

To synthesis the conclusions concerning superlatives, it is beneficial to rank the evaluation categories in order of priority.

1. Conformation

2. Performance

3. Pedigree

4. Disposition.

Conformation is listed first and disposition last but the middle pair, pedigree and performance are not as easily ordered. There is a wide range of circumstances that makes the two categories interchangeable. If, for some reason the horse did not have an opportunity to perform pedigree becomes more important and, likewise, if the horse performed to the pinnacle of the event, it makes his pedigree fashionable.

Impressive has been dominant as a halter horse sire yet his sire, Lucky Bars (TB) was not nearly as marketable. Thus Impressive's performance made his appearance in a pedigree more desirable than Lucky Bars. There are horses such as King and Doc Bar with fashionable pedigrees for Quarter Horse Racing who became founders of dynasties in arena performance making their pedigrees less significant than their own individual genetic strength.

While my ranking of importance when selecting a stallion for economic benefit may be slightly differently from another breeder seeking to produce another desirable type of offspring, the bottom line remains:

In order to have a reasonable chance of being a commercial success, a stallion must be superlative in at least one of four areas (conformation, pedigree, performance, and disposition) for the population of mares he is likely to attract. If he is excellent in only one of the first three areas, he certainly needs to be, at least, adequate in the others."

(copyright, 1995. Dr. Jim and Lynda McCall)

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