Passionate About Pedigrees

The chorus to a popular Texas country song starts: “I say everybody’s crazy so what you need to do; You need to find somebody crazy like you.” While the song is referring to people falling in love, it can be equally true when it comes to finding friends.

All of us have idiosyncrasies and interests that might draw one person to us while prompting someone else to stay far away. When you find that person who understands your whims, thoughts and habits, it’s like meeting a kindred soul.

One of my eccentric traits is a love for bloodlines. I like reading pedigrees. I enjoy tracking family traits from generation to generation, whether it is on a horse’s official performance record, or through anecdotal stories passed on by trainers and owners. I can even tell you what that strange number sequence (4 x 3 x 2 x 5) means when referring to a horse’s pedigree.

Not everyone, I’ve found, shares this love of pedigrees. When some people see those numbers pop up, their eyes glaze over and their brain wanders to a different place. Some people don’t care to learn the difference between inbreeding and linebreeding and collateral breeding. And some people couldn’t care less about a horse’s tail female line, and never look farther back than a horse’s sire and dam.

But some people do. Larry Thornton is one of those people.

Larry’s byline has been seen around the horse industry for years. When I was a horse-crazy teenager, I poured through every horse magazine available to me, one of which was Southern Horseman. The beautiful, four-color, glossy publication was full of pictures of gorgeous horses and articles about performance horses – primarily Quarter Horses. One of Southern Horseman’s monthly features was a column called “The Working Lines,” written by Larry. I couldn’t have known then what a role Larry would later play in my life.

It wasn’t until a few years ago that I actually got the chance to meet Larry and work with him. I was the editor of a Quarter Horse racing publication, and Larry was one of the freelance writers. From the first time I got to pick up the phone and talk to Larry, I knew I had found a kindred spirit.

Larry and I would talk pedigrees over the phone and through email. We looked closely at the bloodlines of the latest stakes winners and champions, searching for pedigree patterns and anomalies. We’d share our findings, each knowing that the other was just as excited that last weekend’s winner’s pedigree was the perfect example of a modern-day nick, or whatever the case might be.

When I began working on the Equi-Stat Junior Stallions issue of Quarter Horse News, I knew I had to give my friend Larry a call. Statistics and numbers always tell a story, and having complete, accurate information about a sire’s offspring is invaluable data to have. But, the bloodlines tell a story, too. When I look at horses like One Time Pepto and Smart Spook and WR This Cats Smart – the leading junior stallions in cutting, reining and reined cow horse, respectively – I can’t help but wonder: What made them that way?

For a horse to breed enough mares – and enough good mares – to be a leading sire, he has to prove himself in the show pen. His athletic ability, it is hoped, will be passed on to his offspring. Beyond that, a leading sire has to have the pedigree to back-up his performance.

So, I gave my friend Larry a call, and asked him to do what he does best – analyze pedigrees. Larry took an in-depth look at the pedigrees of One Time Pepto, Smart Spook and WR This Cats Smart. While he could probably write a book on each horse’s bloodlines, I asked Larry to write a short summary of each, highlighting the unique points in each pedigree. He did, and also added the unique nicks that are developing as each stallion’s career proceeds.

You’ll find Larry’s stories in the Equi-Stat Junior Stallions section of this issue, beginning on page 89. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I did!

Elsewhere in this issue, we jump from junior stallions to junior horsemen. The American Quarter Horse Association is in the beginning stages of a new youth initiative, financed in part by Wagonhound Land & Livestock. QHN Features Editor Kelsey Pecsek got the scoop on this cooperative effort to engage and encourage youth participation in equestrian activities. Look for it on page 64.

I’ll leave you with something Larry once wrote about the importance of pedigrees: “The pedigree is a selection tool that is like having a book, if you don’t open it and read it, it is of no use to you. Actually, the pedigree is like a history book of the horse’s genetic past through his ancestors. We use the past to help us plan the future. We can use the pedigree to help us determine the type of performance a horse is best suited to, how well his ancestors may have performed at the desired tasks, what type of breeding systems were used to produce this horse and how we might want to breed the next generation. Thus, the pedigree will provide systems that will enable you to make wise management decisions. This knowledge of the horses in a pedigree goes beyond the performance and race record. Thus, the more we know about the weaknesses and strengths of the horses in the pedigree, the better job we will do in raising the next generation.”

From junior stallions to junior horsemen – let’s raise them right.