Breeding season is full on, with lots of time left. There is a special thrill to winning on a horse you raised. You own the mama; you won on her. You earn respect as an astute horse person. People want your advice. Justin Bieber wants your autograph. The President is offering you a cabinet post. Angels sing when you pull the rig into Will Rogers. Life is good.
Don’t get your hopes up. The best in the business are blessed to produce even one great horse ever. They produce plenty good horses, though. The rule is: Quality. It is very hard to make chicken salad out of chicken manure.
You hear “full brother/sister” a lot. Buttermilk and I have full sisters who couldn’t care less about horses. There is a phrase for people who are unable to see their horses as everyone else does – barn blind. She is your best mare ever. The one you won on. The one people know and associate with you. She is 6 and her aged-event career is nearly over. Is she really that great? Or did you maybe learn how to show? Is she marking 2s or better in 70 percent of your runs? Or 10 percent, but you go a lot? How many runs did it take to win what you did?
The best indicator is dollars won, with Open dollars first, Non-Pro dollars second and Amateur dollars third. In Open dollars, $100,000 is the current gold standard. Things like this do not guarantee a great baby, but they certainly raise the chances. The cheapest thing in this whole deal is the horse. Entry fees are what is expensive. It is extremely rare to win to a profit position. What the babies are worth is the money people dream about.
Mare power is said to be the biggest piece of a baby. Babies got to have daddies, though, and it takes a lot of daddy to finish out your product. People get hung up on credentials. The winningest, most dollar-producing stallion in the business is not necessarily the most complementary sire for your mare. Now is where the work starts. Evaluating a sire as being a match for your mare. There is no Match.com for horses.
A good argument for the younger stallions is you may have seen them work. Do they remind you of your mare? Or do they have something you wish your mare did? What about size? Is your mare tall and long? You sure need to think twice about a tall and long sire. Many a great cutter is not exactly a halter prospect. Some are downright ugly. Crooked, turned-in or -out legs are not uncommon. They can be heavy-boned and heavy-muscled. You don’t want too much muscle on a light-boned baby. Look at their babies. See what traits they throw. Match up those bodies.
Cutters are highly intelligent and have complicated personalities, and so do some of our horses. Little Peppy’s have been known to pitch. Doc Hickory’s are escape artists. Some are famous hard heads. Some are so teachable you have to be careful to not teach the wrong thing, ever. Some love attention and people. Some hate to be messed with. Some are scared of cows. Some hate cows. Some truly love to be on stage; they light up. Some just take care of business. Talk to their people. Ask about their quirks. There are traits you don’t want to double down on.
“Well, we didn’t do any good showing, so we’ll just breed her.” Think about that. Why would you want two of those? There are a million reasons why they did not succeed, all valid. Those excuses only tell buyers why they shouldn’t. The sales are full of horses that come from a long line of poor performers.
If you are going to breed great horses, you will never learn enough, too much or everything. You will never quit learning. You will never be 100 percent successful. You can be respected and recognized, though.
We all have some Seabiscuit in us. Who doesn’t want to be Jimmy Johnson, making the trade of the century? People do end up with great horses in spite of themselves. It happens. People win the lottery, too. It is not a skill. It is the grace of God. At least give God something to work with.
Cornbread thinks: Brains first, heart second.