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The Art of Mating Selection

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Many years ago, I read an article stating that 70 percent of the foals born each year are born in March, April and May. In the information age in which we live, it’s a cardinal sin not to fact check, but I reckon that statistic is pretty darn close, regardless. So being that we just hit first of March, the vast majority of us are getting excited for some new arrivals!

Once the new bundle of joy “hits the ground,” it’s time to act on breeding the mare back to the stud of choice. Some of you have already made arrangements, some of you have waited to make sure all went well with this baby so as to not complicate a rebreed situation, or you just wanted to see how this foal turned out before you move on to the next. No matter where you are in the decision-making process, mating selection is very important for your future success.

I spend a good portion of my time speaking with mare owners to find the right fit for their mares. Sometimes the discussion is lengthy and sometimes it is real quick, but the same principles are applied each time. I have written on this subject before and you can refer to the Quarter Horse News website if you want more information, but I felt compelled to write on it again with the time of year and also knowing that many of my potential readers are new to these mating principles.

Breeding horses is a lengthy process. We make our decisions for stallion and mare in 2017, the baby that is born in 2018 is a yearling in 2019, starts the training process as a 2-year-old in 2020, and finally, in the performance horse industry, begins showing in futurities as a 3-year-old in 2021. Five years. Five years from start to when our horse finally crosses the time line for the first time. I sure hope you made the right decision five years ago! It is my strong belief that your mating selection decision is the most important one you will make putting yourself on the path to success in the show pen. It is the most important decision made in a long, long list of important decisions to make.

The hopes and dreams of all of us who love this sport center around being successful in the show pen, whether that is as a competitor ourselves, as an owner or as a breeder. We all want to win. Putting our stock in the right hands (trainers, vets, farriers) is vital, of course, but that is a whole other topic entirely.

Mating selection is an art form, it is not an exact science. I would take advise in animal husbandry from a cattle rancher with calluses on his hands over someone in a classroom with Ph.D. behind their name every single time. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again — never take advise from someone that doesn’t make a living doing it. I learned more in months about business after leaving business school than I did in the years in school. There is no substitute for actually doing things.

Breeding is a game of probabilities. You can breed the same mare and stud together 10 times in a row and have 10 different outcomes. In fact, you can’t truly judge a mating unless you’ve done it more than once. Reason being there are many potential outcomes that can come from any pairing. Having more rights than wrongs in a mating is what determines whether it was a good cross or not. I don’t know about you, but I sure want to give myself better odds than just shooting craps in Vegas.

Rather than just gambling with breeding, let history by your guide. If you want to predict the future, study the past. As previously mentioned, you are making your decision on who to breed to in 2017 for an eventual outcome happening in 2021 – five years down the road. None of us have the patience or resources to just produce a bunch of foals and see what works. Those days are long gone. So what must be done is to study successful horses and trace the family trees that lead to success. I caution just breeding on pedigrees, as quality individuals with pedigree is vital, vital, vital. WHAT a horse is is just as important as WHO that horse is.

So study the successes out there; don’t over think or complicate things. I have said to many people, no one is smarter than God. What I mean by that is find out what is working and why – it is your blueprint to success. History is a predictor of the future. Study magic crosses or nicks. It is not by accident when success occurs.

If you need help, reach out. I certainly don’t know everything; I ask lots and lots of questions of people whose opinions I value. I like to find the folks with calluses on their hands!

Here is to a great 2017 and an even better 2021!

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