A Horse of a Different Color

I have spoken to thousands of people over the years on mating selection. Of course, not everyone I speak with has done business with me; that would be awesome if that were the case! But I’ve learned a lot over the years as to what motivates people in their decision-making process. Most are rational, but some are pure emotion and go against the grain. Don’t get me wrong here. People should do whatever they want.

My advice has always stood on three pillars. I’ve written about them before in these blogs, and they all deserve thorough thought. These three pillars are like a three-legged stool. Without a leg, the stool won’t work. Far, far, far too many don’t take the three into account and that ends up hurting them badly. They are: genotype (pedigree; everything behind the horse), phenotype (what the individual actually is; known traits) and the market (overbred or underbred; the result in value will have a consequence).

These three pillars encompass so much detail and information that it can be very tiresome. There are so many variables and at the end of the day, so much luck is needed for all of us. Because breeding is a game of probabilities, there is no certain outcome. Just like gambling, there are some games that have better odds than others. The best odds are in blackjack. If you want a greater chance in Las Vegas, blackjack is your game. The worst odds? Slots. Just go burn your money.

Now, I’m not a “traditional gambler.” Vegas has no sway over me – although it sure is a fun town! But I am absolutely a gambler, as I’m a horse breeder! All of this stuff we do – this crazy passion of ours – is a gamble, just like being a farmer is a gamble. Oh how we should love and respect our farmers! They’re a crazy group of people that put seeds in the ground, whom work day and night, toil and sweat. They gamble it will rain; they gamble it won’t rain too much. They gamble when to start; they gamble when to harvest. They try and stack the odds in their favor the best they can.

We horse breeders do the same thing. You want the best odds? Breed to horses that are proven, because you can be confident they will give you a better chance for a performer. There is also the old Kentucky breeder way of thinking that calls for breeding a maiden mare to a proven sire or breeding a proven, producing mare to a junior stallion. There is great wisdom in that.

All maiden mares and junior stallions have to get their start somewhere. Educated breeders will really study out the three pillars in mating selection. There is a lot of wisdom out there for you to tap into and a lot of good resources to learn from.

I began this entry stating many people make rational decisions in mating selection, but some don’t. Color is one of those things that shouldn’t have any impact whatsoever for a performance horse in the show pen. If a judge places a horse higher in score due to its color, that would be completely wrong. It should have ZERO bearing.

Color sure does have an impact in the marketplace, though. It’s both positive and negative. It is amazing how a color can totally turn someone on or off like a light switch. The color will have zero affect on the horse’s ability, brains, soundness, all things related to phenotype. But don’t ever tell that to someone with an opinion.

I’ve heard people say crazy things like, “A yellow [palomino] horse has no cow.” Or, “A horse with a bald face and blue eyes are just more trainable.” “White feet have more lameness.” It is not just color that these types of opinions pop up from. The HERDA gene is common in cutters because of the dominance of producing progeny by Doc O’Lena, who traces back to Poco Bueno. I’ve heard people say things like, “A HERDA carrier is a better athlete because their ligaments have more stretch to them than non-HERDA carriers.” Oh, please. Silly stuff. Michael Jordan was great, not because of his color, but because he was Michael Jordan.

People promote what they have. I get it. There are big economic reasons why we make the decisions we make. That is a part of life. When it comes to color, my favorite color is GREEN! I want to win in the show pen. I will continue to make my decisions based upon the three pillars in mating selection, as there is no shortcut to success – not in breeding horses and not in life. But at the end of the day, I will never turn down some good, old-fashioned luck! I’d rather be lucky than smart any day of the week!

These are your horses, and it’s your money. Do exactly what you want and have a blast doing it. You want a roan, breed for a roan. You want a palomino, go for it. But please don’t ever not breed to win. We don’t need more horses out there; we need to be making progress by producing better horses. This is all coming from a commercial horse breeder, y’all. Let’s advance the case and make each generation better than the last!

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