foals standing with mares

A Good Bull

“A good bull is half your herd; a bad one is all of it.” I can’t tell you how many times I heard this as a kid. My father often recited that mantra to countless mare owners to get them thinking about the value of mating selection. I have now learned this principal well with respect to the three tiers of mating selection: genotype, phenotype and the market.

I’ve written about this before in various blogs, but perhaps from different angles. As it is the beginning of the Northern Hemisphere’s breeding season, I am going to touch on the key principals again in hopes that my readers find it useful.

Genotype, Phenotype & The Market

The three tiers all carry equal value to me. We all need to evaluate mating selection with as much scrutiny as possible to try and maximize our probability for success. Genotype is everything behind the horse — pedigree. The sire, dam, dam’s sire, second dam’s sire, etc. … what were they, what do they produce, what crosses well statistically, etc. This stuff matters. Pedigree predicts performance. If you do not analyze this, you are shooting blind.

Phenotype is everything that the individual IS. This is the tangibles, like height, build, conformation, ability, mind, heart, produce and even color. Knowing what the stallion and mare are (phenotype) is just as important as what made them the way they are (genotype). There are two sides of the same coin. I don’t care how a horse is bred, if you breed two small-footed, pig-headed horses together, I promise you will have a greater chance of having a small-footed, pig-headed foal. Crazy, huh? Breed a sound, well conformed, smart, 14.3-hand horse to another sound, well conformed, smart, 14.3-hand horse and amaze magic!

This stuff isn’t like baking a cake. It is not an exact science. It is part science and part art. Man, oh man, is it fun! Enjoy the process.

The third component is the market. What you are breeding to this year is, in fact, four years away form materializing. What is happening in 2019 affects what will happen in 2023. You are shooting at a target that you cannot see. Make sure you spend your dollars wisely. No one can predict the market. We speculators try, and we often are right. Are we always right? Heck no. Why is the market an important factor to consider? Value and demand.

So, now that we have that out of the way, here are some tips for stallion selection, as they are really the variable that you mare owners need to choose.  You are already have your mare. Know her, figure her out. Genotype and phenotype, pros and cons. Be brutally honest with yourself. When picking her stud, do the EXACT same thing.

There is an old horseman philosophy of breeding proven sires (stallions with performing offspring) to unproven “junior” mares (no foals of performance age) and conversely, breeding proven broodmares (foals of performance age with results) to “junior” stallions (stallions without foals of performance age). Why is this method something to consider?

You want to prove your mare, yes? You do not know whether she is going to be a quality producer; no one does, except God. So, breed her to a proven sire that has offspring of like genotype on your mare. Then there are the new studs on the market, the juniors that everyone wants to breed to, the next new thing. It is the sizzle and zest in the marketplace. It is the gambling side of this that breeds excitement. The philosophy is to breed those junior stallions to proven broodmares, remove an unknown with a known. Evaluate the cross based on accurate information, both statistics and what is happening under saddle.

All that being said, you should breed to whoever you want. It is your money and your life. My words are just information to consider in mating selection.

Check out this diagram for analyzing crosses in our 2019 brochure. These principles are tried and true. An exact science? No. But millions of dollars of experience is here. There are many great stallions out there; I sure hope you find value in these. I am biased. It is like being a parent, my kids are the best!

proven crosses statistical chart

proven crosses statistical chart

A good bull is half your herd, and a bad one is all of it. This game is fun. I love it. I hope you find success in your plans this year. If we can help you in any way, please just let us know. Do what feels right to you. It is your money; it is your mare. Have a great time and here is to your next champion!