Doc Bar. • Photo by Cattlemen Photo.

Frankly Speaking: Horse of a Different Color

“We need an outcross stallion!” How many times have you heard that when horse breeders visit with each other? It is a common theme, and one that transcends all disciplines in the equine industry. Why do we need an outcross stallion? The explanation is very simple.

For too long now, our horse industry has narrowed its direction and the scope of its influence by becoming so discipline-specific in interest and participation.

Heck, most of us never look over our neighbors’ fences anymore. By that I mean, those who participate as breeders, owners, trainers, exhibitors and spectators (everyone connected to this business) have chosen to focus their involvement and attention to a single discipline, or at least one discipline at a time. By doing so, they ignore the rest of the activity in our equine industry.

Breeders center their emphasis on one particular type of equine competition, and they naturally arrange a breeding strategy centered squarely on that activity or discipline.

Entrenched in the desire to raise that brand-name foal — one that markets well — breeders forget to consider which stallion might actually sire the best foal in competition.

This dynamic is further exacerbated when those same breeders hone in on the selection of a single trait that seems to have manifested in a certain lineage through a particularly dominant stallion. When that happens, everyone flocks to the court of that stud or the best performing sons of that stallion.

The process is enticing — the high sale prices, the headlines, the accolades. And so, the breeders become even more dedicated to raising the next highest seller or performer. It’s intoxicating, to be sure! And in that process, breeders cast good decision to the wind and disregard caution as it relates to the consequences of the outcome.

In essence, breeders are more concerned about the money than good stewardship of the breed.

This practice has gone on so long now that several problematic genetic traits have surfaced. These genetic diseases, as they are now termed by the American Quarter Horse Association, cause emotional and financial pain for horse owners and breeders.

HYPP, PSSM, MH, GBED and HERDA are the five the AQHA decided to concentrate on and test for in the five-panel testing program. This genetic test affords breeders more assurance when selecting stallions for their mares; conversely, it enables stallion owners to caution mare owners about undesirable genetic issues that might result from crossing a carrier (or affected) with another carrier.

Folks, I give you this WARNING! If you continue to breed for single dominate traits, you’ll eventually have the devil to pay!

I could go on into a lengthy dissertation on the topic of genetic testing, but for the pur- poses of this column, I’d like to discuss the novel idea of breeding to a horse “of a different color.” (I don’t really mean color; it’s just a play on words.) Basically, I’m trying to say that as an industry, we need to look “outside the box.”

It’s time we have enough courage and resolution to experiment by breeding to that neighbor’s stud we have ignored in the past because he wasn’t siring foals competing in our specific discipline.

Allow me to be frank: I’m not asking you to breed your pleasure horses to Mr Jess Perry or your cutting mares to Justify. What I am asking you to do is look for some common traits that complement your mares, such as: attitude, athletic ability, size and confor- mation — a quality, which I might add, that includes feet and legs — and (last, but not least) intelligence.

Our Quarter Horse industry affords all of us options when it comes to selecting horses to mate with our mares. We have, in my opinion, stallions and mares that come from other disciplines within our registry that might nick quite well and raise an exceptional foal.

You may not be able to find that stallion/mare by sitting at home in front of the fire looking through the latest stallion register or magazine. You must get off your duff, get into your car or pickup, and then put in some windshield time by going to look at the options for yourself.

I want to draw on your memories for just a minute. I remind you that the greatest thing that ever happened in our Quarter Horse business is when Sid Vail bought Three Bars (TB) and started breeding him to Quarter mares. It revolutionized our breed. Three Bars sired sons that became outcross stallions.

How many of you have heard of a horse named Doc Bar? That same phenomenon can occur again if you would just get out of the rut you’re in and make some bold moves with your intelligence, as horsemen and women, and breed to that horse “of a different color.”

Our horse and our industry will be much the better for it.

As always, I remain


This Frankly Speaking column was published in the March 15 issue of Quarter Horse News. To purchase this issue, click here.