If you’ve ever wondered what breeding horses and basketball have in common, just ask George Bell. When asked to describe the thought process behind his breeding program, he quickly jumps to an analogy comparing Michael Jordan or Larry Byrd to non-sportsmen. While it may not be a common comparison, Bell makes it clear his program rests on the foundation of a strategy he calls “progressive genetics.”
“If you’re buying a mare or a breeding horse, you don’t want a grandson of King. That doesn’t say anything,” Bell explained. “Who was the best son of King, and who was the best horse that he produced? That’s the one you breed to.
“Just like if you wanted a basketball player, you wouldn’t want Michael Jordan’s brother; you’d want to have a son of Michael Jordan,” he continued. “I’d want his own son if I was going to get me a basketball player, not his first cousin or one that goes back to his daddy or something like that.”
After finding horses he considers the best, Bell has stuck to this approach for many years. He is a fan of the Blair Cee bloodline and said he is the only breeder still producing from that family. As he names off the achievements of his horses and their ancestors, one can’t help but be impressed by their accomplishments.
Most recently, Bell’s stallion Mr Masota Star won the Futurity Level 4 Open at the Buckeye Reining Futurity. By Wimpys Little Step and out of Cee Another Masota (by Custom Crome), his pedigree reads like royalty.
“Mr Masota Star is by a Hall of Fame [National Reining Horse Association (NRHA)] Futurity champion, out of a mare by a Hall of Fame Futurity champion, who is out of a Futurity reserve champion that was a two-time World champion, who is a full sister to a Hall of Famer and two-time Hall of Fame producer, and I think 12-time World champion producer,” Bell rattled off.
Cee Another Masota’s dam is Cee Blair Masota, a full sister to Miss Cee Blair (Blair Cee x Lady Masota Star x Bill Royal), who was the 1985 NRHA Open World Champion. Miss Cee Blair was born in 1977, and although the purses were not as big back then, she produced babies that won in excess of $300,000. Her highest-earning offspring is Cee Blair Sailor, who won $114,930 in his own career and is a sire of offspring that have won $311,843. As the generations progressed, Bell has been able to call their ancestors the best of the best.
“The best son of Wimpy was Bill Cody. Bill Cody’s best son was Blair Cody. Blair Cody’s best son was Blair Cee. The best horses Blair Cee produced were Miss Cee Blair and Cee Blair Masota, so that’s the best genes,” Bell explained. “A lot of horses go back to Bill Cody, but they don’t go back through the best of all of them.”
Cee Blair Masota and Miss Cee Blair also go back to Royal King through Bill Royal, a son of Bill Cody. This brings King into their pedigree, which Bell said produces the “platinum cross” – Bill Cody mares crossed with King.
“These horses were a little bit ahead of their time,” Bell said. “People would get them and overspur and overjerk them, and they never would work for them. They were horses you had to show what to do and be patient with, and they’d do it harder than any horse you’ve ever seen, but they wouldn’t put up with a lot of rough treatment.”
He thinks the line continues to do well today because it has produced horses with such quiet minds, like Mr Masota Star. After EquiStat Elite $6 Million Rider Shawn Flarida rode the stallion to success at the Buckeye, he told Bell he wouldn’t geld him for anything, as “our industry needs this blood.”
“So many times, we have bred the hardiness out of these horses, and this horse is so strong, quiet, gentle, easy-going and a beautiful mover, with a good mind, good mouth and good leads – so many breeders forget all that,” Bell said.
The stallion is also low-headed, which Bell credited to both his parents.
“We spend most of our time trying to get a horse to put his head down,” he said. “Why don’t you just breed them with their heads down? Then work on something else – work on spinning or stopping or circling.”
Another bloodline Bell admires is that of Great Pine, and he owns his No. 1 producing daughter, Shirleys Folly, whose offspring have earned more than $660,000. He also owns three of her daughters, two of which are full sisters to her second-highest earner, The Great Tag, who was second at the 2008 NRHA Futurity. This association again points to progressive genetics.
While titles are important to Bell, he considers conformation, athletic ability and soundness to be the most important aspects of a breeding prospect.
“It is our duty to breed the defects out of horses,” he said. “I’ll knock on wood, but I have never had an OCD [osteochondritis dissecans]. I try not to breed to horses that have them or produce them.
“I will not breed to a horse that’s not a good mover,” he continued. “There’s so much to a horse; you’ve got to have foot, bone, conformation, mind more than anything, athletic ability, but still I don’t want one that has any physical defects.”
That’s a long list of qualities to look out for when breeding animals, and it doesn’t come without its share of sacrifices. If a favorite mare ends up producing a foal that doesn’t make the cut, Bell will remove her from his broodmare band.
“When it comes to culling mares, I am the tin man, which means there’s no heart in this body when it comes to culling mares,” he said. “I love every one of them, but you let them have one bad baby, and they’re gone. They’re gone very quickly.
“My son [Brian Bell] and I started culling mares a long time ago. He was very helpful helping me decide which mares to cull. Every year, we had like 15 mares, and every year 15-20 percent had to go, no matter what. I had a mare that I loved and we took her to the sale. He said, ‘Dad, you don’t have to sell her,’ and I said, ‘If we’re going to be the tin men, we’ve got to sell her; we can’t take her home because her baby wasn’t good.’
“That was the deal. No matter what, they had to go. The bottom half has to go and then you end up with some really good horses. I hear people say, ‘We’ve got 25 mares,’ and I say to myself, do you really have 25 mares worth breeding?”
Bell will add mares to his band even if they have not proven themselves with championships, as long as he believes in their bloodlines. He purchased two Wimpys Little Step mares out of Custom Red Berry that had never been shown because he subscribes to the “skip a generation” theory.
“Custom Red Berry hasn’t produced the best in the world, but I don’t feel like she’s had a great chance to produce the best in the world,” he said.
He is already excited about the roan stud colt one of her daughters produced, and if the “skip a generation” theory holds up, maybe one day he will best the $187,902 his grand-dam won during her career.
Looking toward the future, Bell has a 2-year-old and a yearling who are full siblings to Mr Masota Star, in addition to horses by Lil Joe Cash, Wimpys Little Step and Hollywoodstinseltown. The 68-year-old loves seeing the outcome of his program and doesn’t plan to quit anytime soon.
“I love to breed horses,” he said. “When I was a kid, if I had a dog, I wanted a female so I could breed her and have puppies. If I had cats, I wanted a female so it could have kittens. I’ve always liked to breed animals.”
As evidenced by Mr Masota Star, Bell’s years of breeding have taught him a lot, and his strategy has proven that outstanding horses, when bred for conformation, ability and mind, will continue to produce exceptional horses. “It goes way back,” he said. “If one pops up and does something, that’s not so good as when the whole generations have been good. That’s progressive genetics.”
This article was originally published in the December 15, 2017, issue of Quarter Horse News.