UNNAMED / filly / (Shining Spark x Blondandboonsmal x Yellow Roan Of Texas) / Owner: Kimberly Hernandez. • Photo by Chelsea Schneider.

In The Blood—Shining Spark & The Broodmare Sire Effect

The May publication of the Insider Stats Top Broodmare 10-Year Reined Cow Horse List serves as a great example of what we can learn from EquiStat services, and why we should look into the broodmare sire effect.

This list of dams quickly brings into focus the daughters and granddaughters of Shining Spark (Genuine Doc x Diamonds Sparkle x Mr Diamond Dude) the EquiStat All-Time Leading Maternal Grandsire of Reined Cow Horses. Overall, he is the broodmare sire of horses that have earned over $27 million in all disciplines which proves his credentials as a broodmare sire.

The reined cow horse list shows an extensive number of Shining Spark’s daughters and granddaughters throughout. The Top Ten boasts five daughters of Shining Spark and one granddaughter. The top ten included Shiney Tari with foal earnings of $675,813, Lil Miss Shiney Chex with earnings of $672,576, Sparking Train with earnings of $516,799, Sheza Shinette with earnings of $508,514 and Shiners Diamond Girl with earnings of $442,209. The one granddaughter is Soula Jule Forever with earnings of $602,576. 

Sparking Train ridden by Don Murphy

This finding reinforces Shining Spark as a great broodmare sire, but it also sparks the question—What makes a great broodmare sire?

Putting the Spark in Sparkles

This is a question that breeders have been trying to answer for a long time. The answer often starts with the stallion’s dam. In this case the dam is Diamonds Sparkle, the 1979 AQHA World Championship Super Horse.

She was also the 1979 AQHA World Champion Senior Heading Horse and she was fourth in Senior Reining and sixth in Senior Heeling. She showed versatility with points in halter (23), heeling (39), western pleasure (31) and heading (22). She would go on to produce 18 point/money earners that garnered 2,657 AQHA points and 12 ROM. One was an AQHA Champion and six offspring earned 15 Superior Awards.

Carol Rose on Sparkles Rosezana

Her foals have EquiStat earnings of $202,802. Plus, several major winners in the NRHA and AQHA with Futurity, Derby and World Championships to their credit. They include not only Shining Spark, an NRHA Open Derby Champion and an AQHA World Champion Junior Reining Horse, but also Sparkles Rosezana an NRHA Open Futurity Champion, Zans Diamond Sun an AQHA World Champion Junior Reining Horse and Genuine Redskin an NRHA Open Derby Champion. 

Science behind the Spark

This sparks another question—What does the dam bring to the foal and how much influence does she have on the foal? Some breeders believe that the dam contributes 70% to the foal. This will vary with breeders from 50% to 100% depending on who you are talking to. The great breeder Hank Wiescamp said it this way. “If the foal is bad the mare is 100% responsible.” 

The answer to that question starts with the mare’s uterine environment that she provides for the development of the foal. The health of the uterus and nutrition she provides during the pregnancy and after the birth gives her an environmental influence over the stallion. This was a much more important factor but now with embryo transfer and recipient mares providing that set of factors it has a less significant role when it comes to the actual dam influencing the foal. 

The other part of a mare’s influence comes from the genetic makeup of the foal. We are all familiar that the sire and dam each contribute 50% of the genetics to the foal. This isn’t exactly true when a sire and dam produce a son as the mare contributes more genetic material than the sire. This happens because the sire contributes his “Y” sex chromosome making the foal a male. The dam contributes one of her “X” sex chromosomes and the X chromosome has more genetic information than the Y chromosome. This can be a key part in the sex-linked genes she transfers to the foal. 

Diamonds Sparkle (L) Shining Spark (R)

The other factor we must consider is the mitochondrial DNA that each mare passes on to her foal. The mitochondria are found in the cell but outside the cell’s nucleus that houses the autosomal genes that carry the animal’s genetic characteristics. The mitochondria are the cells’ basic source of energy. The foal inherits that from the dam and not the sire. Giving the mare another significant genetic contribution to the foal. 

Broodmare Sire Effect

This brings us to the role of the broodmare sire and his play in the genetic development of the foals. We call this the maternal grandsire effect. It is the phenomenon that helps us explain how a mare influences her son’s daughters. Breeders have long seen traits disappear in the daughters of a stallion to reappear in the foals of the daughter and this is an interesting factor in success as a broodmare sire. 

Filly (Lil Joe Cash x Lil Shiny Long Legs x Shining Spark). Owner: Cannon Quarter Horses. • Photo by Michelle Cannon.

Epigenetics is the study of the genes that modify or influence how the other genes come together without altering the DNA sequence or those genes that build muscle, bone, skin, organs and so on. These are the genes that turn things on and off during development. The area we are talking about is termed the “imprinting genes” that function early in fetal development. 

The explanation that goes with this brings in the term “gender imprinting” where we have paternal genes and maternal genes. The paternal genes and maternal genes are both active. But in the process the maternal genes are turned off rendering them inactive and thus they are not exhibited in the foal produced.

However, they are turned back on and reappear in the next generation through the mare’s foals. As to which gene is turned off depends on the sex of the contributor and the sex of the foal produced. This has been a key breakthrough in geneticists’ efforts to define the “broodmare sire effect” as we know it today and our knowledge of this theory will continue to evolve. 

Shining Spark has proven to be a major sire of the western performance horse especially in reined cow horse and reining with his foals earning over $10 million. He was the EquiStat Leading Reined Cow Horse Sire of Money Earners from 2003 to 2020 with over $4.5 million in earnings. However, it appears that a major source of his legacy will continue through his daughters and the role the “broodmare sire effect” has played out in his daughters as producers.