Friday, March 27, 2020

Building a Breeding Program the Right Way

                                          HexenHammer (ASHDA) and Colida Skip A Spot (ApHC)

If you've decided to join the world of horse breeding, make sure you do it the right way. Horse breeding is difficult, costly, and competitive. To put your best foot forward takes time, education, and ethics. Doing things wrong can not only mean a huge loss of money, but unnecessary suffering for your animals. Don't be a cheapskate who puts low quality fo
als out into the world. Here's how to do it right!

Research, research, research! Years of it! Take equine reproduction courses, learn as much about horse husbandry as possible. Read up on your breed(s) of choice, and deep dive into the health issues, the myths, and every other negative things surrounding them. Don't buy into dismissing health problems or perpetuating falsehoods. Learn first hand from breed historians, researchers, and more. Study conformation, riding disciplines, genetics, bloodlines and more to have an edge when you get started.

Start with high quality, papered stock. Even if you're breeding for a niche crossbred market or just for yourself. You never know when catastrophe could strike and you need your horses to have a soft landing. There's nothing wrong with sourcing from horse sales, craigslist, and other similar marketplaces, but don't let a cheap price tag be your reason to purchase. Sometimes you can find an incredible deal from someone who doesn't realize what they have or just wants to get out of horses fast, but always look at each horse critically. If you wouldn't buy the same horse with a zero tacked on the end of their price, keep walking. Start out with the best you can get, and you won't have to spend the next few generations trying to improve your stock! If you plan to show (and can prove it), approach breeders you admire with your plans. You might just get yourself a deal, but be sure to hold up your end of it so you don't get a bad reputation. The horse industry is a constant game of who-knows-who and word travels fast, even when it isn't shouted to the sky.

Don't breed junk. Horses with defects, low quality animals, whatever. Don't breed them. Don't buy them for yourself and don't stand your stallion to them. Even if you ARE producing high quality foals at the same time, those low value foals will hurt you. We certainly don't want to spend the money promoting a program putting PSSM1 or bad quality foals on the ground, even if they produce something else that would suit our program and a lot of people hold the same opinion, especially in breeds where testing is the norm, you can alienate a wide swath of buyers with one bad foal.

Don't breed just for the trail horse market and don't use 'not breeding for the show ring' as an excuse. A top quality horse can still be a family or hobby horse, but a low quality horse rarely makes the jump to the show ring. You will need the show crowd to survive, and even avoiding problematic disciplines that promote poor conformation and training practices, there is still a wide variety of disciplines your foals can excel in if bred right. Eventually you will run out of hobby owners to sell to and if all of your foals are going to non-show homes, you won't see any return promotion.

Don't spend all your money on a stallion and then skimp on your mares. Even if your stallion consistently improves mares he is bred to, breeding is still a crapshoot and you greatly decrease your odds of producing a good foal when one of the parents is low quality. By doing this, you're also hinging your program's success solely on your stallion. What if he dies? What if he develops fertility problems? Then you're stuck with a pasture full of junk mares and have to write a big check to replace him. If you have high quality mares, your program can take such an unfortunate hit, and you may be lucky enough to have a son of equal quality to fill his shoes.

Make connections in your breed and take a stand for ethics. A lot of doors will open behind the scenes when people like what you produce and what you stand for. This can result in special purchase prices, reduced stud fees, and even being able to purchase or lease horses not offered to the open market. We have several programs we are very close with, and as such we help each other in ways that can greatly improve both farms. Don't be a lone wolf, the horse community has some great people and there are a lot of ways to make exchanges that are mutually beneficial. If you feel you aren't ready to show and promote your stock, partnering with a program that is willing to help with that in exchange for stud fees or young stock is a great way to get your foot in the door.

And, of course, take care of your stock. Paper your foals, handle them and give them a solid foundation. Your horses are producing a commodity for you to profit from. Make sure they have quality feed, hoof care, a nice place to live. They don't need to live in a palatial barn and eat fifty dollar bags of grain, but they do deserve care. When we see skinny, long toed broodmares in mud-and-barbwire pens, we walk away. Not everyone can afford a Kentucky Horse Park set up, but there's a wide range of acceptable set ups and care and then there's outright neglect.

Bron Stark
Trinity Appaloosa Farm

Friday, March 20, 2020

Unfair relationships and how humans really are the bad guy.

                                                Pictured is Colida Twisted Lace aka Bijoux

Most people profess to love their horses and that their horse loves them. We usually try not to anthropomorphize animal emotions, but there is no doubt they grieve, form attachments, and have fears and likes. We often attach our emotional responses to our horses, usually very unrealistic ones. Horses are not spouses, boyfriends/girlfriends or children, but we clearly form attachments to them that are just as strong. We grieve their loss, worry about their injuries, and prefer certain horses over others. We love them deeply, obsessively, and sometimes that love comes with a heavy price.
Most good, healthy relationships are a partnership. A partnership requires each participant to put forth effort to help make it work. Despite media assertions all partnerships are not equal at all times. They usually exist in a state of constant flux with one partner at any given time doing more than the other partner. This ebb and flow usually works out to fairly equal in the end. Our partnership with our horses also has these ebb and flow periods. We feed, vet and farrier them, they allow us to ride and compete, possibly winning money and prestige. Sometimes they reproduce for us and give us a foal to sell or to raise to continue on competing. Many hours of our time with the daily drudgery vs a few hours of their time carrying us around and making us happy. It’s a relationship that works, until it doesn’t.
Now think about human relationships and how they affect the emotional and physical health of the people engaged in them. If your partner beat the crap out of you for a little mistake, or poked and whipped when you were working your hardest, you’d consider that relationship abusive and get out of it. Yet people constantly do this to horses and then wonder why a horse blows up one day, or starts to require a more severe bit in order to stop. And once that step is taken, when pain is added to the mix, it escalates the anxiety and adverse responses. It’s a very vicious cycle and people can’t seem to understand that the horse that nickers to get his food and enjoys being brushed is not the same horse you get once you use spurs and a nasty bit. Because once you choose to be unfair you’ve changed the rules of the relationship. You’re the domestic abuser that can behave in public or in front of your partner’s friends, but becomes a tyrant where you think others won’t be allowed to judge you. Most often this is the show ring, where every other trainer is using too much spur, too heavy a bit and promoting their dominance over their partner just to win a class. It’s an unbalanced relationship. Because in your mind the horse OWES you a good ride for all the other things you do for him. But in his mind you are the herd member that brings him food, brushes him, sometimes holds him while other people handle his feet or stick needles in him, and now you’re a brute causing him pain and making him do things he clearly doesn’t want to do. He’s not thinking in terms of what he owes you, because horses don’t understand the barter system. Because of this it’s an unfair system. It would be the equivalent of you demanding your toddler child pay rent or contribute to the groceries before you’d take care of him, even though you love him, you just can’t let him leech off of you. He’s got to owe you something, right?
I realize that a lot of you are going to jump up and talk about how competing is a business, and how if the horse can’t produce it might end up on a truck to slaughter. This is true, sadly it happens a lot. It’s an absolutely horrible aspect of the horse industry. In order to stay viable a trainer or breeder has to garner wins and in order to do that the horse has to produce. However, we all know that even after winning horses still fall through the cracks and end up slaughtered, just remember Ferdinand. I am 100% in favor of humane showing, breeding and industry practices. I am 100% against the deliberate blindness to abusive equipment, training practices and wholescale dumping of horses if they can’t compete. And the main propagators of all of these things are the trainer/judges that reward performances that can only be achieved through abuse and an industry that will NOT speak up and police its own. The fact that PRCA, NBHA, WPRA, NFR and others have no equipment rules that demand humane equipment and won’t ban things like twisted wire gag bits, brain chains, segunda and correction port mouthpieces, shows you how little they care about the partnership with the horse, and how much they condone abuse. I love to watch a good rodeo, I love to compete, but I can’t stand to see horse after horse getting its mouth ripped up by crappy equipment and heavy handed riding because their rider has decided to be the equivalent of the drunk guy in the wife beater and show them who’s boss. It’s ridiculous to watch a horse getting his ass beat as he enters an arena, around a pattern then whipped and spurred home and still hear people talk about it being a partnership and how much they LOVE their horse. It’s not a partnership; it’s a master/slave situation. If your partner did that to you the police would be called. If your boss treated you even a tiny smidge like you treat your horse you’d have HR all over him and a lawsuit to boot.
I’m sure several people will deliberately misunderstand me and accuse me of being for PETA or against riding, which is absolutely not the case. I love riding, love competing, love breeding, raising, training and promoting my horses. What I don’t love is the thought that one day one of my beautiful babies would end up in the hands of someone that thinks an unfair partnership is okay. It would be like watching my child be subjected to the violence of a spouse. I can’t promise that someone wouldn’t be feeding the fishes at the bottom of my pond.
I also understand the need for discipline and that some horses run a little hot or have some aggressive tendencies. It still doesn’t excuse abuse. You can discipline fairly. You may even need to use extreme measures during an emergency to restrain a horse. A breeding stallion can require a mouth or chin chain to keep him respectful of his handlers when his hormones are going crazy. However, we recognize that these are specific cases, we aren’t patting ourselves on the back and trying to pretend the horse likes it and simply tolerates it because he loves to get ribbons too. He doesn’t care about ribbons. He cares about food, being able to exercise, his herd mates, sex if applicable and being able to live his life without someone abusing him. So stop pretending you have an equal partnership if any part of it means your horse has to tolerate severe bits and abusive riding in order to earn his feed and care. Stop pretending your hands are soft enough for severe bits. Stop pretending your spurs are gentle cues when you’re flogging the sides of your horse every stride. Stop pretending your horse gets the same satisfaction from the relationship that you do, he cares nothing for checks, ribbons or bragging rights. Start working on communicating instead of subjugating. Improving yourself will absolutely improve your horse. Be fair, be just and be ready to take it to the next level by communicating without pain.

Tracy Meisenbach
Trinity Appaloosa Farm
Do not copy or repost without permission.

Friday, March 13, 2020

Colida SkipNTwist, part of a lasting legacy

STALLION STATS for Colida SkipNTwist!
Registrations: ApHC, SSB, ASHDA AC
Proven In: Halter, Hunter in Hand, HUS, Western Pleasure, Speed Events
Color Testing: Ee aa Dd LPlp
5panel Status: N/N for HERDA, PSSM1, HYPP, MH, and GBED
Foal Stats:
92% LP ('appaloosa' color)
Stud Fee for 2020 is PRIVATE TREATY. We are standing to an extremely limited number of registered ApHC, JC, AQHA, AHA, ASHDA, and Stonewall mares that meet our requirements for breeding. Shipped semen available. Book now for $150 to reserve your spot! (Booking fee is applied to stud fee). Located in VA. Our breeding season starts in February. Money back is offered for foals successfully dual (or more) registered ApHC, ASHDA, SSB, ABRA (buckskin bred), CRHA, and/or Half-Arabian. Discounts available for proven mares, veterans, repeat clients. Improves the mares he is bred to without fail. All foals to date have good minds and are very people oriented. Sire of champions in Conformation, Western Pleasure, Jumping, Speed Events, Dressage, Saddleseat, Halter, Showmanship, English Suitability, and more across 4 registries.

Bron Stark
Trinity Appaloosa Farm

Friday, March 6, 2020

The Vicious Color Cycle

The horse industry has a love/hate relationship with color. It certainly draws the eye, making a horse stand out in a herd of plain browns, but it also is sneered down upon by many aspects of the industry. It means that in some ways, a colored horse has MORE value to the market than an equivalent (or even better) plain colored horse. But, because of stigma surrounding color horses, competing in rings dominated by quarter horses, TBs, and WBs, a colored horse not only has to be better than his competition, but has to be absolutely the top horse by a large margin to win- and sometimes, he still won't.

So where does the stigma arise? A few places, in fact. The first is one not a lot of people want to hear, but in established color breeds, a lot of fault goes to the breeders themselves. By striving for color over any other trait, low quality horses often flood the market. Some breeders even go so far as to cull solids from their bloodlines- even excellent quality ones, rather keeping a poorly made leopard than a good using solid to breed forward. When this happens, color blind buyers purchase these lower quality horses, which end up performing poorly against their non-color-bred counterparts. This feeds the idea that color horses are inferior as a whole, that ALL color breed horses are low quality. And as a result, many people who grow up on this adage will not purchase one, even if it is ultimately a better animal for the job they want.

The second place stigma comes in is 'Tradition'. Tradition in a lot of realms of competition calls for solid colors of bay, black, chestnut and grey and anything beyond that is viewed as less fitting for the job on color alone. Even a blue eye can knock you down a few placings if the judge is a stickler. But, we must call into question tradition. Tradition for whom? There's a whole wide world out there. Is it tradition for a dressage horse to only be solid? Tell that to the Spanish Riding School, often touted as the end all be all of dressage, where loudly leopard and blanketed horses once were, before the fad for greys only arose. Spotted horses were once synonymous with wealth and status among many cultures. Tradition in the horse world is a narrow avenue, and mostly kept in check by a few elitists who would rather not broaden their own horizons.

We've dealt with it plenty. People will come to our farm and proudly tell us they hate Appaloosas. Okay, then leave! We've heard judges make snide remarks about our spotted horses, noticeably scoring them lower than equivalent, or worse, competitors. Judges like this keep the uniquely patterned horse in a self-fulfilling cycle, where they have a hard time being taken seriously except in a group of their own peers. Biased judges place a colored horse unfairly, then that animal is devalued by their loss, then the solid-preference market has proof that colored horses are lower quality by default. Because if the best colored horse on the market places under your average chestnut plodder, that means every other colored horse is worth even LESS. Even showing in your own color breed shows is not always the best judge of quality or skill, as judges with backgrounds in non-color breeds bring their bias into color-breed show rings.

The only thing you can do is simply keep going. Keep putting high quality horses out there. Strive to separate your horses from color only programs. Get acclaim in arenas where color can't effect your score. Get your stock in jobs where ribbons don't matter, but a hard working and high caliber animal is worth their weight in gold. Get your solid and minimal foals into top arenas and boggle a few minds when you say, "No- he's actually a...." after walking out with a blue ribbon. Eventually, you'll get someplace, even if you have to work hard to overcome breed stereotypes and breed biases.

And the best way to make change: don't contribute to stereotypes by breeding for color first! You can always add color in one generation of breeding to the right horse, but undoing poor conformation, attitude, and genetic faults can take many generations, and sometimes those poor traits stick like glue. Better to start with a high quality solid than a poor quality horse of any color or pattern! The second best way is to throw your hat into the ring and become a judge, a competitor, a journalist, or someone else that helps spotlight less popular breeds when they deserve to win.

Help promote the idea that the best horse for the job can't be a bad color!

Bron Stark
Trinity Appaloosa Farm