Saturday, July 9, 2011
I once watched a documentary on Thoroughbred breeding. As in other breeds, very few stallions actually make a difference. Just because an individual horse is superior is no guarantee he will be able to pass on his type. Secretariat is a notable example of this. Though an outstanding athlete the horse was weak in the breeding shed and failed to duplicate his best attributes, unlike other sires such as Bold Ruler and Northern Dancer. A veterinarian on the show said only two out of every hundred stallions is truly prepotent, consistently able to pass on their type. This is rather sobering. It means many stallions should be gelded and the genetic typing left to the animals that can actually make a difference in any particular breed.
When I decided to breed Eli last year I had this documentary in mind. He has some wonderful qualities, but I knew he wouldn't necessarily pass them on. I hoped to see his long sloping shoulder and outstanding feet and legs. Besides the physical traits, I also wanted to see something more subtle reproduced in the foals. His eye. I know that sounds weird but the eye truly is the window to the soul and mystical as it sounds I trust the look in a horse's eye. It conveys something very important about the mind--will the horse be teachable, kind, and honest? Not all horses are and, like people, potential lies within. The most beautiful horse on the outside is useless without a sound and trainable mind. What's inside will reveal itself in performance.
Any breeder knows the mare is more important than the stallion--yay for Girl Power! Breeding a mediocre, crazy mare to the nicest stud you can find will produce, roughly, 60% crazy in your foal. Eli's mares were all quite different so it was impossible to say what traits he might pass on. After a year of waiting and hoping for the best I went to see his first colts with modest expectations. It took only a few minutes of time with each one to discover what I'd hoped to find--a good dose of daddy inside(and out!).
Father's Day passed a couple of weeks ago but the power and influence of a good daddy is still on my mind. Aren't the boys cute? Stay tuned for more photos.