A Modern-Day Horse-Breeding Program

In Part 2 of this series, two well-known breeders share how they balance old bloodlines with the more modern style of American Quarter Horse.

From The American Quarter Horse Journal

There are many factors involved with creating a horse-breeding program. In Part 1 of this series, Deborah Skow of Horizon Quarter Horses in Keenesburg, Colorado, and John Anderson of Willow Creek Quarter Horses in Plainview, Nebraska, share how they incorporate foundation bloodlines into their operations. This week, these two breeders further detail the lines behind their current American Quarter Horses and discuss how foundation bloodlines are only part of the equation.

Vintage Bloodlines

Disposition is also a priority for Deborah, who sells many of her horses to amateurs and novice riders.

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“When we started back in the horse business about 25 years ago, we started out with some halter horses. However, that wasn’t going to serve the interest that we had,” she says. “We’re selling mostly to an all-around market, and we need horses that are going to be something our customers enjoy.” But it’s not just the minds of the vintage bloodlines that attract Deborah and John. It’s also the way the older Quarter Horses were built. “They were big, bulldog-style horses with lots of muscles and plenty of bone and good feet,” Deborah says. “But a lot of our refinement of our modern lines with the speed required for various events has bred down the size and the structure of some of our horses that maybe has led to some of our issues with health and soundness. Many of our foundation horses can provide a little bit more of that solid bone and mass.” For John, the vintage bloodlines are just another tool in a breeding program. “The foundation bloodlines have some time-tested genetic positives that we can use in some of the modern bloodlines to fill in some of the genetic weaknesses of today’s horses,” he says. But with that said, John points out that not all foundation bloodlines are equal. “I think the word ‘foundation’ has been over generalized and used a bit too loosely,” he says. “Without mentioning certain ones, there are some foundation bloodlines that were noted to need a cowboy to ride them.”

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A Horse for Today

Although Debbie and John appreciate the older bloodlines and they do incorporate some linebreeding in their programs, they aren’t out to recreate an exact duplicate of a foundation horse like Poco Bueno or Driftwood. “Even though he was an outstanding cutter at the level of competition in his time, I don’t think Poco Bueno could compete in today’s cutting pen,” Deborah says. “So we’re not specifically trying to breed strictly Poco Buenos. Instead, we try to maintain some Poco Buenos that we can use to breed back to some of the current bloodlines of today. This gives us the best of both worlds and produces an exceptional horse.” John also says that breeders shouldn’t get caught up in the percentage of foundation blood. “We have a lot of Driftwood in our horses but you’ll never see an ad for Willow Creek Quarter Horses that touts how much percentage of Driftwood there is in our horses. That’s not our goal,” John says. “We like Driftwood in the pedigree, but we think when people get caught up in one single trait selection, it lowers the bar on their breeding program. “A Model T was great for Grandpa, but we don’t want to drive one anymore. Instead, we’re always looking to the horizon to make what horses we produce better.”

AQHA Member Benefit Spotlight

Online research is one way to learn about American Quarter Horse bloodlines, but it’s not the only way. Take a trip to the American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame & Museum in Amarillo, where AQHA members get free admission! Experience Quarter Horse bloodlines and uncover cool information about this great breed up close and personal.