Horse-Breeding Bloodlines: Old or New?

In Part 1 of this series, examine the positives of adding foundation Quarter Horse bloodlines into the modern-day horse-breeding program.

From The American Quarter Horse Journal

Need something new in your breeding program? Then consider adding something old. Once was a time when the American Quarter Horse did it all. In the ’50s and ’60s, it wasn’t unusual to find a Quarter Horse showing in halter in the morning, western and English classes in the afternoon and then back home in the evening rounding up cattle. As times changed, though, so did the Quarter Horse. As showing became more discipline-specific, it became advantageous to have a Quarter Horse that performed his particular job better in the show arena. However, it also had its drawbacks. In some cases, bones and joints became more fragile, hoof sizes shrank and dispositions became hotter.

Many Quarter Horse breeders are looking back to the tried-and-true traits of older bloodlines for today’s horses. Deborah Skow of Horizon Quarter Horses in Keenesburg, Colorado, and John Anderson of Willow Creek Quarter Horses in Plainview, Nebraska, are doing just that.

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“When the original founders of the organization were establishing the Quarter Horse registry, I think they were trying to separate it from the other breeds of horses. They wanted an all-around horse that could do everything. However, we’ve been moving away from that as an industry,” says Deborah, who has been breeding Quarter Horses with her husband, Charles, for more than a quarter of a century. “For our program, we want that versatile, all-around athlete with a good disposition.” John’s breeding program focuses on producing a horse that can work. “We run a 15,000-head feedlot and an 800-head cow ranch, so our main focus is a true cow horse. But many of today’s cutting and reining horses are not true working outfit-type horses,” John says. “We’re one of the few outfits that don’t have any four-wheelers. We still have 12 to 14 geldings saddled every day to check pens and drive cows. So we need a horse from 14.3 to 15 hands. But a horse smaller than 14.3 has a problem in rodeo ranch-type country.”

Considerations for Your Horse-Breeding Program

Before they choose a foundation-type stallion or broodmare for their breeding program, Deborah and John have a target in mind of what they hope the end result will be. “We are pretty picky about what we like and will usually sit down and go carefully over what was produced the previous year,” says Deborah, whose 11 breeding stallions are mostly Poco Bueno- or Doc Bar-bred. “We will go over what we liked about the individual foals, especially after we’ve gotten through the halter breaking part and so forth.

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“We then ask ourselves, ‘Is this the best cross that we’ve seen this mare ever have? Is this the best nick for her?’ Some of our mares are fortunate that they just rarely make a bad cross with various stallions. Others, however, have a better mix on one stallion than another.” Deborah then considers what improvements might be made. “I like to look at the individual and consider, do I need to breed more bone into this horse or maybe we need a little bit more foot? That’s something we might be looking at when picking out some of these foundation horses to breed to a more modern-bred horse.” John also wants to ensure that the foal born next year is the same as the foal that was produced this year. “We want to turn out a consistent product,” John says. “We don’t want to be all over the board in our breeding program. What we want is when somebody sees one Willow Creek Quarter Horse gelding, they’ve seen all of them.” For John, that means a horse with a sound mind, no buck and athletic ability. “But No. 1 for us is a good disposition,” he says. “And I feel some of the older bloodlines are more inclined to that.” How else do John and Deborah balance vintage and modern bloodlines? Check back next week for Part 2, which will discuss this handy horse-breeding information.