Breeding

Replacing the Irreplaceable, Part 3

The McWhirters carefully bred for their successor sire and got exactly what they wanted in Part 3 of this series.

From The American Quarter Horse Journal

Be sure to read Part 1 and Part 2 of this series to learn about choosing a proven stallion and choosing a young or unproven stallion.

Breeding a Successor

In 1984, a close friend approached Dan and Carol McWhirter about finding an investment stallion. What they found was The Big Investment, a 1980 stallion by The Invester and out of The Country Girl by Lad’s Zero.

“The Big Investment was 16 hands and a striking, absolutely beautiful animal that was a unique mover and could do the hunt seat and the western,” Carol recalls. But it was his foals that most impressed the McWhirters. “We could see from the beginning that he was prepotent,” Carol says. “His colts all looked alike: real pretty headed and great toplines. They looked like cookie cutters.” They brought the stallion to their Doniphan, Nebraska, farm and began their first venture in the breeding business. But at the end of the second breeding season, The Big Investment died of colic. It was not only a huge loss to the McWhirters but also to the Quarter Horse industry. Out of 129 foals in five crops, The Big Investment sired 75 performers earning 75 Register of Merit and averaging 64 points each. He also sired 32 AQHA Superior performance horses. Dan often told people that after the stallion’s death, the couple almost decided to quit the horse business. But they didn’t. Having had what they considered the perfect sire, the McWhirters were determined to find another like The Big Investment.

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“When The Big Investment died, we had based our breeding program on him,” Carol says. “You can’t get to what you want until you know what you want. By having The Big Investment first, we knew what we wanted.” What they wanted was a sire that would produce foals with a level topline, tall withers, a strong, driving hock, a flat knee and a level neck that doesn’t bob. They also wanted foals with a cadenced, clean rhythm to their gaits and a level growing pattern. “The Big Investment’s colts looked like miniature adults,” Carol says. “They were beautiful as babies. As yearlings, they would win the yearling halter futurity classes, and then as 2-year-olds, they would ride perfectly. They never changed during any of those stages. They just grew as complete packages. So that is what we are trying to reproduce.” In their search for The Big Investment’s replacement, the McWirters looked at several horses, including the stallion’s full brothers. “The full brothers were very good horses, but they weren’t what we wanted to recreate,” Carol says. “Our picture on the wall was the 16-hand, balanced horse that could do both English and western equally well, which in today’s marketplace would be the quintessential all-around horse. These horses were not that.” So the McWhirters decided to go with a son of The Big Investment and also added a son of Zippo Pine Bar, Zippos Mr Good Bar, to their barn. “When ‘Good Bar’ came into our lives, we kind of set aside recreating The Big Investment,” Carol says. That was until The Invester, the sire of The Big Investment, same up for sale. Although The Invester was not an exact duplicate – he was only 15 hands, was a little higher in the hip and his withers were not as big – he “wrote the textbook on what hocks are supposed to be.” In an attempt to create the ideal sire, the McWhirters decided to breed The Invester to daughters of The Big Investment.

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“We bred The Investor to his granddaughters time and time again in hopes of getting a replacement horse for not only The Big Investment but also The Invester,” Carol says. “Every time I bred The Invester this way, I got just what I wanted. I got the tall withers and I got The Invester hocks, which were stronger than The Big Investment’s.” But before venturing into this method of linebreeding, Carol did her homework and watched her foals closely for any genetic defects. “Now, granted, in the hands of novice breeders, it’s a dangerous thing, but if you do it right, it can serve the breeder well,” she says. “I was doing 62.5 percent of blood to The Investor, and I got no recessives.” What she did get was the successor sire she had hoped for. In 1995, Absolute Investment, who is out of Investment Ms by The Big Investment, was born. He is well on his way to following in his father’s and grandfather’s footsteps. Out of 312 foals in thirteen crops, he has produced 92 performers with 51 earning performance ROMs and nine AQHA Superior performance horses. “I got my replacement horse for both sires in Absolute Investment,” Carol says. “I am so lucky to have him because he is both horses in one. I got what I wanted, and he’s stamping his foals. I got a horse that may be better than either parent. It’s unbelievable.” The McWhirters have developed a solid philosophy to breed form to function. This thinking has enabled them to be fortunate enough to always have a successor sire in the wings waiting for his chance to shine. “I caution people in picking a replacement stud to go beyond the horse’s looks,” Carol says. “Just because a horse looks good on the outside doesn’t mean that he’s going to pass on his greatness. That has to be determined. The proof is in the pudding when you get those first colts on the ground.”

Editor's Note: In 2010, after more than 30 years of breeding Quarter Horses, the McWhirters decided to retire. They left a lasting legacy in the performance horse world.