It's only fair since we discussed good mothering mares last month that we would discuss great producing sires in June, right?
Let's face it, every magazine you pick up has a wide selection of impressive looking stallions who are topping the charts in their discipline. When it’s time to select a sire for your breeding program, all those beautifully designed ads start to run together. It's almost overwhelming to narrow the national, international, sexed, non-sexed, crazy long list of sires into...the one.
The one who is going to give you a better foal than last year or is going to improve your herd's genetics. And while you may be dreaming of raising the next Jordan, Undulata, Chrome or Doc, honestly, every breeder, everywhere, really wants just one thing. Improvement. More bone, more speed, better movement, more athleticism. We all want a healthy foal, but preferably one that sits nicely in front of the backdrop and looks good in purple and tricolor.
As a breeder, of any size, improvement is always the goal.
Just like making an investment, and wanting a good return, you must put the effort into your breeding program. There is no guarantee or promise you will get a great return but like any investment the more effort you put into your decision the better your chances are.
Where to start? Be diligent.
Most owners struggle with this next step but if you want better, you need to look at what you already have. Analyze and access your mare. Where is her strength? Where is her weakness? What would you change? What negative comments do you get consistently from judges? Make a list of the attributes you would change to give her better performance. Second, be realistic.
Perception and knowledge can really affect the usefulness of this list. If your judgement is softened by how much you love your mare, or lack of experience, get a Qualified second opinion. Don’t expect more from your mare than she can give, your feminine, fine boned mare is not going to throw you a draft horse. Know her breed and structure and what she can produce in her offspring. Lastly, if your mare truly can’t deliver what you are looking for, consider spending the money you would invest in breeding into purchasing or using your mare as a recip. Rather than being disappointed and ending up with a foal that won’t meet your needs or expectations, there may be one out there waiting for you.
New or Same? Be deliberate.
Before you can select a stallion, you must ask yourself which way do I want to go? New or old? The answer to this question will narrow your search and should be deliberate based on the direction you want to go. Most breeders make this decision based on where their breeding program but as a small breeder, you can make this decision simply on preference of the many benefits both offer.
Line breeding and close breeding create the genetics in some of the top horses in the country in every breed, industry and discipline. Offering a chance to take something great and finish the rough edges right off. It tends to take the best characteristics of an animal and solidify them, etching them into every progeny that follows in their line. That would be the double-sided sword of line breeding, what is good and what is bad is now concreted in. Close breeding has some advantages but is not recommended and can result in possible deformities and other health issues.
Like one of those investments that has high stakes but high returns, picking a stallion with completely different blood lines can be a little risky. As an industry, we tend to lean back on what everyone else is using or what has worked with our farm’s lines because its comfortable and safe, offering a cookie cutter experience that grants us a foal “like” something we’ve already had or seen that is proven. However, reaching out beyond what everyone else is doing, and introducing “new blood”, can sometimes be risky but often have great rewards. Creating a brand-new look, one the judges love, one that outperforms, and out runs its competition. One that doesn’t look like everyone else and maybe that is what you are looking for. The tricky thing about new and different, people are never sure if they love it or hate it when it first shows up.
Do Your Homework
You have your list of attributes and know your direction. It's time to find the sire with all the right pieces. Watch videos, find competition videos, not just the ones posted by the owner or semen service. Call or Facebook people to find out what they think of his foals. (Hint: look up his progeny records in your association and see if you know anyone). If you have the opportunity, go see him. Don't skimp in the areas where your mare is already good. Find a stallion that has those same great traits, chances are, it will not overcompensate those qualities as much as make sure you don't lose something in that area.
Be diligent. Be deliberate. Be involved.