Neu Perspectives

Making the Grade

Photo by Kelli Neubert

No pedigree? No problem. Unregistered horses can be judged on factors other than what’s on paper.

Photo by Kelli NeubertPhoto by Kelli Neubert

A horse is a horse, of course.

Well, sort of.

Opinions are strong when it comes to personal preferences for specific breeds. In the Western world, the ever-versatile, strong, sensible and hardy American Quarter Horse reigns king. Yes, some people promote Paints, or Arabians, or Haflingers instead. But instead of focusing on which registry a particular horse belongs to, how about the horses that don’t have a link to any sort of lineage? Can the modest, unverified grade horse get a job done just as well as something that’s fabulously bred?

A grade horse is a horse whose breeding is undocumented and/or unidentified. Sometimes it applies to a horse that was once registered and the papers were misplaced. Sometimes a grade horse is one that’s qualified to be registered but the owner didn’t complete the necessary steps to do so. Often, though, it applies to a horse that is not eligible for registration with an association because of his unknown or mixed heritage.

In all honesty, I have no qualms about riding a grade animal. I’ve known some wonderful unpapered horses that have served faithfully in everything from competing in the timed event arena to packing out elk in the high country of Colorado. If a horse possesses specific traits that I desire in my horses (in conformation, manner of travel and personality), I don’t really care how it’s bred or if it’s even documented. However, because of the nature of our business and the advantages that come with owning and selling a papered horse, I generally won’t invest in a riding partner unless he/she has verified papers from a reputable association.

The advantages of owning a registered animal are pretty straightforward. The horse is eligible for breed-specific competitions, awards and incentives. The owner can research the confirmed bloodlines and have a better idea of what the animal is predisposed to be. This is especially helpful when buying young prospects. There are identifiable patterns and traits that are strongly linked to genetics, and knowing lineage will give a much better idea of what a horse may or may not be. There is also documentation proving the equine’s age and who raised it. Papers make it easier to prove ownership. And important to many, the resale value is higher with registered animals, especially when it’s through one of the more popular associations (AQHA, Jockey Club, APHA etc).

So, why go grade? Well, the bottom line is that they are generally cheaper. If the advantages to owning a registered horse don’t directly benefit your program, it makes sense to be open to owning something that’s grade. And hey, it saves on transfer fees and means a leaner stack of paperwork, too (less time in the office = more time in the saddle!)

There will always be breed-specific associations that push for purchasing registered horses. I own horses from several different registries and will continue to buy full-blooded stock.

That being said, I must admit—whether your mount boasts a black-tie pedigree or is a humble, simple, grade horse, the view from the saddle is pretty much the same.

And what a spectacular view it can be.

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