Knowing the bloodlines on a horse’s papers can lend clues about it’s potential.
I know that genetics aren’t everything. Even in my own family, there are four of us kids and we all look differently, behave differently and have varied strengths, personalities and interests. We grew up in the same situation and share the same genetic pool, but have pursued different passions and boast diverse talents from one another. I suppose we’ve got common threads and similarities, but for the most part, we each find fulfillment, excitement and success in various ways.
That being said, why do genetics play such a huge role for many of us to find the right sort of equine partner? I ask, as I’m just as guilty as everyone else on the importance of appealing bloodlines. I absolutely adore learning about breeding, foundation sires and dams in specific programs, and magic crosses. I love the possible combos for size, strength, color, cow-sense and trainability within different lines of stallions and mares. Of course, because Luke and I start so many cutters, most of my genetic knowledge and exposure lies in the modern-day cutting horse bloodlines, but I’m just as crazy about and committed to learning more on barrel horses, cow horses, reining horses, ranch bloodlines, and yes, even Welsh ponies and Gypsy Cobs.
The more I learn, the more fascinating equine genetics become to me. See, the horse is not a necessity to most people in the modern day world. We have bred them to specifically perform in different areas and arenas, and we’ve been able to modify just about any trait we wanted to over the years. Different ranchers and breeders have pursued their personal visions and created a reality from their dreams of what direction they want their horse programs to move toward. Yes, this sometimes means making tough cuts on mares and studs, and having a lot of patience, as the results from crossing certain horses to each other won’t be proven until years down the road. But from the possible color combos that can be attained from breeding a certain stud to a mare, to the goals envisioned and talents realized in breeding programs via specific bloodlines and traits, I just don’t think there is much more of an interesting science than that of improving our beloved equine athletes.
Here at home, we’re just at the base of the mountain of colt starting season, and to be honest, it’s both a stimulating and weary time of our year. We’ve got heaps of colts and fillies that need specific attention, routines and time with us to begin the mold of what they’ll go on and be in the next few years. Some will stay through the fall, but most cycle through, getting their initial ground manners and under-saddle education, only to be a fit for someone else’s specific program after they leave our little place.
And see, as a self-proclaimed, die-hard equine genetic nerd, one of the biggest perks of my job is having a first-hand insight into the patterns of different bloodlines. Because a lot of our customers raise their own colts, we get to ride horses out of the same mares year after year. We get to compare and contrast how certain mares cross on different studs. Shoot, sometimes we start brothers and sisters out of the same mare, by different stallions. And when we don’t know what something is, it’s fun to make predictions. And of course, we secretly have our picks and hold high hopes for those that stick out as possible performance horse prodigies, both on paper and in the physical form.
To make a long story short, this time of year is an incredible reminder of how to create a more phenomenal animal out of the already phenomenal horse. Between picking a stallion for the upcoming breeding season and starting brothers and sisters that will become the athletes we’ve known from years past, it just doesn’t get much better for a genetics nerd like me.
Because shoot, I understand, a good horse is a good horse. We’ve all got our preferences and most definitely, genetics aren’t everything.
But they sure do help us when it comes to spending our hard-earned money on a prospect we want to get excited about!