September 23, 2011
Five things to consider before hitting the campaign trail with your stallion.
From The American Quarter Horse Journal
But how do you add that show record to the package?
A stallion owner or manager might see great conformation and athletic ability in a young colt, but it can be a real challenge to uncover the youngster’s capability to focus on a show discipline – or just about anything, that is, except what stallions naturally focus on!
Or, if the horse is unusually mature, ready, willing and able, there’s the challenge of finding a trainer who suits the horse and a show schedule that is compatible with a limited breeding schedule. The most successful campaigns set reasonable goals that everyone involved can support and work toward.
So where to begin? For suggestions, we recruited two horsemen who have successfully campaigned unproven stallions: Bill Myers of Myers Training Stables in St. Onge, South Dakota, home of the legendary Frenchmans Guy; and Chance O’Neal, trainer at the historic Four Sixes Ranch at Guthrie, Texas. They offered down-to-earth, reality-based suggestions.
“If you’re going to take your stud out on the road to promote him,” Bill says, “you’d better have a pretty good idea that he’s going to do something special, or it’s just best not to campaign him at all.”
Here are the five important considerations that a stallion owner should address before heading out on the campaign trail.
Chance rode Sixes Pick to AQHA’s first versatility ranch horse world championship. On both the top and bottom of Sixes Pick’s pedigree (Tanquery Gin-Natural Pick by Tenino Badger), he represented important Four Sixes cow horse bloodlines that the ranch likes to promote. Top bloodlines are marketable, and a stallion owner should be familiar with his stallion’s pedigree.
When it came to athletic ability, the sorrel stallion could easily do all the things a versatility ranch horse must demonstrate in competition: trail, cutting and ranch work.
“He’s a natural athlete,” Chance says, “And I was lucky: Joe Wolter put the early training on him, then I got to have all the fun.”
The Horseback Riding Program is designed to reward AQHA and AQHYA members who spend time riding American Quarter Horses as well as other horse breeds.
In competition, Chance knew that if the stallion stayed near the top in the versatility standings in performance, he was a top contender to win the ranch conformation, and in 2008, Sixes Pick did just that, clinching the world title.
There’s no substitute for athletic ability and solid conformation, and no way to disguise it if it’s not there. But perhaps the most important characteristic of all is invisible to the eye.
Both trainers think a stallion’s temperament is crucial to a successful campaign.
“Each horse is an individual,” Bill says. “You need to adjust your training program to strengthen his weaknesses and bring out his best. But if you plan to campaign while breeding him, a good mind is a necessity.
“You need to establish control and discipline before you start any campaign,” he adds. “One stallion that we’re campaigning now, A Smooth Guy (Frenchmans Guy-Docs Movida by Dry Doc), has always been a mellow, easy-to-get-along-with colt, so I felt we could breed him on a limited basis as a 3-year-old, while taking him to roping events. It has worked well, so we’re planning to enter him in AQHA events in the future.
The Right Trainer
Bill suggests that if an owner is not personally showing the colt, that owner needs to do some homework before selecting a trainer to campaign him.
“It’s important that they handle your horse the way you want,” he says. “And that the trainer is compatible with your horse and likes him. We’ve all heard stories about colts that were sent away, then didn’t get ridden. If a trainer doesn’t like your horse in the first place, it’s just human nature for them to (instead) saddle up and ride a horse they like better. It’s essential that you trust your trainer.”
Bill also suggests that owners make themselves familiar with a trainer’s skills.
Print out an Hourly Log Sheet and log the hours you spend in the saddle, then submit those hours online or mail in the Hourly Log Sheet by December 31 each year to receive prizes for being a part of the Horseback Riding Program.
Pick a Schedule
Both Bill and Chance say scheduling a young stallion’s limited breeding season amidst a demanding show schedule is a delicate balance.
“Some people rush horses to suit the calendar rather than the horse,” Bill says. “Frankly, a lot of horses are wrecked by the futurity schedule and just can’t go on to have a full, long-lasting career and a productive life.
“People using their horses for rodeo and ranch seem to look more at the long view,” he observes. “I like to see horses trained with less hurry-up and more thought to longevity. A seasoned, finished barrel horse is worth a lot: $100,000-plus. If your young stud is breeding and needs a little time off the road, give it to him. In the long run, it’s well worth it.”
Chance notes that the breeding season for ranch horses at the Four Sixes is usually the end of March until June. So early in the year, he works with Dr. Glenn Blodgett, the ranch’s horse division manager, to plan a show schedule for his performance stallions that allows for collection every other day.
Communicate Your Goals
Finally, Bill suggests that owners and trainers discuss the goals of their stallion’s campaign. Plan a breeding and show schedule that is compatible with keeping the horse happy and healthy, and your clients satisfied.
Like studying a roadmap before a trip, the best path to the goal will become apparent with everyone on the same page. Then, keep the lines of communication open and your eyes on the prize.
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