January 31, 2012
One of the strengths that The American Quarter Horse Journal has is its contacts with American Quarter Horse breeders, and we pack each issue with those contacts.
Let’s face it – American Quarter Horse breeders are the lifeblood of this Association. If it wasn’t for a breeder, you wouldn’t be sitting tall and proud aboard that American Quarter Horse you love so much.
The breeders are the horse folks out there making the tough decisions, putting great horseflesh underneath you. Who knows, maybe you’re a breeder, too. Whatever’s the case, The American Quarter Horse Journal loves to introduce these breeders to you.
When you look at horses produced by leading breeders like Rita Crundwell or Carol Rose, do you wonder what the secret is to their success? You’ll find insight to questions like that in the pages of the Journal.
A Blue Hen
For a lot of breeders, the winning ingredient is the mare.
“I look at the mare first as an individual,” says Donna Davis of Uniontown, Alabama, breeder of Raise Your Weapons and Friendswithbenefits, the weanling colt and filly winners of the inaugural Breeders Cup Halter Futurity in Des Moines, Iowa. “ ‘Where would I like to change her and make her better in her conformation?’ And then I try to pick stallions that I think are strong in that area. My main goal is to produce a foal that is better than the mare I intend to breed.
“A common mistake I’ve seen people make is to breed to a stallion simply because it is a ‘good deal,’ someone gives you a stud fee or you buy a leftover auction breeding, or you have a rebreed on another mare,” Donna says. “Those are fine, as long as that stallion also happens to be what you think will be the best match for your mare.”
Donna’s is a story of a small-time breeder finding success in one mare.
Donna bought Mcskip Me, a 1992 mare by Cool Mcskip and out of MBJ Spot Me by Mr Impressive, bred by Sonny Thomison and Ray Logan.
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“Everyone told me that you could not do it with one mare,” she recalls. “You cannot raise babies that go to futurities and the World Show with one mare. Some people will have 50 mares and maybe raise four or five they can show.”
But one mare was all Donna could afford. She bred her mare to Touchdown Kid his first year at stud for a 1999 filly she named Wont Touch Me.
“I took her to every futurity I could, and I won every one.” Donna says. “I went to the World Show and won the amateur mares, and she was reserve in the open.”
Donna and AQHA 20-year breeder James Kifer of Hartselle, Alabama, offer great insight in “Futurity Parents” on Page 94 of the February Journal.
“There are a lot of people who will keep breeding a mare when they really might need to sell her and get a better broodmare,” says James, who is the all-time leading breeder of halter winners.
“I don’t know how to say it politely, but people will hang on to and keep breeding a mare because they showed her or they raised her, when she’s not producing,” James says. “They often just keep trying to make her work, and she may never work. Look at her babies: If you’ve got two or three of them out there and you don’t like any of them, it might not be the stallion’s fault!”
From the halter ring to the ranchlands of South Dakota, choosing a good broodmare is a tried and true breeding practice.
“We have tried to put together certain genetics, certain bloodlines that work with our program,” says Joni Hunt. Joni and her husband, Jim, own and operate Open Box Rafter Ranch near Faith, South Dakota. “(We breed for) horses that we would like to ride and horses that our kids want to ride. In the past, especially, we would seek out particular mares that would complement what we were trying to do.”
“The things we look for in a stallion are the same things breeders looked for 50 years ago: That’s soundness, good mind, versatility, and we pretty much have been raising most of our own stallions,” Jim adds. “You start at the feet and work your way up. Good bone, good feet and then the last thing you should look at as far as a riding horse is the head.
“A lot of old timers, the horse breeders with wisdom, they’ll say that a mare is 75 percent of what you get as far as the offspring,” Jim says. “So we’ve concentrated very hard on our broodmares.”
In economic times like these, it’s not just exhibitors who are feeling the monetary crunch; it’s the breeders, too.
“Coming in to 2011, me and Daddy were pretty worried,” says Ryan Robicheaux, manager of Robicheaux Ranch, in “Making Runners” on Page 186 of the February Journal. “Three years ago, we bred right at 800 mares. But that’s kind of dwindled down. Last year – this same time a year ago – we were worried; 2011 wasn’t our best year, but it turned out better than we thought it was going to be. This year, we kind of have the same feeling. We had a lot of owners that had one or two mares, and some of those people have sold their mares and don’t have any more. It’s like everything else these days: It costs too much. We’re losing some of those other owners with one or two mares in their backyards at home, and their numbers can hurt you the most. I hate to lose them, but I understand when they have to get out.”
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However, AQHA and stallion owners try to find ways to encourage growth and give back.
When Diane Chilton-Harper of Pilot Point, Texas, purchased her AQHA stallion, Radical Rodder, she says there was never any question that her stallion would participate in the AQHA Incentive Fund.
“There was no decision whatsoever,” Diane says. “If you want to have show horses at the national level, they need to be in the Incentive Fund. I nominate my stallions to whatever programs are available, because I want those foals to be as positioned as possible. You have to do the most you can for the mare owners who do business with you.”
Before she started breeding Radical Rodder, Diane sought out show horses to purchase that were enrolled in the Incentive Fund.
“We bought horses to show specifically with the Incentive Fund in mind,” she says in “A Bigger Incentive” on Page 68, which provides an in-depth look at the Incentive Fund program. “The way I looked at it was, it was free money, so why not take advantage of it?”
Candace Jussen is a horsewoman who has a lot to be thankful for. In an amateur spotlight on Page 100, the Pilot Point, Texas, breeder remembers one unforgettable year, when her homebred stallion, Mister GQ, had five foals perform outstandingly at the AQHA World Championship Show: two won championships, one earned a reserve championship, and the others were third and fifth on judges’ cards
Of all of her success, Candace says that the achievement she’s most proud of is Mister GQ .
“He’s the best example of generations of my breeding program and exemplifies what I’ve tried to accomplish in looks, temperament and attitude,” she says.
Just to prove that she and Mister GQ can do more than produce halter horses, Candace and her stallion paired up in non-pro western pleasure at the Solid Gold Show. “He was 3 years old and had won AQHA World Championships in halter, and everyone thought I was crazy to ride him in competition. It was rare for a halter horse, but it was something I did on my own that I’m proud of. And a couple of years later, he was the AQHA world champion aged stallion.”
Not to mention, Candace and Mister GQ won that western pleasure class.