Sunday, March 18, 2012

Why Not Breed For Color?

There are a number of breeders that feature "color" in there breeding program.  This could be pinto coloring, knapstupper, palomino or buckskin.  It seems like a fun thing to breed for.  I personally love  Palominos.  Everybody has a favorite color. 

I tried adding dilutes into my breeding program.  I got 2 mares by Guaranteed Gold, a cremello Thoroughbred stallion that stands in Canada.  One was a palomino out of a nice hunter Thoroughbred mare and the other a buckskin Thoroughbred mare out of a mare by a well known "color" Thoroughbred.  My experience with those mares later. 

The problem that I see with the color breeders is that color becomes the most important criteria.  They always say that color is just one of many criteria but in my experience that's simply not true whether intentional or not.  They will breed anything of color to produce a baby with a pretty color. 

On one of the boards a well known breeder had bought a new mare with a gorgeous palomino color.  She was dark and dappled with a white mane and tail.  Sounds great, right?  Unfortunately no.  She was a registered Thoroughbred being bred to Thoroughbred cremello stallion.  Her conformation was really poor.  There should be a number of criteria for using a mare, conformation, movement, jump, height, show record, temperament, breed and look.  This mare had very poor conformation, movement unknown but with the conformation faults I would guess it wasn't good.  Jump, nobody even thought to ask or free jump her.  No show record, temperament unknown because she hadn't been ridden.  Thoroughbreds are fine to add into your program but they have to stand up to a higher standard then a warmblood.  To breed a Thoroughbred to a Thoroughbred for anything other then a race horse is foolish. The exception is a event horse using proven parents although adding some warmblood is seen more and more.   Height was a negative also, she was short.  The baby would have been either a cremello or a palomino.  Obviously, the offspring would have been headed to the breeding shed not the show ring. 

There is always a lot of talk about how the colored stallion adds temperament to the offspring and they are "all arounders".  It seems to be a really clever way to put off questions about why the babies aren't successful in the show ring.  They can say "The owners love them and choose not to show or they choose to only trail ride, etc".  This is a typical breeding for "color" breeders.  This is why looking in the USEF stats rarely will there be successful offspring from their program or from their stallions.  Colored breeders have a market primarily to other colored breeders because most show people will not touch a horse of poor quality even though the coat is a pretty color. 

I see it with Knapstuppers also.  Because there isn't many registered imported Knapstuppers in the US and people want spots they add into their program Appaloosas.  How exactly is adding Appaloosas into a warmblood program a good thing?  I do think that there are some nice sporthorse Appaloosa, like the Wap line but in general it seems to be any mare with spots will do.  They are chasing the elusive spot instead of the quality sporthorse.

There is a barn in my area Glenhill that has a young cremello Thoroughbred stallion.  Her outlook is very different from most of the colored breeders.  She will not breed Thoroughbred mares to her Thoroughbred stallion.  The offspring  of Thoroughbred to Thoroughbred breedings are only good for selling to other breeders for breeding stock, not for show horses.  We should all be breeding for competition not for breeding stock. She uses great quality warmblood mares.  She wouldn't have a mare such as the one mentioned above in her breeding program, period.  Her standards are high in regards to quality and they are unwavering.  She is extremely unusual in the colored breeding community.  I believe this will lead her to success.

Back to my color experiment.  I fell into the color trap of thinking that my stallions would improve the faults of the mares and I would get a nice buckskin or palomino baby.  Bad on my part, to be seduced by the color of a horses coat.  After a couple years and one baby I came to the realization that adding a poor quality mare into a high quality program is a really bad idea.  Yes, my stallion did improve the quality but really is that my breeding goals?  I want to breed the best to best to produce champions.  Not the best to poor to improve poor.  I culled all the colored horses from my program and learned an important lesson in quality.

Monday, March 12, 2012

How to Feed and Care For Your Baby

Recently I bought  a bunch of babies by my stallions by other breeders. It was enlightening to see the babies.  They all arrived within a few weeks of each other.  It seems like there is some confusion about how to feed babies and what is normal.  The babies arrived in very, very poor condition to pretty good condition.  Two came from experienced breeders that breed multiple horses a year and have been breeding for years.  One came from a show barn and 2 from Backyard people.  The two from breeders were extremely thin, one was sick and both had worms. Both had no interest in their surroundings and very little energy.  The vet diagnosed them as severely malnourished.  Both breeders thought the babies looked fine and it was business as usual. The body score was about a 2. 

 The two from backyard people, one was in very good shape and one was rough but fairly healthy although wormy.  The show person's baby was in good weight and looked fine.  All in all the backyard people and the show person did a reasonably good job. 

It occurred to me that no one thought they were doing a bad job.  I hope that the breeders didn't mean to starve their babies.  I think no one did any research on proper worming.   I think that if a breeder isn't critical of their own breeding, feeding, exercising, training, worming, and shot practices that this kind of apathy occurs and the horses suffer.

This is the first baby that arrived, from a breeder just a couple hours away.   This is almost a week after she arrived. She already had gained weight.  It's hard to see in a picture just how skinny she was. She had a very heavy baby coat probably trying to stay warm because I know that the amount of feed she was getting wasn't keeping her warm. There was no fat anywhere on this baby, just bones sticking out everywhere. We had to literally drag her to turnout everyday because it was an effort to walk. Forget leaving her out because a baby like this can't generate enough body heat to stay comfortable. She had a hernia that the breeder never noticed.  It was touch and go for awhile.  She was very wormy.  She had rainrot and a bacterial infection in both eyes that was so bad the eyes were almost closed.
Her knees touched she was so skinny.  Her feet were long, cracked and every hoof was different. She had an extremely thin mane with lots of dry skin.  She didn't trot for over a week she was so weak.  Here we are trying to hand feed her grass and she doesn't know what it is and is too sick to try it.  As a side note she came in a nylon halter which I don't recommend for a baby.   She was inches smaller then she should have been at her age.  If some unsuspecting person bought her and tried to ship her across the country I don't think she would have survived the trip.  Honestly it's hard to justify having a baby that looks like this.

That same filly not quite a month later on my usual baby program.
She's not perfect.  She needs weight, muscle, still needs more hoof work.  But my rule of thumb is that a baby that's been neglected will bounce back fairly quickly with the right program.  Sometimes after weaning a baby will get a potbellied appearance, not a good top line and a skinny neck that can just be a growth stage.  That will take months to fix as the baby just needs to out grow out of it.  If someone says that a baby took months to look better it's probably just a growth stage.  It happens to me sometimes and to every breeder.  Some babies are just not attractive from the time they are weaned until after the first birthday.  It's important to recognize the difference.  Inexperienced people will think it's because they are wormy or not taken care of.  Wrong! The above baby illustrates how fast the proper program can fix months of neglect fairly quickly. 

This is the same baby about 10 weeks after arriving. This is what a baby should look like and as another indication of her dire straights when she arrived is that she's grown inches.  She's still improving but it's a good illustration of what proper care looks like.

Now to talk about what I think the proper program is for babies.  Lot's of good quality hay, I feed Alfalfa and grass.  You need to keep the protein up on growing babies.  They also get a complete feed that's made in our area but I think Buckeye is a good quality feed as well as a couple other companies.  They have selenium salt blocks in the field and in the stalls. All the babies get a shot of Ese at birth because we are a selenium deficient area.  In the complete feed I put a few handfuls of All in One to help soak up the supplements.  With the baby I used, Dac oil, Weight Gain, she was on Ulcer guard for the first 2 weeks and then a digestive aid like Tract Guard. She gets TriAmino, Vitamin E and OCD pellets, free choice minerals by Progressive, vitamin B, MASS Builder, Body Builder, MSM and Recovery EQ. 

She was turned out starting at no mare then a few hours a day, she was so weak.  Then I forced her to hand walk for about 15 min twice a day in turnout.  Then progressed to longer and longer turnout.  Now she is turned out with the other babies all day long.  She gallops around, bucks and plays hard with the other babies.  She is self exercising as a healthy baby should. 

I waited about 5 days to worm her, I started with a double dose of Panacur.  Ascarids are the main  problem with babies under a year old.    The old owner gave her a double dose of ivermectin right before she shipped.  I'm thinking she never was wormed before that.   I've never heard of giving a double dose of ivermection.  It's not a recognized good practice that I've ever heard of.  Babies get ascarids and that's what your worming should target.  Ivermectin doesn't work with Ascarids. A double dose of Panacur works well for that.  I waited a couple of weeks and gave her Equimax.  She'll now go on the monthly worming program.  I just saw on a bulletin board were an experienced breeder had her babies on every other month worming.  This isn't the best practice.  I start at 6 weeks to 2 months starting with a double dose of Panacur then a month later I use Equimax and rotate monthly double dose Panacur and now Ivermection instead of Equimax.  Worming protocols change, it's important to keep up. 

Coat care, this baby had dry skin, dandruff and was a little rain rotty even though winter hadn't started.  The proper nutrition helped, good coats start from within.  First a bath with medicated shampoo. I body clipped to see what was under all the bad coat.  I spray on a  daily moisturizer and of course blanket. She is groomed properly 5 days a week which includes the following.  Lots of currying, a firm dandy brush followed by a soft dandy brush or body brush.  I then rag.  I apply the moisturizer and reblanket.  At night she wears a cotton sheet and a medium blanket over that.  During the day depending on the weather she wears either her blankets or if the weather is nice she wears a fly sheet. 

She sees a farrier every 3 to 4 weeks.  Babies will sometimes grow a hoof really fast and they need to see a farrier a lot.   

As a buyer I would be extremely careful of breeders that don't feed well either on purpose or by carelessness.  It indicates a thoughtless approach to breeding that probably crosses over into every aspect of their program to include mare care and breeding choices.  Ask for current pictures of the foals or see them in person.  There is a lot of talk about the yearling ulgies, I do think that sometimes babies go through a funky stage as I indicated above.  I think that sometimes the yearling uglies are caused by a lack of care.  A number of breeders think that withholding food is the way to go.  I think that withholding food will impact bone develop, muscling and height. I want to see healthy looking babies with not a lot of excess flesh but a reasonable amount of weight and muscle.   

It's takes some thought and in the beginning some trial and error to get a good program. But with the Internet there are a number of articles and blogs like mine outlining a tried and true program that makes it easy to just follow.  It takes effort and work but that's part of having babies.  Again, one of the most important things to a good program is to be critical of your practices and keep evolving to get the best results. You can't be barn blind about what the babies look like.  Also, be careful about the advice you get. Do your own research and use good judgement.  I'll post updated pictures in the show ring in a the next month or so.   

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Sucessfully Marketing Your Foal Part 3

I was reading a post from a hunter breeder on a popular forum who's gotten no interest in her foal.  The mare is by a well known hunter stallion and the foal is by a hunter stallion who's not so popular any more but fairly well known.  She was asking advice about why her foal has no interest at all.  This is some of the crazy advice she got.

One person said the video should be 10 minutes long and the ad should says things like "she loves to be scratched on her butt".  Many people said the video should be comprised of showing the suckling loading into a trailer,etc. This kind of advise is why people who want to be successful breeders shouldn't listen to random people on forums.  The people giving this advise never sell to "AA" show homes and this in part is why they don't.

The most important thing to show in a video is the quality of the baby.  What I think videos should show is the foal walk/trot/cantering in both directions if possible.  Pan the camera around the baby to show the correctness.  I usually put a few pictures at the front of the video. Pick a popular song to go with your video.  The whole video should take up a song length.  This is not always easy with a foal but do the best you can.  The video and pictures you show will attract different kinds of buyers.  If you post a video with your kids playing with foal you will more then likely not get show people interested.     Show people are interested in quality first.  The video should show off the foals quality.  Pick a time when the foal is moving and looking their best.  Remember no foal looks wonderful all the time, they go through funky stages.  When a foal is very butt high they will move with more knee action then normal.  The foals should arrive at his new home with good manners. There isn't a need to show ad nauseum a foal displaying good manners.   No one I know has the patience to sit through a 10 minute video of Pookie playing with a toddler.  While cute doesn't have much to do with whether or not they have a good temperment. 

Also, a lot of people mentioned figure out what sells locally.  Unless you happen to live in the middle of a big market like 5 minutes from the Wellington show grounds you shouldn't worry about the local market. In general if you are ONLY selling locally you are selling to a B market.  I don't think I've ever sold locally (within 50 miles).  Most of my foals sell into top homes around the nation.  Sometimes people fly out to pick the baby and sometimes they buy off a video or pictures.  Breeding and marketing for a local market is very limiting. 

There was a lot of talk about how foals don't sell.  That has more to do with the foal  or the marketing then anything.  Foals sell fine if you are producing and presenting  what  people want.  If your foal isn't selling figure out what you did wrong.  Did you pick the wrong stallion, the wrong mare, is it your marketing, your video, your presentation of the foal, your feeding program?   Also, a lot of people in that forum post that said trainers don't buy babies.  I think there are a number of trainers that do buy quality babies and sell them as a 3 or 4 year old.  Also, I have barns around the country that have a number of the clients buy babies.  It's a good way for trainers to have a barn full of really nice horses for a reasonable amount of money for their clients.  This year I had one hunter barn send me 4 clients, 3 bought yearlings and foals and the 4th is considering buying.   These are to replace going horses that are aging or not exactly what they wanted.

Use proper terminology for your babies. Use terms that a show person will understand.  Something I've noticed a lot lately is people using "inspection" terms incorrectly for their hunter babies.  I think maybe they don't understand the meaning of the mostly dressage words.  This is a red flag for some buyers, it will make educated buyers wonder if they don't understand hunters or if the babies aren't really hunter material.  I read someone who says that they are breeding hunters say they are looking for a stallion with "expressive movement".  They are saying they want a hunter that moves like a dressage horse.    I saw on an ad for a baby by a hunter sire that said the foal was an excellent mover because they had a "lofty trot".  What?? This is a dressage term.   I've seen hunter ads that say that the baby has lots of  hock action.  Exactly what isn't wanted in a hunter. I just saw an ad for a foal by a popular hunter stallion that says the yearling is "brave, fast and agile".  Having a fast and agile hunter is important to no one, I'm not surprised no one is interested in spite of the super low price. If she were selling a jungle cat people would be interested.  Know what what you are talking about when making an ad. 

To recap, make clean short video showing your foals quality not a lot of emotional stuff if you want to attract show people. Don't bother trying to attract a local market.   Use appropriate terminology in your ads, terms that fit your discipline.  Don't take advise from random forum people.  Hunter babies sell well, you just have to produce what people want and present them well which includes the use of smart marketing.

Monday, June 27, 2011

What's In A Name

Naming a warmblood foal has specific rules.  If your selling your foal it's more complicated.  Names can be very important for the new owners so that means it should be very important to get the name right. 

Every registry has it's own rules.  In general the warmblood foal needs a name that starts with the first letter of it's sire name.  For example Redwine and Romantic Star babies start with an R.  Some registries have different rules for fillies.  For example Holsteiner has the rule that fillies start with a different letter of the alphabet depending on the year.  So as an example if this year was C next year would be D and the year after E.  Some registries have the fillies first letter follow the dam's name.  If the dam was named Betsy her fillies would have names that start with a B. 

Having naming rules are an excellent way of tracking family traits.  People can generalize traits that lines are known for producing.  For example the "R" line is well known for throwing very rideable horses with good temperaments.  The "P" line can be temperamental  but they throw a great jump.  These are just general guidelines and individual horses should be looked at. 

At Gray Fox we put a lot of effort into naming our foals.  It's important on many fronts.  People are attracted to names.  As strange as it sounds a good name will attract some people to your foal.  Not to say they will buy based on a name but it's part of making your foal attractive.  For hunters one word names are very popular.  I like names that mean something so I use a lot of 2 word names as well.  The name should be easy to pronounce.  Funky spelling might seem clever but remember show announcers are going to be mangling your babies name at shows.  Everyone has their own likes and dislikes but some of my dislikes are the following.
Foreign names that no one can pronounce, spell or know what the heck they mean.
Long names that have 3 or 4 words.
Long names with a prefix, no one wants that.
Really bad names.
Super common names.
Names of famous horses, like naming your baby Man O'War. Very tacky.
Putting the sire and dams name together with no regard to what it sounds like.  Very Quarter Horsey.
People that change the name of a horse they didn't breed to have their farm prefix or suffix.
Putting another breeders prefix or suffix on your new foal.  For example Popeye K, the K is a breeder suffix.  When people name their foal Cutey K they are saying that the breeder of Popeye K bred their foal. 

When we name foals we look at the USEF recording to make sure that there aren't pages of the same name.  One page of USEF horses with the same name is reasonable.  Some of the horses are retired, some are sold, most will never be in the same ring as your horse. Try to pick a name that sounds right for your discipline.  Event horses have different sounding names then hunters.  Dressage horses seem to have a lot of German names.  Pick a name that fits in.

As  a breeder you should put some real effort in your foals name.  If you pick a great name there is a bigger possibility that the name will follow the foal.  This is important for tracking the foal during it's lifetime.  Pick a stupid name and it will be changed, sometimes multiple times during it's life.  Most of the names we pick stick with the horse.  Of course I don't take offense when someone changes the name, names are very personal. 

Just for fun these are some of the crazy names I've seen breeders name their foals.  They make me giggle but that probably wasn't the intent.  Promiscuous Phoenix, Flamboyent Fuerstin, Essesense of Presence and Ebony Gold Rosette (what does that even mean),    The list is endless.  Remember a name is the sometimes the first impression someone has of your foal, make it a good impression.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Updates at Gray Fox

It's been a busy few weeks.  Breeding season has started and we are shipping a lot.  We had a new baby Federalist/Record Performance, a big fancy chestnut colt with tons of chrome named Finger Paints.  Unfortunately I wasn't paying attention and got kicked in the chest by the new Mother.  Big Ouch.  Always watch maiden mares.  We are very smitten with the new colt, he's exactly what we are breeding for.  Big, beautiful, gorgeous movement, fantastic temperament, extremely balanced and athletic.  He Sold at 2 weeks to a repeat client in New York.  We couldn't be happier for them.  Picture below at 2 weeks.

Currently there are 4 mares in the barn under cameras for foal watch.  All are dripping white milk so  they should foal this week.  There are 4 more mares right behind them.  The mares on foal watch are Raintime in foal to Romantic Star, Debutante in foal to Romantic Star, Anemone Minnette in foal to Redwine and Radieschen in foal to Redwine.  The mares on foal watch get bathes, tails wrapped, manes pulled, face and legs trimmed.  Also, they are looked at by the farrier to make sure the feet are perfect before foaling.  It's stressful for the new Mothers to get there feet trimmed sometimes in the first few weeks so it's better if they are done right before foaling. 

We have a beautiful new broodmare Terlina, she's an imported Dutch Warmblood (Natal/ Damiro). I've had a couple people ask, she is not the daughter of the Brailizian brindle warmblood by the same name.  Her sire Natal is a wonderful jumper that was owned by VDL in the Netherlands.   She had a successful jumper career and she will make a wonderful cross with Redwine.  Pictures below of her. 

Rain Check (Redwine/Raintime) is getting ready to go to his home in Colorado, it's very sad.  He's was sold at a few weeks old but has been with us since birth and he'll be 2 this year.  He's a fancy black gelding, full brother to Ravenswood. This a picture that was taken this week.  His owner is excited to finally see him in person. 

It's finally not raining buckets so we are busily doing the spring cleaning on the mares. Most are turned out in grassy fields but they are being brought home in bunches to bathe, trim faces, legs, pull manes and clean and braid tails.  It's a HUGE job but worth it.  Also, all the yearlings even the ones that are sold need updated pictures and video.  So we are starting to do that. We have 5 yearlings leaving soon to go to new homes so they really need to be done.  Here is the first video of the yearlings,  Roseland (Redwine/Really Painted).  We are very happy with her beautiful hunter movement.  Roseland (Redwine/Really Painted) Oldenburg filly 

Thursday, March 17, 2011

How to Successfully Market Foals - Part Two

After reading and implementing  part one of how to successfully market foals you now have one or more beautiful babies on the ground and buyers are calling.   The following is how I present my babies.

First we'll talk about foals at the mother's side.  Both the mare and the baby have to be presented.  The mare should be in good flesh with a shiny coat.  This isn't something that you can do overnight.  I have lots of people flying in to buy babies from all over the country.  So my mares are kept with manes pulled and laying flat on the right side, tails braided to stop knots.  The only exception is the winter when the manes are allowed to grow because the mares are kept out in mare herds. It's warmer for them to have manes in the winter. Their faces are clipped and the legs are clipped.  I trim the ears a little on the mares but keep most of the hair inside the ears for flies.  The mares are naturally shiny in the late spring through fall and  if they aren't something is wrong.  Mares are examined daily and mares that aren't perfect are brought in for extra grain with oil and a couple different coat conditioners to insure shiny coats and a healthy weight. Always make sure the feet look good on the mares that you are showing.  We have a farrier that comes out every week, make sure the mare being shown in on the schedule for that week. We worm the mares every other month with rotating wormer.  The mares have to be clean, they don't need to have a bath but they should be groomed.  Mares with a lot of chrome or gray mares sometimes need a full bath. The mares should be presented in a beautiful clean leather halter and a solid dark lead rope.  The braid should be removed from the tail and the tail brushed.

The babies should be groomed and/or given bathes.  They should have their manes trained to lay on the right side, I use rubber bands and water.  Just be sure to take the braids out every other day and reapply. I start training the manes as soon as the manes are long enough to lay on the side.  The manes should be moisturized and pulled.   The babies should have the legs and face clipped.  If the coat looks awful, you need to body clip. Nothing beats a daily grooming on the babies.

 You should have the babies looked at monthly by a farrier, make sure a farrier sees the baby within a few days of the people coming.  The babies should wear a halter and lead.  This is really important, make sure you can walk up to the baby in the field and easy slip the halter on them.  Use a sunscreen on the babies, especially if they are clipped.  I also use a  coat moisturizer on the babies about 5 times a week.  You should be treating any scraps or bumps but go over them very carefully a week before the appointment to avoid any surprises.  Bumps get DMSO.  I also use the magnetic leg wraps and poultice alternating for bumps.  Rub the bumps as much as you can.  It's helpful to have two people when you are presenting a mare and foal.  Have an area to present the pair and then have an area to let them trot around.  When you are presenting them put hoof oil on both of them.  This is a good time to get pictures of the babies.

Presenting weanlings or yearlings are very similar to presenting sucklings.  The babies should be on a program of careful feeding, grooming, turnout, foot care and worming.  I worm the babies every month starting at a month old with a rotating wormer.  It's important to note that sometimes babies around weaning will get a pot bellied look.  This is normal for some babies.  I do a couple extra wormings and probiotic paste and suceed paste when this happens. Usually this doesn't change the pot bellied appearance if the baby has been wormed regularly.  Normally it's not that the baby is wormy or unhealthy, it's just that some babies get that look as they transition away from their mother.  They outgrow it in a few months and it's just a matter of waiting. 

I feed each baby alfalfa, red oat and grass hay free choice.  Plus Complete feed, a little all in one to hold the supplements in.  Top Line, MASS builder, coat conditioner, daily probiotic, flax seed, rice bran oil and life force.  They should be in good flesh.  I present them in the barn with sheets or blankets on.  It's nice to remove the blanket with the people there to show that they are well handled.  The babies should lead well, stand to be examined, stand to be sprayed, pick up their feet well.   They should be used to strange people walking up to them and touching them all over. I've had more then one buyer say that they looked at other farms and the babies refused to stand to be examined.  They spooked or reared or worse.  This is not okay, it forces the buyer to decide if the baby has a bad temperament or the breeder just doesn't have a clue about raising show babies. 

They should be turned out daily for at least 8 hours, 10 or 12 hours are better.   My babies are kept in baby herds during turnout.  I think it's healthier for them to play but one of the problems besides an occasional bump is tail eating.  We make a spray of 3 parts baby oil to 1 part Replast and spray it on the bottom of the tails twice a week.  Replast is a product to stop bandage chewing.   The tails aren't brushed just the shavings are picked out.  We only brush the tails after they are bathed and conditioned and they are being shown to prevent tail breakage.

It's a lot of work to show babies but it's all things the babies need to learn as future show horses.  It's also allows for you to sell babies to excellent show homes for great money.  It's  very rewarding to send babies off in great condition to start their new lives. 

Monday, March 7, 2011

How To Pick the Perfect Hunter Stallion for Your Mare

Picking a hunter stallion for your mare is as much an art as it is a science.  At Gray Fox Farm we want a hunter that is beautiful and has that "hunter look". We want  an above average mover that has a beautiful jump, a great temperament, excellent long term soundness, is an optimum height and has good saleability.  So we look at the individual mares with a critical eye and try to improve faults without losing the good qualities.  Remember no horse is perfect.  If you think your horse is then you aren't being critical enough. 

 There was  an article a few years back that asked 3 top hunter trainers what they want in a hunter prospect and all three said beautiful as an important criteria. One extremely well known trainer said it counted for 60% for him.   I think that if a breeder is breeding for the hunter market the babies should be beautiful.  A good head is very important to me.  It doesn't have to be tiny but it should be an attractive shape and fit the horse. It makes people  happy to see a beautiful head looking at them over the stall door.   I want a correct baby, it's attractive and more importantly it's an indicator of future soundness.  Because of that I  want to see the stallion in person or see it moving toward me on a video.  I saw a  stallion video recently and when the young stallion came toward the camera he was winging so bad it looked like he was hitting the ring wall sideways.  No bad winging, it's extremely ugly.  I don't like horses that toe in or out if possible.  That said I don't breed for Hunter Breeding classes.  I breed for hunter classes but I want the babies to have the quality to show in the Hunter Breeding classes while waiting to start their undersaddle career.  I don't know of any hunter breeder who breeds exclusively for the Hunter Breeding classes, everyone has the horses future performance in mind.

I don't ignore movement.  It isn't just for the one hack class but also in between the jumps.  A great mover will be noticed.  I think that even 10 years ago that movement wasn't  as important as it is now.  I personally think it's a BIG mistake to only think about the jump.  Buyers want the whole picture.  I believe that a breeder who says movement isn't important to them is not understanding the modern hunter market. It should be a warning sign that maybe other things aren't being considered also.  If you aren't producing good moving hunters I guarantee the next breeder is.  Movement sometimes is elusive and you can be surprised either way.   Its important to remember that sometimes mares or stallions produce better movers then themselves.  In breeding animals what they produce is much more important then how they perform.  By good movers I mean free shoulders and flat knees and a horse that uses themselves behind .  There should still be suspension and swing through the back.  A tense topline and a raised head will make even a good mover look bad.  I want them to move naturally in a hunter frame.  Of course a big step is important to make the lines.

I hear people say just breed to a jumper stallion, it works in Germany.  That's true that Germany produces a lot of hunters, accidentally.  But what most of people that say just breed to a jumper are "forgetting" is that most of the time Germany is getting what they bred for which is jumpers.  If the goal is to get 90% jumpers and 10% hunters it's a good formula for you.   If you breed only for jump without considering movement, beauty and temperament it's very easy to accidentally breed a jumper prospect instead of a hunter prospect.  That's not to say that there aren't stallions in Germany that are well know for throwing the movement and jump we want for hunters.  

Consider the height of the mare and stallion.  It's not always as easy as breeding a small mare to a big stallion.  Try to figure out what the height the mare and stallion are producing. In general breeding a 17.0hd mare to a 17.1hd stallion isn't a great idea.  You could easily end up with a 17.3hd baby. Much too big for the hunter ring.  I look at sales ads for the mature height of offspring.  There is a well known hunter stallion that produces 15.2 to 15.3 hd offspring very frequently.  It's easy to recognize that by doing just a little research on the big sales sites.  That is in general an undesirable height.  If you recognize it before the breeding a large mare can be used  with a better result. It's helpful to know what you mare produces height wise before making a decision.  I have a small mare that always produces height, so much that I have to be careful not to produce too large a mature horse with her. 

Bloodlines can be confusing.  Many dressage bred warmblood stallions and mares produce beautiful hunters.  Remember most warmblood stallions are tested in Germany and jumping is a criteria.  I have never seen a dressage horse that didn't have jumper blood.  Very few dressage stallions are what we call jump killers and those stallions are very well known.  That means that many, many dressage lines also produce fabulous hunters.   Also, the different warmblood breeds are confusing to people. The successful hunter breeders that I see breed for type instead of a certain breed.  That means that if you have a biggish broodmare herd you could have like I have, Dutch Warmbloods, Hanoverians, Oldenburgs, Trakehners, Thoroughbred and Holsteiners. All in one broodmare band.  The one thing I will not do is breed a jumper to a jumper because I would most likely get a jumper. 

I think something that a lot of people ignore is soundness in the stallion.  There are a lot of hunter stallions that broke down in the hunter ring.  It's not the end all but it's definitely something to consider.  Ask why the stallion isn't performing and ask if he's sound now.  I believe that a hunter stallion should be sound enough to do the job.  Some warmblood breeds want xrays on stallions before approving them.  Don't believe that those stallions are more sound.  Some of those broke down in one season or less. 

Temperament is very important.  A horse with a good temperament will always find a job.  There are some hunter stallions that don't produce a good temperament.  Does that mean that you definitely don't use them? No, but you should proceed with caution.  I remember a couple years ago their was a stallion in the 70 day test that was a pistol.  He reared over in front of the camera and was even worse when the cameras weren't on.  This should have given hunter people pause.  Another stallion in the testing refused repeatedly in front of the camera.  Both stallions were marketed as hunters but both seemed to have some temperament problems.  I would only pick a saint of a mare to breed to a stallion with a questionable temperament.  I would ask myself if the stallion threw his temperament would I be proud to present the baby?  If I was breeding something beside hunters the temperament probably wouldn't be such a big deal. 

There are many wonderful hunter stallions.  Just remember to look at all the facets of what makes a top hunter and breed accordingly.