Sunday, February 28, 2010

It Is Not "All About the Color"

A few weeks ago, I came across an article about Pintabian horses entitled, "Its All About the Color".  While the article was very well written and quite a good synopsis in regard to the development of the breed, its title missed the mark.... by a hundred miles.

If, in fact, the Pintabian were "all about the color"... the breed itself would be completely unnecessary and totally redundant.  One could buy a tobiano Paint horse, Gypsy Vanner, Shetland Pony, Spotted Draft, any type of Pinto (all wonderful breeds in their own right), or select from any other breed which carries the tobiano spotting gene.  The type, conformation, disposition and pedigree would matter not... only the color.

Fortunately, the opposite is true.

Here at Frostfire Farm, we require all our horses to be, first and foremost, of sound mind and temperament.  Nothing less than a docile, friendly, intelligent and willing horse will do.  Our children handle these horses; their safety is our first priority.  We also appreciate the fact that our farrier and vet enjoy coming out here to our farm, because our horses are easy to work with and pleasant to be around.  Our trainer tells us that if everyone bred horses like ours, he would be out of a job; he raves about their intelligence and train-ability. Pintabian horses were, and still are, selectively bred for intelligence and quiet disposition. 

We select our breeding stock based on correct conformation, classic Arabian "type", and athletic ability in addition to the aforementioned disposition.  The good news for us is that classic Arabian type, correct conformation and athletic ability all tend to go hand-in-hand.  When you start with good stock, you are richly rewarded in the generations that follow. Quality begets quality.

Knowing the pedigrees of your horses, and the assets and liabilities in those pedigrees, is vital.  One can make far more knowledgeable breeding decisions when you know the genetics with which you are dealing.  I, for one, will not purchase a horse "eligible for registration"... only animals from reputable breeders, which are already registered with the Pintabian Horse Registry (or Arabian Horse Association, in the case of our Arabians).  Does the deal seem too good to be true?  You know the rest.  If a breeder does not have the integrity or faith enough in their own program to sign on the dotted line, attesting to the fact the horse they are registering is, in fact, the product of Sire X and Dam Y... is this really someone with whom you wish to do business?

The importance of  purchasing foundation stock from reputable breeders, keeping accurate and up-to-date records, and registering your animals with the established registry or association for your particular breed cannot be overstated.  If either a breeder or a registry is willing to "look the other way" in regard to parentage, transfers of ownership, parentage verification or any other aspect of record-keeping in order to make a sale or collect a fee, it destroys their credibility and brings into question the integrity of all involved, horse included.   A breeder must have absolute faith that the horse they purchase is truly a product of the pedigree it is said to represent.  In the absence of that faith, one is dealing with the unknown... and breeding that horse is a crapshoot.  That said, representing a horse as something it is not, especially a breeding animal whose value depends heavily on the genetics it will pass along to the next generation, is not only irresponsible... it is also illegal.

You will notice that I leave "color" for last.  It truly is at the bottom of the priority list in terms of my selection of breeding stock.  No matter how flashy a coat a horse may wear... if it cannot stand up next to a top-quality solid-colored horse of the same breed and compete on equal terms... if it is handicapped by poor conformation or a sour temperament... it has little value as a representative of the breed. 

That said, when you have a horse with a wonderful disposition, classic Arabian  type, good conformation, athleticism... and then add the glitz in the form of a wild, show-stopping coat pattern... then you truly have a "statement horse", and one built on a quality foundation.  Quality and color are not mutually exclusive, it is possible to have both.  One just needs to make thoughtful and responsible breeding and buying decisions in order to get there.

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