Get on board with breeding right now. This is one of the most overlooked and under respected areas of the horse show industry we have today, and that needs to change immediately. Breeders are very passionate about breeding, but every single person that attends a horse show needs to figure out how to look past that excitement and really learn what to look for. Learn what works, what doesn’t work, without expecting to get an education overnight. It will take as long as your college education to even grasp the conformation of babies. You will observe until your eyes melt, ask questions, roll your eyes in frustration, and then go back and observe again.
What is happening in Europe is very, very real. It is very scary. With the influx of several hundred thousand more mouths to feed, horse breeders are going to have to make some really difficult decisions that they do not want to make, and it will not be their fault. Every belt will be tightened while this is happening, and every future decision will have to be more deliberate. You think it has been getting more and more difficult to find horses over there lately? just wait, it will get even harder in the next few years.
It does not take rocket science to see we are not utilizing our resources very well to promote breeders enough. Personally I want to see massive incentives for breeding, and not make it so difficult and expensive for them to get their business done, stallions promoted, babies shown. If we can do it for pre-green horses, we can do it for baby horses.
If you are a trainer on the A circuit, send your students to the hunter breeding classes. If you are a parent, with a kid who has nothing to do one day, or one month in the spring and summer, kick them onto a farm to add a hand during foaling season. Or even if you are not involved in showing at all, figure out a way to participate. Breeders have the hardest, least paying jobs out there, and free help goes a long, long way. I don’t care if all your kid can do is take pictures and post them on Instagram and Facebook, GET THEM INVOLVED.
Handlers are worth their weight in gold. The art of standing horses on the line is a feat worthy of a very large medal. We have model classes for a reason: to study conformation. Unfortunately in the pony ring, you are basically praying your small child has the attention span to actually get the pony to put weight on all four legs and put its ears forward. We are missing the education of WHY we are getting them to put their feet in the proper place, but this might be a separate battle altogether. In the breeding ring, handlers have to follow and contain the most acrobatic moves ever seen in public with a smile on their faces, dressed in proper attire, and somehow magically time a few seconds of stillness of that nervous creature that they are holding when the judge finally gets to him or her and walks around with his/her very scary clipboard and pen. This is also a fabulous way for young people to get involved. LEARN how to be a handler, watch what they do and put up with and make yourself indispensable as a handler.
There is no excuse for the way we have educated people on breeding. Learn about the horses we have here with American breeders, ask questions, and start following them. No one is going to do it for you and if we don’t start now, we will be completely screwed in time to come.
Breeders and handlers also have to do their part. I hate being forced to use an example like this, but it is important to get my point across. I was showing at an A rated show in Pennsylvania in the spring last year, and the breeding was going on that day in the afternoon, and I was excited to have the time to watch. (I admit sometimes it can be a little like watching nascar because they are, well, babies, and naughty) I went to the manager and secretary and said I just have one request before all of these breeding classes start – do you mind to have the announcer tell us the breeding on each horse as it is in the ring. The dam and the sire. I had assumed all of that information was REQUIRED on an entry blank. It is not. WHY NOT?!
She promptly told me that she would LOVE to but they didn’t have ANY of that information. How is this actually possible? Apparently half of the people who showed up for the breeding classes didn’t even KNOW the dam or the sire of the horse they were entering in the breeding classes. This is entirely unacceptable. And what was she going to do? Stop everything she was doing to look up all the babies USEF numbers and jot down on the announcer form their fathers and mothers??? This is so frustrating, when across the ocean, the breeding of the horse is included at the SAME time you are told it’s age, height, sex, and color. “5 yr grey gelding by Cassini II, 168cm” That registers in my brain right away what to look for.
Point systems for breeding classes are confusing, they need to be addressed regularly and adjusted so proper recognition can get awarded like everyone else paying their dues. If you are in a breeding class of just 1 two-year old, for example, should you get the same points as a breeding class of 5 horses? or 15? Hopefully if you win a class of 5 or more, you get more points right?
I want to see numbers increase in the breeding divisions over the next few years, but it is going to take an incredible group effort. I know in Maryland it has been a big topic of discussion, and as the numbers grow, we can make really amazing awards happen for them again in the future. It is not just here, it needs to happen across the country. Local organizations can get involved as well, there is ABSOLUTELY NO REASON an in-hand class cannot be offered on the local and regional level for fun. It is good for kids, professionals, and adults, it should be a free class so there is no obligation, and it is good for judges to get that mileage judging horses and ponies on the line. I don’t care if a rubber duckie is the award for first place, but if you are a show manager, you need to get it in your schedule now and get it done.
Stallions need to get to exhibitions, exhibitions need to be created in more places! The Young Horse Show Series is starting to create one, and if it can be on live video feed, everyone can benefit. Imagine watching stallions from all over the country actually move, jump and be presented on TV!
There are 104 breeders listed in the USHJA breeders directory, get to know them right now, follow them on Facebook, ‘like’ their cute little baby pictures, ask them when they are going to show those babies in public, and go support them. Tell them you are interested, listen to their feedback, and think about how to solve the breeding issues in this country.
I found this on the USEF website for the West Coast
this is the schedule I found for clinics in 2015, maybe someone has an idea for 2016?