Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Playing With A Stacked Deck

There is absolutely no doubt that anyone who breeds, raises or buys a horse with a certain performance event in mind is going to want to make sure that the pedigree of that individual is as stacked as possible with proven or known producers of successful athletes in that event.

That is pretty much the reason breed organizations are started. People want to know where their horses come from and be able to track who is good at what.

I never realized that there is still debate amongst some people as to how and why the AQHA came to be. What I have read, heard and learned is that the QH came to be, through his skills as a sprinting race horse. As this type of horse spread from the colonies into the developing west, particularly Texas, his blood was used to upgrade the cowponies of those areas and ta-da, the theory that the QH was developed as a cowpony was born. Darn Texans...trying to take credit for everything(I kid!!).

In some ways historical debates are supremely interesting to me and in other's completely irrelevant. Take for instance, the debate over whether early 1900's horses were ugly, hammer-headed or as long as a freight-train...who cares? They were the horse of their times. It is completely irrelevant by today's standards whether we think they are pretty or not. Now, a debate as to whether some of those horses could compete with modern day horses? Well, wouldn't you all just love to see Peter McCue matched with Judge Cash?

Above and below are pictures of Peter McCue(1895-1923), a LEGENDARY race horse, who successfully passed on his record-breaking speed to his offspring. He reportedly ran a quarter mile in 21 seconds flat...a feat that could not be duplicated by any other race horse for decades!!

And this is Judge Cash...
He is a 1987 stallion with a Speed Index of 110 and is a Superior and ROM race horse!! He is another stallion that is not only fast, but reproduces that speed in his get...with 108 ROM-race, 7 Superior-race, 17 Stakes Winners, 1 World Champion, multiple barrel futurity and 1D winners and NFR qualifying offspring.

Nearly one hundred years separate these two horses and yet, they are very similar. Not only were they phenomenal athletes themselves, they possess a quality that breeders drool over...the prepotency to pass that speed on to their get. Prepotency is the key as to whether a horse becomes famous or legendary in HIS lifetime...or whether it could possibly be decades before their worth is realized.

Take for instance this horse...

Doc Bar...it took THREE generations for the one single thing that Doc Bar was bred for to surface and that came through a select few. The majority of his get and grandget would not see additional infusions of running blood for another couple of generations. You might say that Doc Bar created his own niche'...or rather the people who believed in him, found and capitalized on HIS prepotent trait...the ability of his get to work cattle. There was a time, early in Doc Bar's stud career that his get and grandget ruled the arena. Barrel racers and ropers alike rode a Doc Bar if they could. But arenas got bigger and scores got longer and the smaller, sprinty Doc Bars started to get outrun. The few that went to the tracks were not successful or marginally so. So for a very long time the Doc Bars were regulated to an event where they excelled. In spite of that, there were breeders who capitalized on not only Doc Bar's prepotent ability to put "cow" in his get and grandget, but the fact that he was after all, a horse bred to run. So they continued to add more run to the bloodline and slowly but surely, they stacked the deck enough that the Doc Bar bloodline is again synonymous with top arena horses.

These days we mostly see successful horses with a "stacked deck" done so by breeding one successful horse to another successful horse, of unrelated bloodlines...or not very closely related bloodlines. For most the thought of in-breeding or closely line-breeding our horses doesn't sit well. We have seen in recent decades how continuing to breed closely relate horses can in fact, hurt the overall image of that bloodline. Doc Bar is again another good example. For a while there, it seemed all they did was breed Doc Bar's to more Doc Bar's. The horses got cowier, but they got smaller and smaller and lighter boned and hotter. There was more of Doc Bar than just the cowiness surfacing. What they forgot to do, was something the "old" breeders did consistently...find an outcross. Compared to other events, the cutting horse has a relatively small gene pool, so it is a struggle for them. I have seen some mighty fine line-bred Doc Bar horses and although they are small, they have plenty of bone and mild dispositions. When I see these types of horses, I always look at the "tail-line"...the one or two lines that are not Doc Bar. Often you will find that these lines are what mellows the concentration just enough to make it work.

Now speed horses, that's another matter. Speed is as speed does. Breed a fast horse to a fast horse and all you can do is hope for another fast horse. Speed can come from anywhere, but when speed horse breeders find it, 1st they pray that is is a prepotent trait(in stallions or mares) or if it's not, they will just keep finding more speed to add to the mix until there is little doubt that the horse will run. And quite frankly, speed horse breeders don't care where the speed comes from. Outcrossing to TB's is quite common and most breeders find it as desirable today as they did "back in the day". The difference is that today, there is a multitude of fast horses available and a hundred years ago...it was a little more difficult to have access to noted running horses. Soooo...intensive in-breeding was common. I doubt in this day and age, you will see anyone breeding one of Judge Cash's own daughters back to him, maybe somewhere along the line you will find a few people who might breed a 1/2 brother to a 1/2 sister and surely there are people who have or will breed a Judge Cash bred horse to another Judge Cash bred horse. But back in Peter McCue's day, the characteristics we take for granted were not as "fixed" as we are accustomed to, so they resorted to breeding Peter McCue to his own daughters or 1/2 brothers and sisters to concentrate Peter McCue's ability. At that time their available gene pool of successful horses was pretty limited and the goal was to "fix" certain characteristics so that when they were outcrossed those desirable characteristics weren't diluted.

Ultimately, each generation has to prove itself, but as they do, they provide the basis for what we will eventually seek out and combine in an effort to stack the deck for the next generation. But personally, I think if Peter McCue was around today, he would still be a sought after breeding stallion...and I think the barrel horse industry would have a new golden boy.


EquineMan said...

That was an excellent article. I enjoy the old photos and you perspective on speed.

We all do look for the "cute" horse but I guess I still look for a horses traits and personality.

A good friend and working horse without all the beauty will do me just fine every time.

Thanks for all your excellent information and photos. Very enjoyable read.

Reminded me of my old "western horseman" articles I read.

horses for sale

kdwhorses said...

Great post, your'e always so informative. Especially about breeding, which is not my strong point. I want to become more knowledgable on it though.

Laura said...

Interesting stuff! Tell us more!

I really enjoy hearing about bloodlines and the old famous studs. I think I'm going to have to save a copy of the posts you, Steph and AOHCM have written so that I can have that stuff handy if I ever need it...

MichelleSG said...

I did not realize line breeding was so prominant, or so necessary? Do we really have so few great horses that it's that needed? A sad state if that is true.
Help an ignorant girl out here, what is 'cow' in a horse?

Natarojo said...

As usual, great read! I always enjoy catching up your posts, especially because the articles are always on things I know so little about, but yearn to learn more!

Mrs Mom said...

Girlfriend, you totally rock here. I love it when you post things like this, as I know virtually nothing about bloodlines. Until reading here, I knew Impressive passed down HYPP and some BAD 'tudes, I liked horses with Sonny Dee Bar breeding, and was partial to bays but keep winding up with chestnuts! ;)

Thank you ever so much for expanding my knowledge in soooo many ways!

ezra_pandora said...

I love reading about pedigrees from you bloggers who know so much. I just know little tidbits that I've heard. But like Peter McCue, that's in my mare's blood in a few lines, but I don't know what he did that was awesome. Now I have more info. There are lots of other names that are in more than a few lines that I keep hearing but don't know about. I love looking at all the old pictures too. They are so neat. There's even some if you go back far enough that are paintings. lol

Adventures Of A Horse Crazed Mind said...

Great post! Love the old pics and the topic! I agree that the horses of old made the horses we see today and that some of them would still be competitive in todays world...where as some would not. In reining, you dont have to go to far back (20 years) to find horses that are the foundation of the modern reining horse, "the greats" but that would not have been competitive in todays sport but each contributed to make the horses we see today. I have a thing for pedigrees (stacked decks) but I do look for diversity in the lines. I find that the Smart Little Lena line is often line bred but more than anything the Poco line people love to load up on (in the foundation world).

Also, thank you for your comments on my writing. I really do appreciate it! I am hoping to make something of it in the future... am actually writing a novel right now but need to keep learning about the industry and how to get published as well as keep learning how to write! Thanks!

Melanie said...

Great post BEC!!! Sheesh...there are several of you out here in blogland, who write posts that could easily become published! :)

QH bloodlines intrigue me, because they are so discipline specific. And I agree with you about Peter McCue...what a horse!!!

Andrea said...

Well, I think Peter could hold his own these days. Dang that was a nice horse. And he probably only ate corn and oats!! He was awesome looking!!

And a lot of cow horses are double bred Doc Bar, on top and bottom. It's crazy. But they sure love cows, and I think cow horses have to have some kind of crazy!! LOL!!

And I love how Zippo Pine Bar came from a no name mare and a no name stallion. He was a product of backyard breeding. And look where he ended up. He changed the WP world.

We have a ton of racing blood lines down here. The race tracks are everywhere. So, you can often find great barrel horses off the QH track for super cheap. You just have to go and see who looses, and then the trainer is upset and will practicaly give you the horse. Papers and all!! Anyway, that is totally off subject.

I hope you are staying warm!! Great post!

Train Wreck said...

See what did I tell you!" You need to have these informative articles published~ You are very knowledgable. Great points, and pictures. As well as your post below in the owner in need! WTH? You need your own advice column!

BrownEyed Cowgirls said...

TrainWreck-good to see ya sista!! We've been missing your cheery comments...hope you have been a "good" busy.;)

Andrea-Ed and Martha Wright became noted barrel horse trainers by picking up the race tracks cast-offs. Since most of the noted barrel horse sires are also noted running horses, it's an easy jump from one to the other for most of them. Kiddo-we'll talk! ZPB-lovely horse. And begat lovely horses(at least the ones I worked with). As a matter of fact, that is about how long is has been since I was "up" on the WP bloodlines. Back in the day when if it was ZPB or Sonny Dee Bar, it wasn't worth having.;) I think ZPB was raised in a backyard, but both his sire and dam were well known and exceptional horses in their own right.

BrownEyed Cowgirls said...

Forgive me Andrea...It took me a second. I misunderstood when you said "no name" sire and dam. ZPB's sire came from racing lines and his dam was "cow" bred...not exactly the mix you expected to make such an impact on the WP scene. Wowww...I'm off to bed.:)