Thursday, June 6, 2019

The Internet is a Double-Edged Sword

We all use it, often many times per day. You can't even have a good old-fashioned argument anymore, without someone pulling out their cell phone to settle it almost immediately. Yet, rarely does anyone challenge the internet's authority.

With an online-based business, I use the internet more than many people. But when it comes to passing on information about stallions I try to only repeat firsthand information. Firstly, from the mouths or the websites of the stallion owners themselves. Secondly, from clients who have firsthand experience to relate. Passing on opinions from someone who heard it from someone who read it somewhere is not acceptable to me. Unfortunately, this happens a lot in this business.

My first example of this was years ago when I first started in the frozen semen business. Brentina, by Brentano II, was all the go, brilliantly winning Grand Prix events and Olympic medals. Yet no one would buy her sire's semen. It seems someone on a popular sport horse chat room opined that his semen was no good, because she had used it and didn't get a conception. The hue and cry was raised; it was shared all over the internet and it killed all interest in Brentano II. Eventually, I asked the assistant director of the Landgestuet Celle about it and mentioned the name of the woman who had declared him a dud. "Hmm," he said. "That doesn't make sense. She only bought one dose." One opinion, amplified, had effectively killed a marvelous stallion's reputation. When I finally persuaded someone to try using his semen, she got a conception, the first of many for a stallion with an excellent conception rate. I have had this situation come up several times through the years, with stallions being unfairly maligned. Recently I had a stallion criticized for having semen that didn't work by one breeder, only to have another get a conception with a single straw from the same collection.

Unfortunately, in the case of using new stallions, North American breeders are often the guinea pigs for newly offered semen, because the Europeans don't use it much. They generally don't even test it on a mare of their own (my dream) before they ship it. Most stallions end up being at least average conception-wise, but a few end up being basically non fertile (my nightmare). This is why I tell breeders using unproven stallions that all I can rely on is the reputation and honesty of the supplier and the fertility of the sire line to guess at a untried stallion's fertility. These situations illustrate why it's important to rely on firsthand information.

Stallion owners invest significant time, effort and money to provide semen for sale to the public, so it's really a crime to let unfounded rumors stand as truth. But, boy is it ever hard to convince some people otherwise when they've read it on the internet. This is the reason I built my Conception Database, http://www.superiorequinesires.com/cdb-home.php, which is completely user driven. The only time I have any input is when a stallion I know to have good fertility is unfairly disparaged. Then, I offer my input via the "Brokers Note" at the top of a stallion's page. If there's no information on a stallion, call me, as I often have information that has not been posted. I'll tell you what I know straight up: excellent, average, low or no conception or don't know.

Keep on reading and researching, but deal with trusted sources of information and try to base your breeding decisions on firsthand knowledge.


Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Learning the horse business

This time of year I speak with a lot of newcomers to breeding. Even though I tell them mostly the same things over and over again, I really don't mind. They often apologize for so many questions, but I tell them their questions are always welcome--and I mean it. Better questions before, than wishing you'd asked them later.
Even though there are equine courses taught at colleges and universities, horse breeding is largely self-taught or passed on by experienced breeder-mentors. Horse breeders are some of the most generous people with their time and expertise of any people I know. Many are continuing the practice of handing down their knowledge to the next generation, as it was handed down to them.
As a kid in southern California, back before all the old ranchos went down to development. (Yep, they paved paradise and, put up a parking lot.) I was lucky enough to live near several working horse ranches. And being a horse crazy kid, I propped on the top of many a corral fence watching the ranch hands, most of whom were Mexican, as they went about their business. That was my introduction to horse breeding.
Years later, when I had my own kids and they had playmates over at the house during breeding season, I'd pick up the stallion's chain shank and head for the barn to tease or breed mares. One of the kids would hear the chain rattle and say to their friends, "C'mon, you gotta see this." And a little trail of children would join the dogs following me to the barnyard. Like the old vaqueros who didn't shoo me away, I figured it was a good lesson in how babies are made. Nobody's parent ever called to complain.
When I went to the racetrack I first worked as a groom, learning the basics of horse care, including how to properly clean a stall, grooming and leg work, feeding, tacking and most importantly, assessing a horse's mental and physical condition and relaying important details to the trainer. Has the horse been digging in his stall? Might be sore or colicky, or bored. Did he pin his ears and go to the back of his stall when he saw you coming with the tack? Might be sore or sour, which is usually caused by being sore. Being a groom is one of the very best ways to learn the horse business from the ground up. They are the often unsung heroes of the horse industry. I love it when a top trainer hails their groom as the reason for their success.
When I was training racehorses myself, I never missed an opportunity to learn from other trainers. Even the "worst" trainer might have some nugget of advice that you can use. The old guys were especially willing to sit in the shed row on a hot summer afternoon and let me pick their brains. I learned so many tricks of the trade that way, and still have the little recipe book of liniments and cures that I wrote them down. When I once asked a prominent trainer the secret of his success in developing so many top class horses he had a one-word answer that I regard as the key to raising and training horses. "Patience," he said.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Blog Relaunch


I have always enjoyed doing blog posts while on European trips, but I haven’t blogged from home yet. That‘s about to change! I plan to blog on topics of interest to North American breeders and enthusiasts. I hear the most interesting things from people, which are often learning experiences for me. I hope to share topics of interest and hope you will send me suggestions for topics and continue to share all those interesting factoids with me. Please contact me at superiorequinesires@gmail.com if you have ideas to share.

My new assistant since 2016, when I relocated to Spokane, WA, is my daughter, Annie Grinolds. It has been a delight working together. She is smart, friendly, capable, polite, has great phone skills, and can even spell! Though she was raised on our family horse farm and thus has good basic knowledge of horses and rode a bit as a kid, she was new to the warmblood world when she began working for me. Annie has studied diligently to learn about sport horses and really enjoys our work. She has been responsible for upping our social media presence and freeing me up to do things like, well, writing a blog.
A recent topic of interest to breeders has been Warmblood Fragile Foal Syndrome. When the topic first broke to the general public last April many people pretty much freaked out. Some were advocating eliminating all carriers from the breeding pool. Now that folks have had time to do some research, most have come to realize that the most critical thing is to test your mares. Then you can breed to any stallion without getting a fragile foal. You still have a 25% chance of getting a carrier, but a carrier can be a performance horse, or even be bred, as long as you breed it to a non-carrier, as then there is no risk of getting an lethal foal. Over time this gene can be eliminated from the warmblood population, without eliminating valuable bloodstock from the breeding population. Again, test your mares!
Yesterday, I received from Germany the book “The Hanoverian Horse,” by multiple authors. I’ve lusted for this book when I’ve seen it in the Verband’s sales booth at the stallion licensings. I haven’t purchased it because it’s only been available in German, so I was thrilled to see a 2018 edition in English. It’s a large-format 400 page book packed with the history of the Hanoverian and famous farms and breeders.  As I go through it, I’ll share some of the many insights. This tidbit of history details the first German breeding system:  
“Until the 17th and 18th century, horses predominantly reproduced without breeding control and selection in so called “wild studs” (Wildengestuet), untouched in nature from where they were captured and domesticated, depending on the individual purpose. Prezellius reported in 1777 about so-called “half-wild studs” with mares living in the wild all year round and stallions kept in the stable and only released back into the wild during the breeding season. This type of horse keeping can certainly be considered a first specific breeding measure, mainly implemented by studfarms, which were initially separated from rural horse breeding.”

I loved this little tidbit. It reminds me of the way Western ranches, beginning in the 1930s and 40s, turned out Army Remount Thoroughbred stallions with their “native” mares. The Army then made regular buying trips to the ranches to buy the tough, hardy offspring as mounts for the Army. Because the local cowboys had (and still have) a predilection for colored horses, many of the mares were colored. The offspring the Army didn’t buy were sent by the rail carload back East to be used as polo ponies and “English” horses. Old photos reveal many show horses of that time as having spots, high white socks and bald faces. I’ve often thought that the discrimination against colored horses that used to prevail in the early sport horse world here in North America was because people wanted to distinguish their European warmbloods from American-bred horses. Remember when sport horse owners and breeders only wanted solid bays with no chrome? Well, those days are long gone and even the Europeans have to admit that a good horse can be any color. And as many breeders have found out, you can have two horses of equal quality, but the one with four socks and blaze will usually sell first.
This reminds me of reading Mary O’Hara’s novels as a girl. She wrote a fictional series about her real life on the Remount Ranch in Wyoming. My Friend Flicka, Thunderhead and Green Grass of Wyoming are the titles of her books, and if you’ve never read them, you must. They are atmospheric and fun and actually helped inspire my vision of rural living. I used to look for the ranch when I drove past Tie Siding and Virginia Dare when I lived in Wyoming for a few years but I never managed to locate it.
A little commercial: Superior Equine Sires is the only semen brokerage in the country that still conducts "open" orders, where you can order any stallion from our list, depending on the country of the sale. This allows breeder to choose from a vast array of stallions not offered anywhere else. We also offer shipping services, if you prefer to buy your own semen and have us import it for you. 
With that, I’ll close for now but I’ll be back with more blog posts in the near future.