Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Thoughts on the Breeding Industry in the US

I was asked by someone writing for a national magazine to share my knowledge about sport horse registries in the US and how they work. I gave them some background, but I also thought of things they might want to know about the breeding industry in general in the US. Here is how I finished up. I don't know if they will use any of it, but it felt good to say it:

Americans have a sad legacy of feeling that we are always in Germany's shadow, because "they've been doing it for centuries and we're new to this." We believe that in Germany they "do it right," which means with deep knowledge and integrity. The fact is that we have breeders in the US now who have been doing this for as long as many German breeders. We have breeders who have decades of knowledge and experience, and we have breeders with deep commitment and passion. As a result, many of our breeders - large farms and small breeders - are producing truly top-quality foals. We have a solid base of breeders in the US that know what they're doing and consistently have the youngsters to prove it. 

What we don't have is a system for getting those young horses known and recognized, and into the hands of trainers who can take them to the top. We don't have a system for identifying promising foals nationally, so a rider on the East coast will never know of the terrific youngster born in Michigan or Oklahoma or Oregon or even Maine.

Many competitors still believe that you have to travel to Europe if you want a quality horse. Horse-buying agents keep repeating that (possibly because it's more fun for them to travel and buy in Europe on their client's dime), and there aren't enough success stories to prove them wrong. See previous paragraph.

One problem is the lack of connection between breeders and riders. There are usually some connections between a breeder and some of the local competitors, but what we're lacking is a nationwide way for competitors to connect with the breeders who are producing what they're looking for. Many horse people - even those in leadership positions within USDF or USHJA or USEF - are clueless about the entire breeding industry in the US. Many competitors are not aware that there are hundreds of breeders in this country producing horses with the most sought-after bloodlines for dressage, jumping, hunters, and eventing. Our future horses are already here, loaded with potential, but most riders don't know how to find them.

I've been working on my newly-launched website, which means looking at the stallions we have, and their offspring. (Click the home link, or the Stallion Gallery link at the top of the page if you want to see what I mean.) I have been seeing results on FB of ongoing inspections and the foals being evaluated. Let me tell you, we have some kick-ass babies being bred right here.


  1. Great article Anna!
    Dawn Spencer, Spencer Sport Horses

  2. Thanks, Dawn! You were in my mind when I typed Michigan. :-)

  3. Anna:
    I disagree with your premise. Buyers go to Europe because it is simply easier, cheaper, and more efficient to buy horses there than it is in the U.S.
    Rick Toering, Bent Hickory Farm

    1. How is it cheaper?? Airfare, housing, food, the cost of the horse, the cost of transport, and cost of quarantine is LARGELY more expensive than purchasing a horse already in the US.

    2. In one flight over one long weekend, I can see 50+ young sales horses in Germany/Europe. How many flights and how many weekends do you think it takes to see 50 young sales horses in this country? It takes me a full day (3.5 hour drive each way) to go see 5-7 horses at one of the largest professional breeders on the east coast. Now I still need to find another 40+ horses and travel to see them ...
      Rick Toering

    3. Hi Rick, I'm not sure you're disagreeing. I'm not at all saying that we don't have problems; all I'm saying is that we are producing some really incredible horses. As I said, we lack the infrastructure to get them known to riders. So yes, it is usually harder, more expensive, and less efficient to buy horses here. I would like to believe those are not insurmountable problems. My point is that I've been blown away by some of the young horses we're producing. I would love to see some of the infrastructure issues tackled, so the young North-American-bred horses stand a decent chance.

  4. Thanks Anna! You have pinpointed some of the current issues. I would note that unlike many European countries, neither Canada nor USA (possibly also Mexico & SA countries) do not have a nationally recognized (and government supported) program for training the trainers and giving them education diploma or ? There is no formal trainer association in general (there may be such in specific arenas of endeavour, such as Thoroughbred or Standardbred racing trainers...). This is a huge weak point in our countries. Yes, it is easy to go to Europe (also I would think very supportive of an elite feeling as well) and see many horses in a short time/distance once there. Prices are not necessarily cheaper however, if one looks at the sales this year....there have been many at 6 figures...of course, I am assuming the posted comment is not talking about buying the best, just buying the adequate. Having heard the stories from many of their experiences with importing....some are amazing...and have enriched our breeding base as well (Lidwin Verdier & Evie Strasser,QC being a great example of buyers who has brought some amazing horses to NA, as well as Leatherdales, etc.)other amateur riders with coaches, haven't always been so lucky....with horses that are pretty much unrideable, have a prior injury that wasn't disclosed, different than NA. but, far harder to get your money back, except in Germany where they now apparently come with a guarantee by law. (not sure it is applicable to horses sold out of country). There are pros/cons to all....but we as breeders, riders, competitors, support-industry people, living in NA, need to use our own to build a more productive the breeding shed, in the pastures, in the training arena and show rings. As well, most of the time, our dollar goes farther to buy a horse here...than there. Ask people with horses for sale, to put a group together with their fellow breeders, trainers in the area. ...and you could see as many horses in a day as in Europe. Innovation....creative strategy....pride of born in USA, born in Canada, born in for me. And educate, educate, educate. A good number of people, have no idea of bloodlines...that is right. not a clue. So help those people to know the sire/dam lines success. Thanks once again Anna for bringing your thoughts to us, so we can all share thoughts and ideas to make for a stronger industry and sport.

  5. We lack the systems and infastructure for the young horse training here. Breeding in North America often means investing in starting ... how many riders want to pay board for 3 years on a weanling? As much as I agree that our quality is on par, it's the other aspects that are now largely deficient in comparison.

  6. We organized a foal tour in central Alberta Canada. What we saw was some very well bred and exciting foals being bred. With a good depth of pedigree top and bottom Many foals could have stood proudly against the European foals. I have travelled to Europe for breeding stock, because I did not have the time left to develop my own lines I have been to multiple stallion licensing, and looked at foals in Europe. With the frozen semen advantage we have the ability to put the same quality on the ground in NA, as long as we ensure our mares are also of strong performance pedigrees or lines. and many of us are. What we don't have ( in my opinion) is the ability to start and get them a show record in comparison to Europe. In Europe you can take your young prospects to a recognized show "down the road". Unlike NA you can drive in, compete and go home whereas here you are required to stay for days paying for a stall that is as expensive as your own hotel room per night. Add those together and you are $1000.00 ahead of costs for the Europeans for the same recognized show record. Our geographical distances in our provinces /states let alone our country set us very far apart from the Europeans. They can get an International show record by driving a few hours; for NA's to get an international show record we are looking 10's of thousands of dollars in the eye. We can't change that or compete with that. But what is really a shame is that we as breeders sell ourselves short buying into the hype that Europe is better by registering our horses in offshore registries so that even if we have bred something that does well it enters the ring as a Dutch Warmblood, an Oldenburg or a Hanoverian not North American bred and We get no credit. And that's the breeders fault. If we as breeders aren't proud enough or patriotic enough to put our own country name on our Warmbloods then why should buyers feel secure to buy from us. If we as Canadian or US breeders are registering our horses in European registries then we are telling OUR buyers that European is better. You can't have it both ways. If breeders are going to support the European registries it makes no sense for any of us to be upset that OUR buyers are listening and going to Europe to purchase as that's exactly what we are telling them to do. It's like buying a Louie Vitton vs knock off. I say have patriotism. Support your country don't send our economy money to Europe and then get upset at buyers for doing the same thing. I breed for dressage. I am very proud to offer my Canadian Warmbloods with Dutch or Hanoverian lineage because that's what they truly are. You don't have to register them with the offshore registry to use their advertising or stallion media releases. Until North American breeders stop supporting the European registries how dare we criticize the buyers for following our lead. I am guilty also to some extent because I have registered offshore at buyers requests but do t like to.
    Doreen Kulcsar
    Key Warmbloods
    Key Warmbloods group on Facebook
    Alberta Canada

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  8. The best thing I've done for my breeding program is make connections with top riders. Most of them also shop in Europe, as is their right. I consider it my job to offer the same or better quality than they might find in Europe. Every one of them would much rather buy domestically to avoid import fees, but they can't always be assured of the quality on offer in NA. I don't breed for amateurs and I don't expect 'forever' homes. I sell foals or in utero and actually have a waiting list. It's taken me 17 years of hard work to get to this point. I've been very, very careful to use only the best mares I can find. My little black mare outproduces herself every time. Last year's foal is being raised as a stallion prospect with Hilda Gurney's blessing. This year's colt will join him at her farm by the end of the year, also as a stallion prospect. I was lucky enough to get an ET out of Elfenfeuer, a GP mare who won the National Amateur GP Championship, was campaigned for Rio, and is on the cover of the current Dressage Today. I can't tell you how much I'm hoping for a filly to keep for my herd from that mare, not just because of her accomplishments but because of her very deep mareline. When I sell foals I think it's my job to get them into the right hands. IMHO, riders are our customers and we need to listen to them.