"Improving The Breed"
The halter discussion going on brings up the question, do we actually want to "improve" breeds, and if so, how and by how much?
I tend to be a traditionalist, and appreciate the different breeds of horses...each having its own conformation and characteristics based upon the reason the breed was developed.
For those of you too young to remember, the differences between Quarterhorses, Appys, Morgans, and even many lines of Arabs, are becoming fuzzier and fuzzier as time goes by because we seem to be breeding them all to a similar standard. There was a time when there would be no need for "what breed is he?" threads, because a horse's breed would be obvious to all. Today we have to search hard for little nuances to try and distinguish what breed a horse is...does that seem right?
I place a lot of importance on history and tradition, and I hate to see the "traditional" Morgan, which has a rich history, the "traditional" Appy, which has a long history predating Quarterhorses, and the "traditional" Quarterhorse, among others, lose their identity and just be lost in history.
I don't personally like the expression "improve the breed" - for a couple of reasons. First, it is often used by people that are clueless about breeding to begin with - they just parrot a mantra they have heard repeatedly. Second, do we really want to improve a breed in the first place? And if the answer is yes, how and by how much? I tend to be one that thinks in terms of PRESERVING a breed rather than "improve" it. What does "improve" mean anyway? Is it an improvement to breed a horse that can run faster by breeding for lighter bone and hooves while at the same time breeding for heavier muscle? Is it an improvement to change the conformation of an Appy, that has a long and colorful history, from a rangey warhorse to a stock horse simply becasue we like stock horses? If we want a stock horse, shouldn't we buy a Quarterhorse instead of changing another breed into a Quarterhorse? Is it improving a breed to make it more streamlined or aesthetically pleasing to the eye?
100 years from now, will we cease to have breeds, or will we just have "horses"? Many people, myself included, are concerned with the preservation of endangered species. I'm not a wacko about it, but it seems sad to lose a species that has been on this Earth for millions of years, and took another countless millions of years to evolve its identity. So why do so many of us not feel the same way about breeds? Why do we place so little importance in keeping a Morgan a Morgan, an Appy an Appy, an Arab an Arab, and so on? In the case of Appys, you pretty much have to go to a specialized breeder to find a "real" Appy, and I see that trend continuing to grow in some other breeds as well.
Perhaps this all doesn't mean much to anyone but me - don't know. Or perhaps it is just that I am old enough that I have actually seen breeds change over the years. I just think sometimes that we should step back and take a good look at where our breeding practices are taking us, and ask ourselves if we are doing the right thing. Just my opinion, of course...