"improving the breed" - where's the line we shouldn't cross?
So this is coming slightly from this post: http://www.horseforum.com/horse-bree...organs-148212/
I've always had a bit of a dream, even though it will probably never become a reality unless I marry a millionaire, to bring back the Kaimanawa Horse. They're NZ's only "native" horse, and I absolutely love them. Problem is, a lot of people might consider it a waste of time because they don't all have perfect conformation (in fact, the government here is basically destroying them by taking so many from the wild and causing further inbreeding). But they're still our little horse that could, and I will still love them when they can't.
If I ever did get set up with some good Kaimanawas, my plan was always to find nice Welsh Cob Types or small Cobs that had the look of a Kai (because the majority of Kaimanawa ancestors were Welsh ponies that turned feral alongside some drafty built horses), and crossbreed to improve them, but keep the core of the Kaimanawa that I love. And isn't that what breeding is about - improving on your foundations and furthering a breed you love? I'd love to find that perfect balance between breeding only "perfect" horses and being a crazy backyard breeder with walking foal factories. With careful selection of both Kais and Welsh to cross, I think it could be done someday (and I'd love to do it before there's none of these amazing horses left).
So, people of HF, where would you see this line? Would you call someone that crossed it in a good cause an idiot? I've always been afraid to learn more about this side of things, because people seem to take it a bit far if they think someone is a backyard breeder, but I myself hate those idiots and would hate to become one. But I'm tired of hiding in a corner, and I want an opinion for a change. Who knows, maybe I'll find my millionaire and make this dream a reality.
I have owned several Kaimanawas in the past, my first horse was even a Kai gelding that had done everything from pony club to logging to pig hunting (he was, very literally, BOMB proof from his previous owner using him to tow his little cannon out into the bush and setting it off for fun). He started my love of the breed, but I've never bred horses myself (I'm weird, I don't see foals as just cute, I see 4+ years of hard work before that cute baby is even rideable). I still go cuddle my friend's Clydesdale foals every chance I get though. XD
I think native and historically significant breeds are worth saving. However, as you say, with the goal of improving on the good qualities of the breed without magnifying the bad qualities. If all three horses in a nearly extinct breed had a parrot mouth, for instance, it would be a worthy goal to remove it from the breed.
Personally, when I travel I try to ride unusual or native breeds. Next up I want to get to Japan and ride a Hokkaido horse. They are not terribly attractive and are pony sized like all the Japanese native breeds, but are an integral part of the country's history.
There are a few ways to cross the line if you ask me.
The first is if you are doing the same thing as everyone else. For example, breeding extremely dish-faced Arabians. There are people out there doing that. As far a I know, there are NOT people out there trying to restore the Kaimanawa.
The second is whether or not it truly is 'improving', or just making it look pretty. A pretty horse isn't a good horse. Breeding out conformational flaws, however, is definitely 'improving'.
The third links into number two. If the 'improvements' introduce more problems. I'm gonna pick on Arabians again for this one because it's the main one I know about - When the dish in the face is too extreme, it can cause respiratory problems. Same with many breeds of dog, like the bulldog, pug, and cavalier.
But it sounds to me like what you want is to restore a breed, rather than improve it.
Just a little something you may find interesting. The Tarpan horse allegedly became extinct in 1909, but in the 1930's attempts were made to 'recreate it' by 'breeding back'. It sounds to me to be similar to what you want to do, minus the fact that the Kaimanawa isn't extinct.
Personally, your aim wouldn't be classified as backyard breeding. Backyard breeding, to me at least, is breeding horses because they've got the bits, because you just want to, because you want money (Ha! silly people), or some stupid reason like that. Breeding for a real purpose is completely different.
Tracer, you're awesome. I'm no breeder or expert, and that sort of opinion is exactly what I love. You're absolutely right, to my knowledge, about Kaimanawas. The only focus I've seen from the Kaimanawa Society, WHWT and Kaimanawa Heritage is entirely on adopting out the horses that would otherwise be slaughtered during the musters (the government runs them to keep the wild population under 200-300). There was a story about one woman who was trying to establish a herd on private property, but I've seen nothing recent about that. My goal would be to improve the overall quality of the horses (not just breed them willy-nilly for the sake of increasing the number of Kais around - there's actually tons out there, but no one is actively breeding them PURE with a purpose - Kai crosses are becoming quite popular). I certainly won't be buying a block to let them run wild on, they would be bred/sold/used for a purpose - as they are, they make excellent young rider mounts and hunters and I would probably market my own on a similar angle (okay, no comments about the sewer inhabiting horse market, this whole scenario is an extreme IF).
With the Tarpan, it looks similar on the surface, but it's really not - I don't just want a horde of horses that look like a Kaimanawa, I want them to be useful, happy horses with a change of tyres so they can work better. I am truly wanting to improve them in a way that would improve conformation but retains the beauty of the Kaimanawa, if that makes much sense. I'd call it improvement without refinement (keeping them true to type instead of turning a plow horse into Totilas). I know they're basically little draft crosses, but the child in me is screaming "It's not the same!" Sometimes the middle-ground seems impossible to find.
I think your dream is admirable. I like what you've said so far and here's why.
1) You're not ignorant to the fact that horses cost money. Not just a little bit of extra, but A LOT extra. You know in order to accomplish this, you would need access to significant funds.
2) At this point, you've mentioned that your dream is nothing more but a hypothetical situation. Don't be afraid to share that. Everyone has hopes and visions that with time and circumstances may never come to fruition. You're not causing any harm to anyone or anything at this point by talking about it.
3) You're very conscious about being labelled a "backyard breeder." In my opinion, a backyard breeder is, as mentioned above, someone who breeds horses because they have the parts with absolutely no regard to health, conformation, or the potential costs that can be incurred for their care and upkeep. Based on what you've said, I wouldn't say that's your intention.
I understand what you mean when you say that the Kai horse is just draft type & welsh crosses, however, we can say similar things about almost any other horse breed. For example, the QH is technically nothing more than Thoroughbred, Iberian, Arab & Barb stock, however, it is the sum of all those parts that makes them what they are today.
I hope one day you'll meet your millionaire or be wildly successful yourself to be able to do this; it seems like a really neat idea. Of course it will require a lot of research to make sure you aren't doing more harm than good or that you aren't over-breeding for a certain characteristic like the dish faced Arabian with respiratory problems. But at this point, it is just a hypothetical situation and you're certainly not doing any wrong by talking about it!
On another note, do you have any pictures of your past Kaimanawa Horses? I'm not terribly familiar with them and they are all but unknown here in Canada.
I guess my question would be is there a demand for this horse? With the huge glut of horses in the market, do we really need to put even more on the ground. No matter how noble the cause if it ultimately creates more unwanted animals is it worth it?
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Here you can see some Kais that have been taken in off the range and trained. Lots of pictures :)
Thanks Glynnis. I like to think I'm realistic about how much horses cost - I'm reminded of it every time I see warmblood youngsters sell for the price of my CAR. I haven't actually had one recently, mostly because I haven't seen one that I really *wanted*, and I missed out on the 2012 muster because my current grazing doesn't have appropriate fencing.
I'm actually glad I finally got the guts to post this. I'll ramble on about hypothetical scenarios 'til the cows come home, because in the end I'd rather know that X really is impossible before trying and failing it. I repeat it constantly, but I'm nowhere near an expert. You experts can keep your pedestals, I'm happy with a booster-seat. The one thing I've done in the past that most people wouldn't agree on is keeping a horse uncut, but.. for me, at least, it never crossed my mind to breed him, it was just less hassle to deal with a well behaved stallion than catching the **** vet!
I don't actually have many digital copies of my old photos. The best is probably this one of Blaze (my second Kai, had him for about 5 years), at 28yo.
Google tends to show up only photos of them in the wild, but here's a couple of scrubbed up fellas.
Kaimanawa 1 by ~ValkyrieStock on deviantART
Chestnut Kaimanawa 1 by *Sooty-Bunnie on deviantART
This one was from a show I just got back from today.
And this from a few years back, he MAY be a cross but I'm quite sure the rider said he was a Kaimanawa.
This one here is from around 07, it was a natural horsemanship thing where they take a basically unbroken horse and they're riding it that afternoon. Publicity stunt, but a cute Kai.
And yes, the market is slightly different down here - but we still get hit by the same things as everyone else. I couldn't say much beyond that, as I haven't been in the market for a new horse in a while, and my last one came straight off a dog food truck.
And as for the Showtym gang, they're still not actually BREEDING or looking to breed Kaimanawas. They're just trying to save as many from the range as possible because our government are useless *******s that want to copy Americans and deal with Kais the way they deal with Mustangs.
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