"Improving The Breed" - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 10 Old 03-07-2013, 06:56 PM Thread Starter
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"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...
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post #2 of 10 Old 03-07-2013, 07:09 PM
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For me, the only reason I would bother "improving" a breed is to try and remove the health problems they are prone to.

I know in the dog show business, the breeding seems to be quite retroactive, in terms of health, as a lot of people are breeding for looks, and not so much genetics. I know a lot of people would rather a mutt over a purebred because of the fact that pure breds now a days are so prone to health problems.

I'm no breeder, but if this were the case that I do breed, I would rather a healthy genetic line over looks and power.
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post #3 of 10 Old 03-07-2013, 07:23 PM
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What kind of irks me......is someone 'improving' the breed because they want to ride a certain 'breed' of horse in a discipline dominated by another breed. Just an off hand example, breeding a heavy horse breed for lighter bone to improve it for sporting events.....where as the traditional breed has a lot of bone....yet some breeders think they will improve the breed by selectively breeding the bone out of it......essentially they're not improving the breed, they're improving the marketability of the horse and improving the weight of their wallet.
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post #4 of 10 Old 03-07-2013, 07:38 PM
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My personal opinion is when I see the words "improving the breed" I immediately ask myself "Okay, what did they screw up."

I agree with Faceman as this has been one of my biggest pet peeves since getting back into horses. You really see this when you leave the world for 25 years then come back and go . When I first started looking into Quarter Horses and Appy's again I did a quick google search just to see who was performing well and my heart sank. Same with Morgans and Arabs. The breeds I'd loved as a younger adult were something I pretty much didn't recognize any more.

100 years from now who knows where will be. If we'll even be around. Obviously I won't see it but if we do make it that far, the way things are going now I think most breeds will be indistinguishable from one another.
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post #5 of 10 Old 03-07-2013, 08:19 PM
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The new thing for quarter horses, that I have seen here, is light boned ,and small . Not the short squaty horses, but tiny hooved tiny legged with thier butts in the air. Disgusting. I had a Lippett Morgan per the Vets opinion, he was sold to me as a cross, one look and the Vets comment was Not a cross, they probably could not sell him here as a Morgan as they are not popular, he was another big boned horse. I am a fan of the bigger boned heavy horses whatever the breed be. The russian (?) arabs I had seen were larger horses and heavier boned than say the Egyptian Arab. They improve the breed to make it popular and trendy . They do need some out breeding or the linebred animals would soon be inbred.. i had a line bred appy that was close to being inbred,
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post #6 of 10 Old 03-09-2013, 01:45 PM
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You don't even need to be that old to see how the breeds have changed. You can look up famous horses of the past, or even look back on allbreed and see some of the old pictures . I was looking at old pictures of my mare's Arab pedigree and one of the first things I noticed was how different the face shapes were back then as compared to now.
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post #7 of 10 Old 03-09-2013, 02:02 PM
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I wouldn't try to "improve" the breed but to improve a type of horse... Like if I wanted an eventer, I could take a well built TB that was slim and delicate and breed her to a warmblood stallion that was well muscled and good bone. I would try for a stallion to "improve" the next horse by finding two animals, where one had faults the others had strengths to "improve" soundness and better suited to do a job.

But I do agree, most horses are so mushed together that it is hard to distinguish which breed it is... And also what "type" of horse within the breed...

Such as Quarter Horses...

Reining bred
Halter bred
HUS bred
Western pleaser bred
Barrel bred

and they all look different!

Horses are scared of two things... Things that move and things that don't.
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post #8 of 10 Old 03-09-2013, 02:12 PM
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I think once people understand that "versatility " of a breed doesn't mean a hundred different type of horses, one for each discipline, but rather one horse can do lots of different things, "improving" will not be necessary.
Why do we need a QH who looks like a warmblood or TB for the hunter classes, why does an Arab who does saddleseat, EP and such, have to resemble a Saddlebred, and why one cannot distinguish the different warmblood breeds anymore. Oldenburgs used to be a little heavier, with slight Roman nose, Holsteiner huge and big boned and so on. Now you have to look at the brand and still can't be sure you really have that breed.

There is preservation breeding going on, thank heavens, not in the limelight, of course, but it's there.....pretty soon this original stock will be in high demand.......or so I hope.....
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post #9 of 10 Old 03-09-2013, 02:51 PM
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I have seen improvement on some things horses bred with more natural movement & athletic ability, than some of those more foundation stock. Problem being with this specialization breeders have taken it to the extreme To get one great quality they sacrifice others.Those "others" often being the important ones of soundness ,oh but they will look prettier doing what they are doing
There has to be a more happy medium,for preservation of the horses these registries were founded on.
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post #10 of 10 Old 03-09-2013, 03:43 PM
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The thing that drives me nuts is what someone said above about wanting to take a breed into a sport they're not bred for. I see this a bit around here with "Friesian sport horses". Basically these people seem to want big black warmbloods with extra hair that they can take into dressage. They may start with breeding Friesians, but if they breed them away from the breed standard so far that the horse is barely recognizable as a member of their breed, can you really still call it a Friesian?
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