Newbie - How to Find and Choose a Stallion? Where to Begin?

Within the next year I would like to breed my mare but I’m a total newbie to breeding.

I would like to breed her within the next year but would like to take lots of time researching and learning all about breeding.

Where should I start? I want to do an ET since my mare is in her prime competition years right now and it seems it is less risky to do an ET instead of my mare carrying the foal. I have a couple reputable ET vet and repro facilities in mind. I have not determined a budget since I don’t really know the price of everything. I have an idea of what I imagine is a healthy budget to get a foal on the ground.

The goal is to breed a foal that would have the potential for the 1.30/1.40m jumpers that I would add to my show string. Of course, things can happen and the foal couId turn out to be a great 3ft hunter and if that’s the case I’m fine with that. My mare is KWPN (I don’t know if she’s registered and can’t tell if she has a brand since she’s a little fluffy right now) imported from the Netherlands by Baltic VDL and out of Orose. I don’t have her pedigree but I will see if the trainer or the previous owner have them. She is super scopey, a little spooky, very (and I mean very) powerful, sassy, and a good mover. Ideally I would like to find a stallion that produces brave babies with good temperaments. My mare does have a bit of a slightly shorter (yet very thick) neck but overall has good conformation.

How should I start planning?

Well you start with examining your mare, her strengths and weaknesses, her conformation, her nature, and your desires. I think you have started to do that. The stallion owner will have some input into what preparation they would like you to do with your mare before breeding.
You can look at pedigrees, and consider “nicking”… crosses that have worked before for families of horses similar to your mare, and with stallion lines that you like.
Then you look at a lot of stallions, and see as many of the offspring of those stallions that you can, to get an idea of what likenesses are produced by each stallion- because stallions may not reproduce themselves as often as you think. And you choose the stallion who best fills any flaws that your mare may have, and has had some success in producing the sort of horses you desire. It’s tough to do, especially in “sport” disciplines, as so much goes into the development of the offspring, so many things will be hidden from you, so many ways for their training to be messed up by someone and screw up what you are seeing.
As for cost for AI, it isn’t something that I can comment on, since I have always done live cover, but one thing I can say is that it is FAR more expensive than live cover, and with less success rate. So good luck with that. It’s not a “game” I play, or will EVER play. For multiple reasons. But others do… even after the damage is seen and well known, and the losses (both economic and emotional) have been substantial.
“The damage” is: 1) narrowing the gene pool- well marketed and successful sires get too many mares, making all pedigrees similar, which results in genetic flaws coming to light which otherwise would not be an issue, if there was better genetic variation. So beware of promotion and marketing. By not allowing AI in TB breeding, this FORCES breeders to consider stallions of various pedigrees that ARE available and close enough to the mare to be an option, whereas if everyone bred to Pioneer of the Nile (or whatever international superstar is the flavour of the year), TBs would be ruined in a single generation. This problem is seen in both QH and warmblood breeds now. Pedigrees are too “tight”, too similar to be able to get a good selection of ancestors. Inbreeding is rampant, and damaging.
2) The vet work required, and the cost. Is substantial, with no guarantees of anything, or success.
3) The lack of a requirement of “breeding soundness”… that is, the ability of two horses to successfully have sex, producing an embryo, without killing each other. “Nice” horses don’t harm or kill each other while copulating. Horses who are not nice horses can still reproduce using AI techniques and embryo transfer. Not saying that this is ALWAYS the case, but it has been known that some stallions whose semen can be purchased do not have the laid back and agreeable temper to be able to be taught how to live cover safely. One really wonders why someone would want to produce a foal from such a horse, even if that horse has won in international competition. This is obviously not the ONLY reason why AI with horses is practiced, there are many positive reasons too, lack of travel, lack of avoidable injuries to both mare and stallion, etc. But the mare owner should be able to watch the live cover performance, and not be frightened by what happens- it shouldn’t be “scary” for anyone. Consider sending your mare to visit the stallion being similar to a lovely young woman heading to a holiday at a resort hotel and having a romantic relationship with the resident tennis pro. Really! That is what it is supposed to be like, IF you are breeding horses who are “nice” horses, with the sort of disposition you may HOPE to reproduce in your foal. And it is selected for with live cover, by necessity.
4) Purebred dogs and cats have been bred using AI far longer than horses have been, and veterinary assistance is plentiful in producing a pregnancy. As a result, some breeds of dogs and cat can no longer breed naturally, or give birth without the assistance of a vet, and surgery. This is the road we are going down with horses now. Is this what we truly want to do to equine reproduction? Keep in mind that feral dogs, cats, and horses can get this all done successfully for free without any human intervention at all most of the time.
Sorry about the essay.
My advice is to look for a stallion who has manners and the easy disposition who is close enough to you to be able to live cover, with a good stallion manager who knows how to tease a mare correctly. This is usually a Thoroughbred stallion, since the sport breeds don’t often do this any more, much to my dismay. Or, pick a sport stallion off a picture and promotion and marketing, and pay the big bucks and lots of vet work, with the high risks and lower fertility… and hope for the best.
Welcome to the world of breeding horses.

I am assuming you do not have her passport/ papers? I would start by trying to locate them. They will tell you not only her breeding but her inspection status and her scores if she has been inspected for the studbooks. Then I would contact KWPN in this country. If she has not been inspected for the marebooks I would do that and that is a good time to talk to the inspectors about lines that have crossed well with her bloodlines and which to avoid. If you can find out her bloodlines, especially her mare family you can see what stallions her relatives ( mother, sisters, grandmothers) have been bred to and the results on some of the pedigree databases ( Hippomundo sp?).

You have to look at the cost/ benefit ratio when you choose stallions. AI is not necessarily more expensive in the long run. There are plenty of stallions with lovely temperaments and good fertility that only breed AI. I have a friend with two stallions of the best temperaments you can imagine that only breed AI. She spent a lot of money on them and doesn’t want them to get injured. You can breed to the unlicensed stallion down the road for less but the value of the foal is less too.

The more you know about your mare’s family the better decisions you can make and the more you know about the stallion’s production record and what he passes on - the better decisions you can make. And breed to what you like. As somebody once said " I breed to what I like because I may be riding them some day".

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If you can get hold of the mares papers, you will be able to benefit from the accumulated knowledge of the KWPN breeders. Performance information going back several generations substantially improves the odds in your breeding gamble.

Thank you for taking the time to respond and give insight into the world of horse breeding. I do 100% agree with you that live covers are better than AI. However, my mare is in the prime of her competing years and it would not make sense to have her take a year off to have a baby and nurse it. While I am aware that horses can be ridden up until term, I don’t think that is fair and I would not do that to my horse. She has also never had a baby before and I don’t want to risk her health (yes I’m aware that there is still risk involved with ET) since she is my heart horse. That is why I would like to do an ET. I have roughly priced it out and yes ET is more expensive but I am alright with spending the money on it.

I really appreciate your advice and would love to do a live cover in the future.

You would be right, I do not have her passport or papers but I’m working on tracking those down. I appreciate your advice and it’s helped clear some things up for me. Where can you find stallions that do AI? Is there a website that has some advertised?

I am working on tracking her papers down as we speak! By looking back several generations, what would I be looking for? Would this be used to make sure she’s not inbred or something?

Do you have her registered/show name?

With the pedigree, you should be able to find out about the competition performance of individuals for several generations back and, more significant when breeding, what the stallion and the mare’s wider family have done. The secret of most successful breeders is to pay close attention to the mare. What has she achieved? What have her siblings and half-siblings achieved? What have her other foals achieved? If she has produced top class horses, her mother produced top class horses, her sisters produce top class horses and her brothers are top class there is a better than average chance that the genes are good. For the stallion, the KWPN stud book would have inspected and tested the animal before allowing it to cover mares. You would be able to find out his scores for conformation, gaits, jump, trainability, lists of his offspring, their performance, and if any sons have themselves become licenced stallions. There is a lot of information which can be as basic as are they jumping lines or dressage?

Inbreeding is not an issue in most warmbloods since they are basically a mixture and have been developed for sport in only the last 60-70 years. However, one thing to check for is WFFS (Warmblood Fragile Foal Syndrome) which is hereditary and disasterous.

Talk to breeders. Learn from them because they habitually love to discuss their horses, their favoured bloodlines, why they chose one stallion over another. Use the resources of the American KWPN registery to help you.

One of the very best things you can do at this stage of your plan is have an expert assess your mare with an impartial eye. We all become rather blind to our horses faults. Not every mare is worth breeding, even if she is the light if your life and has won half a dozen rosettes. An impartial expert could save you a huge amount of heartbreak and expense before you even begin the journey. They could also suggest where a particular stallion might improve on the mare, such a hocks or neck length. Again, a KWPN breeder would have specialist info but any good horsemen could help.

It is also worth looking at a TB sport stallion for additional ‘blood’ as it is a breed frequently used to improve sport horses.

As a final thought, look at all the breeding farms websites - always fun on a quiet evening - and study their stallions, band of mares, foals, prices, costs and see what the breeders are looking for. Look and learn!

As the saying goes " a fool breeds horses for wise men to buy".

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I don’t have her registered KWPN name but I have her USEF name. It’s Fate Zero if that helps.

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I did some digging on the KWPN website and it looks like her registered name is Granderose (mare, born 2011, grey, sired by Baltic VDL and out of a mare named Orose). Her damsire is Ramiro Z (so her pedigree should be written as Baltic VDL x Ramiro Z). Granderose KWPN page

Horsetelex records 2 foals out of Orose: Finnerose, and Camira Z. Camira has 5 foals listed, two of which have sport results - both have competed to at least the 1.10m level (they very well may have competed higher, and the other 3 without sport results may have competed as well - they just don’t display any results on Horsetelex). Camira competed to the 1.35m level, she was sired by Caretano.

Orose’s dam, Wildrose, had 16(!) foals. 6 have results listed, 5 have results from 1.00m-1.10m, and 1 has competed novice level eventing. 2 of the foals have achieved Ster status. Wildrose achieved Preferent and Ster status.

Of the foals of Wildrose’s foals (Wildrose’s grandfoals), 7 have achieved your goals of 1.30m+. Their sires were Caretano, Wizzerd WV, Carolus II, Marlon, Jimtown, Toulon, and Manhattan. Tenessee IX (Manhattan X Goodtimes) achieved the highest results, competing to 1.50m. Codex de la Vie (Toulon x Ramiro Z) had the second-highest results, competing to 1.40m. Codex was out of Orose’s only full sister. Here is a video of him: Codex de la Vie

These relatives might give you a starting point as to what your mare’s dam line tends to throw, and what stallions you might like to look at if you don’t know where to begin.

Consider any horses you have ridden that you really, really liked, and look up their pedigree - there may be a stallion in there that is ‘known’ for the traits you liked, and that may be where those traits (at least partially) came from. For example, I really like riding Samber and Galoubet A descendants, so I tend to favour the stallions that have Quick Star, Limbo, Art Deco, or Baloubet, etc, in their pedigree.

Consider what horses you see in competition that you are always impressed by, and look up their pedigree - you might start to see a pattern with a certain stallion popping up over and over again.

When you’re looking at stallions you like, make sure you look at the progeny. You may like the stallion but not what they tend to throw. For example, I love Cabrio Z (Cassini I x Calato) as a competition stallion, but, while his offspring are very nice, they aren’t really my ‘type’. Looking up ‘[stallion name] x’ into youtube is a good way to get a random selection of offspring, usually videos of foals, jump chute runs, and young sale horse ads.

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Oh my goodness thank you so much!! I’ve tried looking for her pedigree and could not find it so thank you!! So strictly based on her pedigree, would you feel that it there is a reasonable chance that she could have a foal with 1.30/1.40m potential with the right stallion?

I really appreciate the time and effort you spent finding this information for me!

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Unfortunately, there is no guarantees of any sort of future performance when breeding a foal. You can hope for:

  1. a live foal
  2. legs all pointing in the correct direction, and no unseen developmental unsoundnesses or issues.
  3. fun for you raising and training a young horse that you caused to be brought into the world.
  4. that he may perform competitively at some level. How far he goes and how successful he is, you find out in time.
  5. some similarity to at least one of his parents, who are horses you like.
  6. a nice disposition.

Keep in mind that Zenyatta, when bred to the top racing sires in the world, whose foals have received the best care and training by top people in the world, have failed to win a single race so far.

Keep in mind that some of the top racehorses in the world have come from less than stellar families on occasion… John Henry, California Chrome are two classic examples.

Keep in mind that annually the top ten selling TB yearlings have their selling prices (which represent the quality of their pedigrees as well as their conformation) combined and compared to their eventual earnings on the track, and the correlation is extremely poor, extremely sad.

I know, these are not jumping horses, so the comparison may not be “relevant” to you, but what it shows is that “freaks don’t breed true”. Breeding a freak to a freak does not often produce a freak. Freaks are the top 2% of all foals bred for a purpose, when all foals produced are distributed on the “bell curve” of quality and success, and breeders are people who make intelligent decisions and have good horsemanship skills. And often, there is no rhyme or reason as to WHY. It just happens, sometimes. Yet we still breed horses, and hope that lightening will strike for you.

Good luck, and enjoy the ride!

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Wow Clover 5 you are a great sleuth! Jumping ability has a high heredity index so this gives you a start in finding nicks with her bloodlines. You might not produce the next Olympic star but you can surely produce a horse that can jump. With this information you could try to contact her breeders to see if they have any insights too since they would be familiar with her mother and grandmother.

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With the awesome detective work by Clover 5, take at look at www.vdlstud.com and find VDL Baltic who is still a stallion there.

I like looking at stallions (well, horses generally, to be truthful) so also have a look at www.stallionai.co.uk as they have probably hundreds of images to look at, from multiple breeds and disciplines, for the stallions they manage or collect. I know they aren’t in the USA, neither am I. I don’t know if any of their educational videos on various aspects of breeding are still available, working along side British Breeding, but it might be worth having a look.

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I’m glad my horse-stalking skills came in useful!

When you’re breeding, you just have to hope that the foal is born happy, healthy, and alive, and that they stay that way for the next 6+ years until you can really see what they’re made of. That being said, she’s jumped 1.20, her sire is a 1.60 horse, her damsire is Ramiro, and her damline has produced some good jumpers, so you’re starting with the deck stacked in your favour, especially compared to the people who have a backyard bred warmblood whose foals they hope will magically grow wings if paired with the right stallion.

Horsetelex is, in my experience, the best site when it comes to sport horse pedigrees.

You can expand the pedigree from 4 generations up to 9 (although my computer crashes the page when trying to load 8 or 9 generations). When you have a stallion in mind, compare it to Orose and Baltic VDL’s pedigrees and look for duplicates between them and the potential stallion. For example, Granderose already has Ramzes X twice in her great-great-grandparents (4 generations back) so you’ll probably want to avoid breeding her to a stallion with Ramzes X (although line breeding is popular, so I would consult with some breeders if you decided to set out to do that). The ‘big’ stallions in Baltic’s pedigree that you’re very likely to come across in other top Stallion’s pedigrees are Quidam De Revel, Lord, and Nimmerdor, so watch out for them as you’ll be doubling their genetic input if you breed to a stallion with one of them in their pedigree. Alme/Ibrahim, Furioso XX, Ladykiller XX, Lucky Boy XX, Joost/Consul, Gottschalk/Gotthard, Cottage Son XX, are all in Baltic’s pedigree as well and they are very likely to show up multiple times in pedigrees, but they’re usually further back so their genetics are more diluted (Cottage Son is actually tripled in Granderose’s pedigree, he appears once in Orose and twice in Baltic).

The damline tool (which is located below the pedigree) looks very confusing until you get used to it, but it’s very useful and includes pretty much all relevant info for the mares’ offspring, offspring of offspring, their sires, and any predicates or sport results.

It has a ‘virtual mating’ tool as well, which I haven’t used yet but may be of use to you.

I find Hippomundo has more partially blank pedigrees and makes you pay for features Horsetelex offers for free, but sometimes it has horses that Horsetelex doesn’t. Rimondo is a bit of a pain to use, and has a lot of cookies, but has a lot of horses the other two sites don’t have and is missing a lot of horses the sites do have. If you can’t find a horse on the other two pedigrees, Rimondo can be a Hail-Mary to try to find them. They also put available pictures with the pedigrees which can be fun :smiley:

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And with the information Clover5 dug up you can talk to VDL to see who they suggest for a sire. Baltic is old enough to have kids out there competing and that makes it easier.

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We distribute VDL frozen for USA. She is nicely bred for a jumper. Baltic VDL is doing really well in NL… Let me know if I can be of help

And this entire discussion is a great example of why having a registered horse is SO useful!