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How Breaders Pick A Stallion

I was asked recently how we at High Farms pick the stallions we put to our mares.  The very short answer is this: the four ‘P’s.

Pedigree:   We rank the stallions on a scale of 8.  Looking at the bloodlines we give up to 4 points for the top-line and the same for the bottom-line.  If, for example, the stallion or the stallions’ sire has won Gold at the Olympic Games or is a world class producer-Ramiro, Alme, Quidem De Revel, etc., then he automatically gets 4 points for the top-line. 

The stallions’ dam lines are ranked on her bloodlines and performance as well and let’s take, Ratina Z, who carries some of the best jumping lines in the world and she won Olympic and World Cup gold, would be a solid 4 points as well.  Additionally, we look at how well those bloodlines will enhance what we’ve already got and help us to achieve the desired improvements.  Most stallions receive 5-7 points; very rarely is there an 8.

Performance:  We rank the stallion on a scale of 2.  Stallions that perform at the highest level are very desirable.  Typically, we look for those who are performing and winning.  Stallion who made the International Grand Prix ring get 1 point.  Those who were capable of long, distinguished careers receive another point.  While we (the general public) do not usually hear about injuries/illness it is reflected in their show results or lack thereof.  The World Breeding Federation For Sport Horses is an excellent resource as it ranks horses and stallions by breed (registries) and by discipline (dressage, jumper, etc.)  They also rank stallions by number and performance of progeny in the sport.  This is an extremely helpful section for breeders.

Progeny:  We rank the stallion on a scale of 3.  First we look at what the stallion has produced.  If we see his colts getting approved as stallions and the fillies going premium that is 1 point.  If these same foals are fetching record prices at auctions then it shows a demand and appreciation for the stallion and this warrants another point.  If these same offspring are in the sport and doing well then there is the final point.  Young stallions that aren’t old enough to have offspring competing are, unfortunately, at a loss for that point.  We also look at the offspring’s bloodlines to see how the stallion is coming through and which mares (bloodlines) are producing the highest caliber foals.

Presence:  This is ranked on a scale of 2.  When you see the stallion, either on video or in real life, what kind of impression do you have?  This section is highly subjective.  If you can’t take your eyes off the animal, have heart palpitations, get weak in the knees, and have a hard time catching your breath then he gets 2 points.  If there is ANYTHING that takes away from that (paddling, complicated ride, ugly head, bad manners, etc.) then you take points away accordingly.  I have given a -5 in this category for deficiencies in character, saddle position, form to, and away, from jumps, manners (which comes back to haunt you when they’re started under-saddle), and overall confirmation.  While there are some stallions that are well bred, compete and have produced top notch foals, if we don’t like, for example, their back we will subtract heavily.  We don’t want any weakness that may be repeated in the foals and cascade into a performance affecting malady.  The stallions’ confirmation should have little or no obvious weakness.

This is a very brief overview of how we select a stallion for our mares.  I could write 3 pages alone on how the pedigree is scored.  I’m certain every breeder has their own way of dissecting the stallion and superimposing them on their mare.  Our model is seemingly simple but has worked very well for us so far.  I can think of few things I enjoy more than pouring over bloodlines, watching video, researching statistics, and trying to picture what the stallion would produce with a given mare.  In every breeder there is the heart of a gambler as we believe we know what we’ll get but it’s always a surprise. 

High Farms specializes in breeding world class Holsteiner horses primarily for jumping and dressage. They can be contacted through this site at