Dressage Stallion For Thoroughbred Mare

Question:I recently bought a lovely 9-year-old, chestnut Thoroughbred mare that I am training for dressage. She had previously been bred for racing and had three beautiful babies. I am considering breeding her to a warmblood. Her conformation is excellent, but I would like to add a little size and bone. Do I need to register her as an “Approved” mare and, if so, how do I do that? How do I go about choosing an appropriate stud? Also, are certain color combinations recommended?

Karen Reid’s Answer: You can choose a stud of any breed if you want. There’s no history of one warmblood breed crossing better than others with Thoroughbreds. Most modern warmblood stallions will improve the bone and joint size of the foal when crossed with a Thoroughbred mare. The resulting foals can be really beautiful and successful in sport. In dressage, Hanoverians are probably the best-known breed because there are more of them. However, Holsteiners are lovely movers with a lot of elevation and suspension. They’re growing in popularity. Dutch Warmbloods also are popular. You can get more complete information about breeds by contacting breed organizations. Most breed organizations have Web sites, and all are listed with the American Horse Council in Washington, DC.

After choosing a breed, and before searching for a stallion, take your mare to the appropriate warmblood breed organization for evaluation and possible approval. The purpose of getting your mare approved is to ensure that the cross will produce a branded foal-a legal foal of the sire’s registry. Most warmblood breed registries will accept a foal whose dam is a different breed of warmblood or is a Thoroughbred registered with The Jockey Club, provided that the dam is approved.

If your mare is not approved, you can still breed to the stallion of your choice if the stallion’s owner agrees, but you will not get a branded foal. While this makes no difference in performance competitions, it makes a great deal of difference if you intend to sell the foal or the foal’s offspring. Few buyers would be interested in an unbranded foal-particularly an unbranded filly, since they would not be able to make her an approved broodmare.

Every breed organization has stallion rosters and listings of bloodlines. Use these to choose a stallion that you like and that is compatible with your mare. Important factors to consider are his size, bone, character and history of crossing with Thoroughbreds. Study the bloodlines carefully. From my experiences in Holstein, Germany, I’ve learned that the proof is in the bloodlines, and the superior foals produced from those bloodlines are the absolute proof.

Don’t consider color when choosing a stud. In most warmblood studbooks, bay, chestnut and gray are all acceptable; there is no “recommendable” color.

Breed only to an approved and tested stallion. To become approved, a stallion is brought before a committee of judges, who evaluate his conformation. If his conformation earns their approval, then he goes into a demanding 100-day performance test, in which his character, rideability, jumping ability and gaits are evaluated (see “Debating the Merits of the 100-Day Test,” Dressage Today, January 1999). In the United States, stallions can also be proven in sport in place of the 100-day test.

Karen Reid, a professional breeder of Holsteiners, has owned and operated Fox Fire Farms in Fox Island, Washington, since 1986. She makes frequent trips to Germany to study the breeding methods of the Holsteiner Verband.

For additional information about breeding, see the January 2000 issue of Dressage Today.