"“Breed the best to the best and hope for the best.” E.P.Taylor after Frederico Tesio

Creating horses

Creating horses is part science, part art, part luck. It is the luck factor at which scrupled and scrupulous breeders could whittle away. The approach takes a keen and practiced eye, and a good dose of objectivity. Sacrifices are required for long term gain.

Soundness, temperament and conformation are all equally important, but I bring attention most to soundness because its potential is not obvious to assess. Conformation refers to the skeleton and musculature. Inner strength – of sinews, organs, nerves, of constitution and of mind – is heritable too. Performance is what visionary breeders are striving for. A beautiful, talented horse, who breaks down after years invested in its training, is a heartbreak. A great mover with bad nerves, cracked feet or weak stifles is a heartbreak even in the short run.

Even a genetically stacked deck can produce less than stellar individuals. Animals chosen for parenthood should never be mediocre. They should be outstanding.

The sample horses are ones I bred or trained, and I can share their intimate histories.

Miss KM

On a microscopic budget, from four thoroughbreds I bred for racing, one broke a track record at Greenwood. Miss KM blazed to victory in a 6 ½ furlong sprint by 12 lengths in 1.21 on a slow track. Her dam had a roman nose, but a voluptuous body and correct limbs, and she was out of the BC Oaks winner, Gay Van. Her hunky sire was Victorian Prince, twice Canadian champion, who retired sound at age nine. He came from an illustrious line of performers and producers.

The other three were sired by “fashionable” stallions. I had made those matches for the wrong reasons – political ones. They went the way of all spindly, frail creatures.


My first horse, Aramis, a nicely-proportioned 16.1 hh bay gelding, was by the Hungarian sire, Gazda out of a Polish mare. Both countries’ breeding histories reveal unpampered horses, raised on the open plain. Natural selection was further aided by warfare: the survivors of the elements, hard work and starvation lived on to breed. Captured foreign stallions enhanced the gene pool. Aramis was just such a hybrid. Though a little introverted, he was 100% sound in mind, body and spirit. Sadly, mid-career, he was euthanized after a disabling kick.


Corazon is the first warmblood I ever bred. Her sire was the magnificent Trakehner stallion, Condus, who moved with so much power it was graceful, silent. Riding a Condus was like riding a cloud. Corazon’s dam was a modest TB mare, Ermine Sox. The grey filly hated dressage but loved to jump and went on to become a champion hunter in Canada and the USA with her new name, All Heart. At the prepurchase exam, hock radiographs revealed early arthritis, anathema for dressage but fine for low jumps. In Europe, x-rays are used to assess the prospects of three-year-olds before they are put into training. The x-rays of stallions, and recently mares, are being logged and studied for heritable factors.


Acadian Skies was bred by my friend Dr. Anne Muckle. My Mara, her dam was out of a commercial draft mare, the name given to the intriguing hackney/draft cross which is exactly how the Dutch started out. They still have a passion for carriage horses and the Dutch Driving Horse is a work of breeder’s art. Her sire was the wonderful, old-fashioned Hanoverian Sandsturm, a sturdy, compact, sweet horse. Acadia looked like a baby moose, never tracked up a day in her life, not even running free, and at six was still unstarted. In three days, she could have entered a test at training level, a testament to her big heart and mature body. It is always wrong to start a warmblood at less than three and a half years of age. Everyone rode Acadia, even when I was competing her. The judges thought her a “spectacular horse” and she won almost every test she entered, was the penultimate best horse in Canada until the higher levels when her odd conformation got the best of uphill-ness. Still, she had a long hip and at 14, could do all the Grand Prix movements very well. And then she was sold…

Eastern Ruler

Eastern Ruler’s sire G.Ramiro Z was a stallion that comes along once in a century. The Holsteiner jumped internationally and bred 600 mares per year in his heyday. He is approved in nearly every warmblood studbook. Ramiro was extraordinarily fertile and prepotent. His daughters were “blue hens”. His children were great at any sport. Onyx, ER’s dam was by Ukase, a Selle Francais by Ibrahim, sire of Almé. Purple jumping blood. Eastern Ruler moved true as an arrow, big and free. His straight stifle affected his ability to sit comfortably, but sit he could. After a hip injury, he began rearing and made it his favourite daily game. As a dressage horse, he was reluctant at best. As an eventer, he was smarter than brave. His dynamic but equally quirky full sister, Deola, jumped the Mini Prix’s with Greg Kuti in breathtaking airtime and textbook style. Eastern Ruler, true to his genes, sired champions in dressage and hunter despite himself.


Eastern Ruler was a moderately rangy type, taking after his sire. He was highly intelligent, like a pony and just as “playful”. His full sister, Deola, was rounder, more compact, taking after her dam. Viola, whose remarkable canter made her show name “Carousel”, was a jumper champion. When she retired lame in every corner, I leased her reluctantly. At 16, she began a career as broodmare and later schoolmaster. She became sounder and sounder with dressage and worked into her mid-twenties. Her firstborn by Eastern Ruler, inherited her compact body type and elegant head. ER Passion, who was Junior Champion under Ryan Jeffries while still a stallion, is now winning Grand Prix as “Lindor’s Finest” under Ute Busse. His future looks exciting.

Rubicon, his full brother, inherited the sire’s body type and was equally slow to mature physically. He is now a champion show hunter. Sir Judd was bred by Wendy Judd out of a TB mare, and is a successful event horse.

ER, when bred to lively, compact mares, produced offspring with more ambition, courage and agility than himself. In return, he gave his correct limbs, intelligent and friendly character, and big, free movement. You could fault his stifles for being too straight, and when combined with growth rate discrepancies, they could be weak.

Warmbloods and thoroughbreds have different rates of growth. When combined with over-feeding or imbalanced feeding, growth problems, such as contracted tendons and locking stifles, could result. Interestingly, ER was entirely OCD free.