About the necessity and challenges of thoroughbred blood in
or: what happened 1400 years ago...?
The major challenge in today's warmblood sport horse breeding is identifying the "right" thoroughbred for nowadays olympic quality warmblood breeding, something that is is getting harder and harder (if not impossible) with each generation we proceed in sport horse breeding.
The intention and purpose of this article is NOT about breeding the friendly amateur horses for any kind of amateur sports (which any given thouroughbred can certainly cope with - as much as any other horse can, too), this article is about specialists to suit world class standards in dressage and jumping. It is all about excellence with respect to the one or the other direction of specialisation and the capability of having to add excellence when adding outcross (thoroughbred blood) or at least not deleting xcellence once given via a respective well consolidated warmblood stallion or damline in question.
The two special disciplines jumping and dressage (explicitly not talking eventing) have meanwhile developed to become so specialised with respect to the individual warmblood sport horse that what used to be good to refine warmblood some 50-100 hundred years ago isn't good enough anymore today.
Many greatly celebrated warmblood stallions don't even suit our standards of breeding - how can we expect thoroughbred to do so??
Changes of breeding goals and standards over time
The reason for that is simple:
Assume general warmblood refining started in the early 1930s or 40s, while serious sport horse breeding started after WWII when basically all the (german) studbooks realized that there was no further need for draught horses and developed their more or less homogenous standards for warmblood breeding.
Back than any thouroughbred might have done a good job to refine - but even back than there were people out there who knew exactly what kind of thouroughbred they were looking for (for reasons of damline, soundness, handicaps, exterieur etc) in order to refine their heavy warmblood in a certain direction.
back than people wouldn't allow just any tb stallion for wb breeding (for simple
reasons of availibility for instance) - why should we allow for lesser selection
criteria today, no matter where (Europe or US, that is)?
With the specialization of nowadays warmblood sport horses having developed in two completely different purpose breeds (jumping and dressage, that is) the demand for suitable thoroughbred has become severly difficult, yet, the necessity to add thoroughbred blood every other generation or so, still remains the same.
Just look what happend to our sport since than - look what happened to our
warmblood horses since than - radical changes in exterieur, temperament, gaites
etc given the radical changes of the disciplines they are used for.
And now look at the thoroughbred breed as such:
No change at all since their one and only breeding goal has been and will be
speed and speed only.
No need for the thouroughbred to adapt to any change of discipline demands.
Look at pictures of excellent race horses hundred years ago and you wouldn't be able to tell these were hundred years old. From a visual point of view they could still be today's champions, too.
Thouroughbred mare Ionia and her first foal Breeding standards for thouroughbred have remained the same ever since and will remain the same forever.
Balahé by Brentano II
No such thing in warmblood sport horse breeding.
It is a naturally given condition that nowadays and former thoroughbreds
simply can't provide for what we are looking for today since the specialised
warmblood breeds have developed further and further away in different directions
EACH of them which already makes it absurd to cross some of the two (jumper and
dressage) to each other as chances are high you delete individual genetic
features of specifications in one of them rather than enhancing any potential
common feature that might be desired. Rather than breeding the desired
dual-purpose sport horse chances are high you loose both ways when crossing
dressage with jumper blood:
the product might easily be incapable of jumping given the genetically manifested dressage influence from the one parent killing jumper capability and at the same time the product might have lost all desired dressage features (gaites, swing through the body, uphill carriage) given the genetically manifested jumper genetics from the other parent.
But don't get misleaded:
This article is NOT about thoroughbred lacking quality or anything like that. It is about thouroughbred simply being incapable by nature (defined by its one and only breeding goal: "speed") to match the standards of nowadays highly specialised breeding goals for one or the other discipline.
This article is about the necessity to identify the Lauries Crusadors and
Heraldiks of the present thoroughbred world to profit from, rather than having
to get into damage control a few years down the road. As there already are too
many suboptimal warmblood stallions (and mares) employed in the breed whose
negative influence will be hard enough to get out of pedigrees.
And if we now replace "suboptimal warmblood stallion" by "suboptimal thouroughbred stallion" (or mare) who are and have been used in warmblood breeding, it takes us right into the challenges the general introduction of thouroughbred in warmblood breeding imply.
Most certainly, "suboptimal" thouroughbreds have been and are being used with
the best of all intentions when initially being picked for warmblodd breeding.
But as nature has it:
We only always know afterwards if or if not any individual thouroughbred being crossed to warmblood breeding does or does not deliver desired features to the hybrid cross in question - a "stigma" that is hard enough to find out given most warmblood horses already, adding thouroughbred to the equasion makes it even harder.
Specialisation of jumpers and dressage horses
Today's jumpers (and this does not mean hunters, eventers or any decent jumper who will make it easily up to mid class jumping levels - something any horse can do - we are talking excellence with respect to jumping) are required scope, technics, talent, speed, and - last but not least:
a certain ability of naturally given collection, too (otherwise you die in nowadays highly technically sepcialized jumping arenas).
And if you read carefully through the list of features mentioned you will notice that one thing is missing:
Because the capacity to jump (high and wide) has meanwhile become a self understood feature in any jumper breed of excellence.
We don't even talk about it anymore.
It is not the fact that they CAN jump - it is the question how they jump and
much more important:
how they do inbetween those jumps (distances). As it is technics that diversify the good from the excellence in nowadays olympic jumping discipline.
The better is the evil of the good.
Being "good" is not good enough anymore as it used to be only 20, 30 years ago.
Adding "good" to your specialized jumper genetics of nowadays sport horses
(no matter if by TB or WB - as said before: getting rid of the suboptimal
genes....) will ultimately drag you down. And it will take generations for that
to be washed out again.
The same is true for dressage.
Nowdays dressage specialists are required looseness, uphill move (complete opposite of anything a thouroroughbred racehorse is desinged for), lavish time consuming and power consuming move (complete opposite of anything a thouroroughbred racehorse is desinged for), capability to be collected, to be set on it's hindlegs (far away from what succesful race horses are desinged for) etc etc.
All these are factors that require not just any but highly specialised
genetics - how could a race horse cope with that?
Usually this is the point of discussion when someone would say:
Why bother anyway?
Why not simply leave thouroughbred out of the equasion?
That certainly has developed to become a widely developed practice in highly specialized warmblood breeding these days (for reasons of quick sale, that is) and at the same time it will be the major knock-out factor for any specialized warmblood breed in the long run:
Warmblood sport horses have been and will always be a hybrid breed.
Hundred years of refinery are not enough to alreaday make up for a genetically manifested background of a breed whose (european) origin mainly lies in draught and field horses.
That is a fact and not a matter of discussion.
It already took a couple of centuries to finally establish the unique (english) thouroughbred race horse we are familiar with today, a genetic derivate of the arabian thoroughbred, the latter having been a clean breed for thousands of years according to the Koran, where the prophet Mohammed is said to have required an "asil" ("clean") arabian breed in the 7th century.
The 7th century.
1400 years ago.
Do you still seriously question the need for thouroughbred influence in nowadays hybrid warmblood breed of only sparkling hundred years of age? Bogart, half t.b.colt by Benetton Dream
Persistant genetics can't be manipulated within a couple of generations - a single human life span is only a very subjective (deceptive...) time span given the naturally manifested genetics of our hybrid sport horse warmbloods.
Unless you don't keep adding thouroughbred influence every once in a while to maintain the refinery of these highly specialised warmblood breeds you run the risk of falling back to breeding standards from 40-60 years ago.
Since that is what genetics do when dealing with hybrids.
So what this article REALLY is about is the intrinsic danger of our nowadays
highly modern sport horse breed and the fact that people think:
Oh, it looks refined, it is modern!
It doesn't need any further refinement!
Exactly the reason why some highly modern (stallion) lines are overwhelmingly used since they SUGGEST refinement - but genetically they don't have it.
Once lack of t.b. influence becomes genetically manifested within generations chances are high it will ulitmately lead to the complete opposite - as that's what hybrids do. Pick up on their genetic origin.
There is no way we get around the use of thouroughbred blood and the question is NOT the sheer availability of appropriate thouroughbred out there - in nowadays fast living commercial warmblood breed it is the lack of KNOWLEDGE amongst breeders (and officials) to search and recognize these kind of individual thouroughbred horses.
As it takes a lifetime of both, experience in warmblood breeding AND thouroughbred breeding and inherent knowledge of both breeds (damlines, heritage transfer with respect to certain features manifested in certain damlines) in order to identify a potentially suitable thourougbred lines or individual horses to match the highly specialised standards for our warmblood breeds.
And even then, if you were to find such people, the Maas Hells and Georg
Vorwerks and Dr. Lehmanns of the past world who introduced thouroughbred
stallions to the warmblood breed who LATER on proved to be stamp stallions for
the best of the breed, that still doesn't relieve you from the burden that only
afterwards you know if any respective thouroughbred horse (no matter if stallion
or mare) did in fact prove to be of genetic benefit for the warmblood breed - as
you can only tell the quality of any given breeding horse out there by it's get
and by it's get only. And it does take a few generations.
As even these grand old horsemen did pick "wrong" thouroughbred stallions and it did take a long time of trial and error for the breeders who made use of them to fígure out that some respective TB stallions were NOT suitable to the warmblood breed ... speaking of having to get into damage control a few years down the road...
As genetics won't follow pedigree or phenotype - they never did, they never
And most certainly:
They won't allow you to get around thouroughbred influence in the long run if your goal is to further breed a modern and highly specialised warmblood sport horse of excellence.