Archive for January, 2012

New Zealand standardbred breeders get a relatively small ‘window of opportunity’ to produce commercial foals – and many of us have relatively small financial resources to match!

Add to that, if your mare is foaling in the same season you sometimes are waiting until November to get your first shot at insemination.  Some mares are difficult to get in foal for a range of reasons, and mares just retired off the track can take a while to ‘let down’.  And there are other factors such as the condition of the mare, unusual weather patterns, whether the semen is fresh or frozen etc etc.

It is really important that everyone does their best to get the ‘planets all lined up’. 

Because not getting a mare in foal means the breeder will have to carry a mare through to the following season – not a planned break (which personally I support doing for mares at appropriate intervals) but an unnecessary year’s delay in producing a commercial foal and additional costs of looking after a mare who is not “working”.

So it is really frustrating when a sire with a reputation for being highly fertile appears to be having an off season.

This happened with one of my mares in this 2011/12 season – and I gather I am not alone in having many goes at getting a mare pregnant to Bettor’s Delight, and even then not being successful. Ironically we first tried for frozen semen from Somebeachsomewhere, but were advised that the quality of that semen arriving in NZ was so poor (good on Macca Lodge for being upfront about this and incredibly helpful in getting the deposit refunded), we switched to a local Mr Reliable – Bettor’s Delight – before we even started. 

Alas, by late December we had to finally pulled the plug or risk going into Northern Hemisphere time.

It can happen to a sire. It has happened in the past.  And it will probably be fine the following year.

But from a breeder’s perspective, and I am sure from the perspective of semen bases who have to deal directly with the mare and the breeder, it is good if a potential issue is recognised as soon as possible, because each attempt reduces the ‘window of opportunity”. 

I realise that an apparent drop in fertility affects the return on investment for the stallion’s owners and managers, but it also directly impacts on many breeders who are struggling to keep up with rising costs and do their bit to maintain our breeding numbers. Sure, you don’t have to pay the service fee, but you are still committed to significant costs without the bonus of having a foal on the way.

Good communication. That’s what helps build reputations and relationships for the longer term. In this case, I am sure Woodlands Stud will have a good look into it once the season is tallyed up and share what they find. I do appreciate that sometimes we can jump to conclusions, whereas evidence may tell a different story.  After all, Bettor’s Delight is a fantastic sire and a hugely popular one. And I am sure there are many happy breeders around the country with positive results too.

This is less about this one particular case, and more to make the point of how breeding relies on many complex factors, all working together to get a positive result. It’s in everyone’s interest. Fertility rates are publicised and that’s great for breeders because it is something we have to take into consideration when making decisions about timings and sires.

For my mare, it’s not a huge issue, more a frustration. We will hopefully get a flying start next season.

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As I said in my last blog, going to stallion parades and yearling parades can be a great way for breeders to see types ‘in the flesh’.

It can challenge the prejudices or misconceptions that inevitably creep in when we base our views on promotional material or a bad experience with one individual horse or what we’ve heard on the grapevine.

I like observing the yearling parade day in a state of mind that says: “Just look at each yearling coming into the parade ring – ignore the lot number, ignore any practice commentary from the PGG team and just respond to the type of yearling in front of you before your vision is clouded by too much information.” If one grabs you then check out what it is – and the results might surprise.

American Ideal

American Ideal at Woodlands Stud parade 2011, photo Bee Pears

Last year I did this at the 2011 Australasian Classic Sale at Karaka, and rediscovered American Ideal. Four of the five yearlings by American Ideal were ones that appealed strongly to me on type, enough to make me jot down comments and note their lot number – and discover their common sire.

A couple of years before that, I had been the Woodlands Stud stallion parade and saw Bettor’s Delight, Pegasus Spur and American Ideal paraded up close. Perhaps I was distracted by the strong energy of Bettor’s Delight, a sire who is not big in size but has a big personality and is built like a brick shithouse! And perhaps I was too busy admiring Pegasus Spur, who has a heap of character, stands tall and looks a bit like a Friesian horse! Anyway, I came away with the impression that American Ideal was a smaller stallion and quite plain. He hardly registered with me.

But lo and behold, a couple of years later here were three yearlings for sale that, on type, I really liked – all by American Ideal. They weren’t big, bold horses but they seemed evenly developed and strong, and what you might call go-early types. I really liked them.

Lot 41 was sold for $80,000, Lot 92 for $10,000 and Lot 93 for $60,000. The only filly sold for $7500, and I hadn’t seen her parade. I’d be interested to find out how they are getting on (note to self).

So when I went to the Woodlands Stud stallion parade again later that year, I was keen to have another fresh look at American Ideal.  Again, all three sires were paraded – Bettor’s Delight still strutting like he owns the place (he’s certainly helping to pay for it!), Pegusus Spur checking out the crowd, chewing on the grass, happy to run up and show us what a lovely mover he is. And then American Ideal – oh not as small as I remembered (15.2h), very relaxed, very professional, a lovely walker, not showy but strongly built right through the body.

He’s doing a top job so far on the track in America as well as starting to show up here – Ideal Scott, Besotted, etc.  American Ideal himself performed well at 2 years and superbly at 3 years old.

And in North America he has crossed successfully with mares we can offer here from sires like Artsplace, Falcon Seelster, Life Sign (almost inbreeding, interesting).

So although he doesn’t have the glamour profile of a Bettor’s Delight or an Art Major, American Ideal yearlings certainly opened my eyes to a very nice type of stallion who seems to be stamping his foals.

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