If everything comes together, dressage horse breeding can be the perfect way to find that next competition superstar. It can be significantly cheaper than purchasing an animal that has had any event exposure, or even an older youngster that is ready to be backed and ridden on. There is also a special kind of satisfaction that comes from producing a homebred foal. If it goes on to achieve any accolades, the success is often so much the sweeter.
Despite the benefits of dressage horse breeding, it can be something of a minefield and there is an awful lot that can go wrong. For example, the foal might not be suitable for what the breeder wants to do with it, it might have weaknesses or conformation faults. However, if horse breeding is something that the mare owner is committed to doing and they are knowledgeable enough horse people to take on the responsibility, there are a number of things that can be done to increase the chances of the mare having a quality foal.
The broodmare is hugely important and what she brings to the foal should never be underestimated. Only a sound mare with good conformation and a stable temperament should be used. Ideally, she will have shown talent under saddle, but even a mare that has not excelled in this area should at least have a pedigree that shows known performance bloodlines. Top notch conformation and performance ability are obviously closely aligned, as a horse or pony must usually be well put together in order to have the necessary agility to perform well. As far as breed goes, the best dressage horses do tend to be warmbloods although if an equine has good basic paces it certainly has the potential to hold its own, whatever breed it is.
Once it has been decided that the mare is suitable to breed from, it is time to find the second half of the horse breeding equation, the stallion. Firstly, make sure as much as possible is known about the mare. What are her bloodlines, performance history, behaviour and conformation? Which of her weaker points could be improved with the right stallion? Once the breeder has an understanding of the specific qualities needed from the stallion, it will be easier to make a shortlist of potential studs.
Budget is another factor that will have to be taken into consideration. Stud fees can vary enormously and reflect a number of things including value of the stallion, his past winnings, value and success of his offspring and the facilities offered by the stud itself. It’s important to calculate what can be afforded and to stick to that amount. Young upcoming studs will often be much better value for money than an established international Grand Prix dressage stallion, so these can be a very good bet if the mare owner has a good eye for future potential and conformation etc.
Given the right combination of mare and stallion, plus a large dose of good luck, producing a dressage foal can be hugely rewarding. The whole process can be emotionally draining and a lot of hard work but many involved in dressage horse breeders would stress that when everything turns out as it should, the results make everything more than worthwhile.