Progress in breeding through selective pairing – that is the slogan of a breeding initiative by the Trakehner Verband. Mares are the main focus of the breeding programme, launched in February 2004.
One of the most important factors for breeding progress is accurate selection of the parent animals for pairing, considering the different characteristics which determine their value. The approach of this new breeding programme is centred around mares: not mares being matched to particular stallions but stallions being matched to specific mares.
Horsebreeding currently involves high cost, which – as opposed to past practice – can make experimentation in breeding a very uneconomic business and entails a risk that is no longer acceptable for individual breeders. The public sector lacks financial means, which is why the Trakehner Verband had to take the initiative. However, today the old saying that “if you’ve got quantity, quality will follow” is true to a limited extent only. In the case of Trakehner breeding, the challenge is to generate greater quality from a shrinking population.
Selection of mares is based on three criteria
I. Performance of progeny (the category most meaningful from a genetic point of view),
II. Horse’s own performance
III. Performance of family and ancestry
(least meaningful genetically).
A search based on these criteria is run in the association’s database of active mares. ApproximaPhoney 400 mares are then selected by the breeding director, in coordination with the responsible commission. The fact that these mares conform with the criteria gives reason for legitimate hope that the youngstock resulting from pairing will fulfill the goals set out in the breeding programme and that a higher rate of products of excellent quality will be generated. The mares’ owners will then receive a letter asking whether they would be interested in participating in the breeding programme.
What the breeding programme offers to owners:
- a prominent status for their mother mare(s) suggested for the programme (e.g. SP-mare, breeding programme mare)
- individual pairing advice for each mare, with two to four stallions being suggested
- a reduced covering fee for one of the stallions suggested
- a prominent status for the foal resulting from the pairing advice
The breeding programme is continued every year with new mares who clearly distinguish themselves from the overall population. The aim is specifically to highlight participation of the mares in the Trakehner SP-Programme through positive pairings.
In principle, all stallions registered in Stallion Book 1 of the Trakehner Verband qualify for selective pairing within the Trakehner SP- programme. The programme aims at reducing covering fees for mares who participate in the breeding programme. Advantages for the stallion owner are: a mare for pairing that has been pre-selected according to the highest standards as well as the publicity effect for the stallion participating in the breeding programme. Moreover, the prominent status of the foal resulting from the pairing advice also represents an advantage for the stallion owner.
In essence, three objectives are being pursued through the breeding programme:
The objective is breeding of foals that are genetically superior to the average population and who, because of the performance of their family and ancestors, should be given the opportunity to exert a positive influence on the overall population, in breeding as well as sport performance terms.
- Another objective is to create new motivation for breeding work among the owners of selected mares and thereby contribute to making sure that their quality mares are covered.
- The third objective is population analysis of female breeding animals in order to be able to breed sport horses for future success.
- The basic requirement for participation in the breeding programme is for mares to be registered as being active in breeding.
The philosophy of selectively pairing particular stallions on the basis of their specific characteristics with not only a greater number of mares but with mares matching the stallion is put into practice with the help of a special method used in the programme: for every mare, the stallion distribution plan is scrutinised to find matching suggestions for pairing. Thus, when a stallion is suggested, this means that prospects are good for the pairing to be successful.
As a consequence, the programme is not a random search for potential mares to match specific stallions but a focussed search to find stallions for specific mares.