Friday, January 11, 2008

Chestnut Mare Beware! And, Researching Hanoverian Bloodlines

Skip to researching bloodlines

If you read the Chronicle of the Horse, you've probably seen the editorials lamenting that Americans don't pay enough attention to bloodlines. My own ignorance was revealed to me, painfully, when I visited my first breeding farm to look at babies. I thought I was prepared, I had my list of must-have traits and had a budget.

The first breeding farm I visited has a national reputation for producing versatile, rideable partners -- the owner is definitely a Big Name Breeder, and I'll refer to her as BNB from now on. When I arrived, BNB and her assistant were just finishing the afternoon chores. She greeted me, and I noticed she looked a bit haggard, probably from late nights delivering foals. Nevertheless, BNB was upbeat and enthusiastic about showing me her program. She knew my budget and limitations, but she was so gracious, I could have been a deep-pocketed DQ.

We got started. BNB's plan was to walk me through her barn of 20-odd mares with babies on the ground or soon-to-be-born. We went to each stall and I would peer in to see mommy and sometimes a baby. BNB waxed eloquent about each mare's history and performance record, the sire, and the traits or anticipated traits of the baby. As the tour progressed, I started to feel my anxiety level rising...

"This mare is blah blah out of an Argentan blah blah saddle position blah blah blah MPT blah blah blah G-line blah blah JBP approved blah blah crosses with the W-line blah blah full sister to Sandro Hit blah blah blah bred through ET...."

I struggled to listen, adopting a pensive expression and nodding at appropriate intervals. Must. Appear. Intelligent. I had no idea what BNB was talking about. All of the mares were lovely, but standing in darkened stalls, munching hay, they were impossible to evaluate. Almost all were chestnuts, most of the available babies were chestnuts, and incidentally I knew BNB's two stallions were chestnuts. Over an hour later, we made it to the other end of the barn, where the tour concluded.

Now I'm going to share with you one of the worst social gaffes of my adult life.
I finished the tour mentally exhausted from the effort of listening to what might as well have been a reading of Augustine's Confessions in Latin. My impression of the broodmares was a chestnut sea of sameness. BNB asked me which horses I wanted to see again.

I drew a blank. In retrospect I could have just point to a random stall, which would have been a comparably intelligent strategy. Instead, some moronic impulse took over. I told her I didn't like chestnuts.

BNB paused for a moment. Her face was inscrutable. She led me back to two non-chestnut mares, a bay and a gray. One had no baby at her side, and one had a baby that was too small. BNB's enthusiasm had evaporated. I wished I could evaporate. She told me the bay mare was expecting a foal by a bay stallion that was known for throwing size. Would I like to return to see that baby, assuming it was not a chestnut? Stricken and embarrassed, I assured her I was interested, but needed to do some more research on bloodlines before returning, blah blah blah. I never expected to hear from BNB, but several weeks later she called me about the foal. It was a bay, but it had a medical issue and they took him to New Bolton.

I saw BNB again last year, at a breed show. She had a colt in the same class as Riley, but we never got close enough to make eye contact. I wondered if she remembered that day, and my colossal stupidity. I thought about speaking to her, but decided instead to give my full attention to showing off Riley -- my chestnut yearling.

Hanoverian Bloodlines: Resources

For the love of God, don't let this happen to you. While I'm not a breeding expert (obviously), the resources below helped to elevate my knowledge to an enough-to-be-dangerous level, and to a level that I feel comfortable propogating lists of resources. I do not include materials available through the various Hanoverian organizations--yearbooks, magazines, and such--which are marvelous but tend to be an "insider's view" for breeders. You can find lists of publications prominently displayed on their Web sites.

International Warmblood Horse : A Worldwide Guide to Breeding and Bloodlines by Celia Clarke, Debbie Wallin, and Jane Kidd
Sorry, not online. Best single resource I've found, hands down. Expensive, but available via interlibrary loan (you do have a library card, don't you?). Each warmblood gets its own chapter (Swedish, Danish, Dutch, etc.) in addition to discussion of the structure of german warmblood breeding and warmbloods in North America, Australia, and New Zealand.

The Warmblood Guidebook by Charlene Strickland
Sorry, not online. Useful but a bit more basic than the above resource.

Breeding Issues of Major Magazines
Most major publications have a breeding issue in January: Dressage Today, Chronicle of the Horse, Hunter and Sport Horse, to name a few.

Hanoverian Reference Stallions
Historical list of influential hanoverian stallions, with pictures and descriptions.

Pro-Stallions Videos
If you have time to kill, this alphabetical list of stallions has short video clips. Serious eye candy, and a good way to develop an eye for different bloodlines and their types.

Architects of the dressage horse
Subtitled How the German Breeding Verbands Have Been Creating the Dressage Horse of the Future. Detailed history of the German program and discussion of current and future trends.

Bloodlines of the Hanoverian Horse by Ludwig Christmann
Discussion of "old" bloodlines in Hannover: A(later E); F; D: and G. by the deputy breeding director of the Hanoverian Verband.

The Horse Magazine, breeding article index
This Australian magazine offers an index of its breeding articles. Many authoritative experts offer advice on selecting/evaluating stallions, interpreting stallion ranking and statistics, etc. Also see its breeding barn section, with lists of outstanding sires in history.

The Warmbloods
Basic discussion of warmblood registries and history.

Breeding Statistics:Interview with Dr Ludwig Christmann
ThFrom the Horse Magazine, this article gives statistical rankings from the Hanoverian Yearbook and Ludwig Christmann offers a discussion of how the statistics are compiled.

Sporthorse Breeder
This site has articles, pictures, and other resources of interest to sport horse breeding.

Bulletin Boards and Listservs has separate forums for each registry. They have a spam problem but the members are very knowledgable. Posts are polite and professional.
Chronicle of the Horse Forums (COTH) has a sport horse breeding forum. It can get lively, but it is one of the more active discussion lists. A no brag rule is enforced.
Ultimate Dressage BB has a sport horse breeding forum. Similar to COTH, but not quite as active.
UncouthBB is well moderated and the main forum is pretty active. Members are, for the most part, actual breeders (not the case for some of the more general boards), so the discussion is undiluted breeder talk. A brag board is available for members to post achievements.


  1. Also check out the wwwarmbloods forum:

    You can glean a lot of bloodline information from the discussions the breeders have.

  2. I have a 24 y/o Hanoverian and I've always wondered about his breeding. I don't even know what his registered name IS... to me, he's Kiko. His brand is an american hanoverian but when i checked the am. hanoverian society's page, I couldn't really find where to search for a horse.

    I just sent a letter to the folks I bought him from years ago... maybe they can start me on the path!

    Do you have any suggestions for this sort of thing?

  3. I got the "International Warmblood" for about 1/5 of the original price on ebay :D It's in great condition and more importantly, it's a fantastic read


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