There are hundreds of horse and pony breeds that I either don`t know anything about, or, as the saying goes, “know just enough(about) to be dangerous”. I know a little about Trakheners, Dutch Warmbloods, Hanoverians, Selle Francais, Freisians, Hackneys, Paints, Oldenburgs, Appaloosas, Palominos, American Saddlebreds, Standardbreds, and a few others, but not enough to be so rash as to try to come across as knowledgeable.
Each breed has its own breeders, riders, drivers, fan club and support network, and since I started this blog series as just a cursory overview, not some authorative treatise, it would be better to consult true experts, not Denny Emerson.
However, like most of us who`ve been in the horse world for a long time, I`ve been involved with hundreds of horses, probably thousands, that didn`t come with any label attached. Some of them were probably registered, but the papers had been lost. Others might have been eligible for registry, but the paperwork was never finalized. The majority, though, of these “breeding unknown” animals were probably a mix of one, two or several breeds. There`s a story about a little boy with his dog. Someone asked him what kind of a dog it was. The little boy replied, “He`s part husky, part collie, part beagle, part golden retriever, part German shepherd, and the rest is a mixture.”
So often, as time passes, and grade horses get bred to grade horses, back and forth and back and forth, these total mixtures begin to be the result, and while many of them are “just horses”, every once in a while a superstar emerges, in defiance of all the hype and publicity surrounding the concept of “bred in the purple.”
Snowman was in a kill pen at New Holland. Nautical, Hugh Wiley`s Disney “Horse With The Flying Tail” was by Cattle Truck x The West. My first pony, Paint, was one of these, my second horse, Bonfire, ditto. My gold medal horse, Victor Dakin, was supposedly part thoroughbred, part “Irish”, part Morgan, and part Arabian.” I`ve always been tempted to add, “and the rest was a mixture.”
There`s a wonderful saying that we would all do well to remember: “A horse doesn`t know what he`s supposed to be.” Sure, that`s true within limits, but let`s be real, A Percheron isn`t going to win a race, unless, maybe, it`s a short race to the grain bin, and a Quarter Horse/Appaloosa cross is unlikely to clean Totilas`clock in Grand Prix dressage, but horses are amazingly versatile if we give them the chance to be, and don`t let human preconceptions limit what we ask them to try.
Most of the great horsemen I`ve been around look first at the horse, then at the papers, except in the rarified world of racing, where pedigree can mean the difference, literally, all else being roughly equal, between $5,000 and $500,000.
Total breed “fanatics” remind me of sports fans. They LOVE (pick one) Morgans, Paints, thoroughbreds, Holsteiners, whatevers, the same way boys, old and young, LOVE the Baltimore Orioles, New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, Cleveland Indians, and once that obsession has been implanted, the most likely and effective cure is death.
All my life I`ve been lucky enough to be infatuated with lots of breeds, not just one, among which Morgans, thoroughbreds, Irish crosses, Arabians, and various warmblood crosses were the ones I`ve most closely dealt with, but I never knew York`s breeding, and he was as good as anything I`ve ever sat on, and as far as I`m concerned, a good mutt is a good horse.
I know that my son, Jamie, will never outgrow his obsession with the Boston Red Sox, nor my son, Rett, his love of the Boston Celtics. My dad spent most of his life worshipping at the altar of Dartmouth College football, so I can understand that blind devotion. But if I could give some advice to young horse lovers, I`d say try not to be that with horses. Find a college, find a sports team, find a rock band, whatever floats your boat, to be your obsession, but try to look at the horse in front of you for what it is, not for the label attached.