Why breed show jumpers with OTT mares?
Given the ever decreasing likelihood for sport horse breeders to use thoroughbreds in their sport horse breeding, it is quite unusual to start breeding show jumpers with thoroughbred mares in Germany. Some more “refined” jumper breeders humor me for it. Half bred horses are exotic around here and usually only valued and thought after for breeding purposes. It is well recognized that half bred mares are great to breed with, since they tend to work well with pretty much any top class stallion. But my firm belief is that a well bred sport horse out of a thoroughbred mare should be just as appealing to a rider as to a breeder.
Let me elaborate on this point:
The changing requirements in show jumping courses clearly favor horses with more agility, which do not lose their carefulness at a fast gallop in the jump-off, notwithstanding it to be the third day of competitions. Given these changing requirements, horses with thoroughbred heritage should gain importance, since they are quick thinkers and tough cookies alike. Of course qualities as ample scope never lose its appeal (and great care should be taken to keep scope!). But the times of massive horses such as Cento, Olympic gold medalist at Sidney 2000, are way over. What good are heaps of scope in a slow horse, if the courses are won at the speed of light?
If you take a closer look at the facts and figures of the WBFSH/ FEI rankings of the past 5 years, they clearly show that a high thoroughbred percentage (on average around 45%) in the top 100 horses has been reality. This is reflected by the fact that the FEI rankings show ever more world class athletes originating out of a thoroughbred dam line. Plot Blue/ Markus Ehning (GER), Cinderella/ Marcus Ehning (GER), Zamiro/ Tina Lund (DEN), Nababs Son Z/ Dennis Lynch (IRE) or KS Genoa/ Peter McMohan (NZL) to name but a few examples of this phenomenon. And these horses are not singular appearances. Most international riders acknowledge that thoroughbred heritage is not only an advantage for a show jumper, but a necessity.
Still, practically no rider is purposely searching for a horse by a thoroughbred parent. Most riders still favor scopy jumpers of the past as sires of their future sport horse. I believe the reason for this inconsistency in necessities is simple: Everyone knows the names of great show jumpers and practically no one is in search of jumping qualities in the thoroughbred. Even though there are numerous lines, which have proven their worth in show jumping courses at world cup level, riders are out of touch with the thoroughbred industry. So which sire should they pick? Could they name even one known to pass on jumping ability? How could such unfamiliar ancestries be trusted? It is no surprise that renowned jumping sires are selected as sires and the “usual suspects” built upon.
While it used to be common up to the 60s to select off the track thoroughbreds as sport horses, the purpose-bred sport horse originating from Europe has replaced the need to sift through alternative sources for sport horses. But the standardbred horse is prone to get heavy and lethargic, if no thoroughbred is ever used to freshen it up. The lesser thoroughbred heritage a horse has, the more you lose athletic built and stamina, moreover these horses tend to lack the brains you need in a top sport horse.
A thoroughbred dam, especially one with a proven ancestry of show jumpers in her lineage and the jumping ability to match, is well suited for breeding show jumpers. If mated with proven show jumping sires, chances are that they will excel at jumping. That is the core of my breeding principle based on OTTB mares. So far their progeny has not deceived me.