Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Conformation & Designer Horse Breeds

It seems like you can't go anywhere these days without seeing a Friesian. These horses are THE fashionable breed. They're a pretty color (jet black), they've got lots of long hair and they've been popularized by movies and television. (Above: "Mask of Zorro," "Alexander," "Narnia: Prince Caspian")

They're gorgeous and, like, super romantic. Which, of course, is why every backyard breeder is determined to get their hands on one and breed it to anything. Their thinking is that Friesian + anything = profit.


The above horse is Yukon. He's a Friesian "sport horse," in this case meaning his daddy was this Friesian (unregistered as far as I can tell) and his mom was a "warmblood." He's 17.2 hands! Wow. Pretty tall for a "sport horse." Poor guy, we might have to start calling him Yuck-on. He's downhill, with a super steep croup and a  weak hind end in general. He does have a nice shoulder, decent legs and a handsome face, but otherwise looks like a fairly unremarkable draft cross. Guess where he's at? That's right, Midwest Horse Rescue. For $500. Despite being broke to ride, with dressage training.

This handsome fellow is Danny, another Friesian "sport horse," also at Midwest Horse Welfare-- Free to a good home. Danny can never be ridden, because he was born with very weak pasterns, a defect apparently commonly passed on by his sire. (God forbid his owners stop breeding him to everything with a uterus...)

Here's Jewel, yet another Friesian mutt, recently adopted from Midwest Horse Welfare. Her conformation defects include being downhill, camped-under, short-necked, ewe-necked and goose-rumped. But by God, she's hairy, shiny and black, so she must be worth a ton of money, right?! Wrong again. She was adopted for $600-- and she was broke to ride and drive.

Now, I don't want to insult Midwest Horse Welfare, or imply that all horses who end up there are somehow defective. Some good quality horses wind up there, because their previous owners trust the very-well-run MHW to find them great homes. However, the fact that these Freisian crosses are at a horse rescue in the first place does imply that they're not the super-valueable animals some people seem to think they are. The fact that all of these horses have some pretty glaring flaws also speaks to how badly this trendy breed is being corrupted by "sport horse" breeders. I should clarify, by the way, that there are some nice-conformed, true sport horse crosses out there-- just check out the Friesian Sport Horse Registry for good examples (they have a breed standard and registry requirements and everything!). I'm just insulting the pretend ones people are breeding and calling "sport horses" because "random crossbred created with no attention paid to conformation" doesn't sound as nice.

Now let's continue our examination of ridiculous cross-breds, shall we?

Ah, here's Captain Morgan! It's just so classy to name horses after liquor brands, isn't it? Captain is a Percheron-Friesian-Arabian-- because, apparently, someone decided what the world needed was a really confused foal. He's got the weak butt of a poorly-conformed Arabian, the giant feet of a Friesian and the gut of a draft horse that's eaten too much. What's with those joints? Poor nutrition, injury or just plain ugly?  Only $900 for this weird, un-handled yearling!

...and here's Captain Morgan's sister! This time her breeders opted for classic beauty-- in name only. "Athena" is downhill, with a poor shoulder, camped out, has an unimpressive butt and may also have weak pasterns. She's not even an interesting color, despite being a Paint-Percheron-Friesian cross. Also $900.

Who are these breeders kidding? I can go to any local auction and pick up an yearling just like these guys for $100 or less-- and actually, I could probably score something with better conformation or color too. These people just don't understand that being part-designer-breed doesn't automatically give a horse more value!

I think part of the problem is the idea that a mixed breed horse is "part" anything. Let's say that you cross a Friesian with an Arabian. The foal gets genes from both parents-- but those genes aren't equally expressed. The foal won't necessarily look like a blended 50/50 mix between the two breeds. It could have a totally Arabian head, but have the color and heavy build of a Friesian. Or, it could have the massive body of a Friesian, on the tiny legs of an Arabian. Or it could even look pretty much like an Arabian! Unless you have a very prepotent sire or dam, which strongly stamps its offspring with its characteristics, even breeding horses of the same breed is a gamble. When you cross really unrelated breeds, it's REALLY a crapshoot. Athena up there looks like she came out 80% unremarkable paint. Human kids are a good example of this principle; they aren't a blended 50/50 mix of their parents. They carry strong appearance and personality traits from one or the other.

The mystique of the Friesian breed isn't a wrong thing. Practically, they're just another light draft, but there's nothing wrong with fantasizing about them. What's wrong is crossing them to everything, all the time, on the assumption that the resulting foal with be fabulous. It will just be a light-draft-cross!

Please-- stop breeding nonsensically. We have enough grade horses out there.

1 comment:

  1. Oh, dear Lord. Those last two actually made me gasp out loud in horror! WTF were those people thinking??? They are absolutely two of the most poorly-conformed beasts I've ever seen on my computer, and that's saying a LOT considering I've read every post Fugly's put up. Gawdalmighty... I don't think you could even ride either one. I'm sure they tasted good, though... :-(((