Of Mighty Mice and Men
A couple weeks ago, while out riding Aaruba, I met a nice gentleman who lives atop a hill some two miles from In the Night Farm. We talked long enough to learn that we shared a few acquaintances, some training philosophies, and a love of horses. When he mentioned that he’s in the process of selecting a stallion for a 2008 breeding to his bay Quarter Horse mare, I invited him to come have a look at Insider and Tuetano.
Don’t get me wrong. I think my neighbor is a pretty good horseman. He is, however, yet another victim of the “bigger is better” epidemic that has swept America. The epidemic isn’t restricted to fast food menus and SUV’s — it affects our horses as well.
I prefer the ancient, light breeds, particularly the Barb and Arabian. Though small and slow-growing, they can carry a relatively high weight for their size, not least because they’re hauling around less of their own bulk. Those bred for performance rather than the “halter look” tend to be athletic, with a lot of bone and large hooves relative to their size. They rarely suffer the hoof, joint, and back problems so common among today’s Quarter Horses and Warmbloods. Many factors are at play in such deficiencies — the futurity/racing trend of starting massive but skeletally immature two-year-olds under saddle, breeding for appearence rather than performance, and the practice of hastening growth by means of selective breeding and excessive nutrition, just to name a few.
I refrained, however. My neighbor said he’d consider his options for the bay mare, and I waved him off with a smile and a promise that a half-Barb will be the best horse he’s ever had — even if it is the smallest.