Wednesday, 29 February 2012 14:39

The Best Broodmare I Ever Knew

Written by 
Rate this item
(1 Vote)

best-broodmaretitle

 

 

 

 

 

The USDA Farmer's Bulletin No 803–Horse-Breeding Suggestions for Farmers notes, "Desirable breed characteristics in purebred mares signify impressive ancestry and prepotency. Femininity of expression and of conformation is an indication of good breeding qualities. Style, good disposition, quality, clean, flat bone, concave, open feet, strong constitution, good proportions, deep, roomy barrel, width across the hips denoting a large pelvic arch, and well-developed vulva and teats are qualities especially desired in breeding mares. An inspection of the colts the mare produces is generally the best evidence of her worth as a broodmare. The length of usefulness as producers varies greatly with different mares. Some produce excellent colts when 25 years of age, but if they produce until they are 15 years old they do very well. Much depends on the individuals and the way they are handled."

Well that's a good place to start, but what is it that makes a GREAT broodmare? Is it her show winnings? Show winnings of her offspring? Longevity and fertility? The ability to produce better foals than herself when crossed with a variety of stallions? Disposition? Saleability of her foals? Or, something altogether different?

Who would know better about such matters than the breeders themselves? Nobody, not even the ringside pundits (to steal a term from Mr. Roy) or the auctioneers, traders or media have the same perspective as the people spending their days with the mares, doing the matings and raising the foals and, in many cases, breeding the next generation. That's why we decided to ask a respected breeder from each of the "big five" to submit a conspectus of what they consider their favorite broodmare and why. –LT

josie

SHIRE
STAR KNIGHT JOSIE

Rice Creek Shires was founded in 1999 with the hopes of helping the breed we loved so much not only escape the clutches of endangerment, but also to increase the range of its audience–in essence, to make the Shire more of a household name and, while maintaining the excellence in the breed, raise animals that were just as suitable for work and companionship as they were for the show ring. Though currently we have between two and six broodmares producing as many foals a year, it all began when we purchased two mares–one of them by the name of Star Knight Josie.

According to The Shire Horse, by Keith Chivers, the Stuntney line of mares–to which Josie is a direct descendent on her dam's side–is one of the oldest and most prestigious out of England. Moreover, that “there are no mares more significant than these” (666). This “significance”, of course, is in terms of how they helped shape the quality of the breed today. Foaled November 14, 1995, to Vern and Kristen Stark of Star Knight Farms, Williamston, Michigan, Josie has proven that she has inherited this importance and more as she has been the most prolific Shire broodmare since 2002. In fact, with her nine foals, she falls in the top 2% of production mares in the history of the breed. Take the interval of 1993 to 2007 for example. Within it, 1,242 Shire mares were registered. Of those, 765 were bred at some point. However, only 331 foaled more than once. Josie–being the loving mother that she is–dropped six, which is made all the more impressive as she was only able to be bred seven of the 14 years. Moreover, because one of our other mares was orphaned as a filly herself and never really understood the “mothering” instinct, Josie nursed an additional two foals between 2000 and 2002. Since Shires are considered endangered, we feel blessed to have such a nurturing mare to be the foundation of our farm.

Despite her impressive lineage, it is not what makes her our favorite mare. It is her temperament and versatility–both of which she has been able to pass on to her produce. In an affectionate breed, this claim to fame is an impressive one. In fact, the first time my dad ever met Josie when searching for prospective mares, he knew he had found what we had been looking for. Upon entering the pasture, she immediately walked up to him and gave her own, personalized greeting. This consisted of following him around and investigating every inch of his skin with her lovable Roman nose for at least ten minutes. All of our Josie babies have–thankfully–inherited her nature. In addition, they are extremely successful in a variety of different jobs. Her foals have done everything from farming to dressage and jumping to breeding and showing to simply being beloved family pets. Her son, Rice Creek Cassanova, was sold to Huska Millennium Shires and has since sired 11 foals–including HMS Commodore, 2010 Regional Champion Shire Stallion and the 2011 National Champion Shire Stallion.

Just by looking at her, Josie herself isn't what most people would think of when looking for a broodmare. Though her conformation is correct, she does not embody what most people would find attractive, strictly speaking. Standing a mere 16.2 hh and weighing just under a ton, she is the classic farmer's daughter. She has large, short bones which make her an ideal work animal. In fact, everything about her is rather large and short, and after nine foals, we joke that she looks more like a boat than anything else. However, she always passes on more color than she actually possesses, and all of her foals have been larger than she herself. One, Rice Creek Alexander, easily tops 19 hh–again, with an easy temperament. Having trained my fair share of horses, it amazes me how often people underestimate the joy of an easy-going horse. After working with flighty Thoroughbreds, Arabian crosses, and even Quarter Horses as a horse trainer, I always save my dad's Shires for last. They are just so easy! Though I myself wouldn't trade my Thoroughbred for anything (because, let's face it, the Shire is never going to be a competitive eventing animal), a Shire can be broke to lead, ride and drive all in the same day. Some may think that I am exaggerating, and although I would never say they are ready for the show ring after a single day's training, there have been a few Josie babies who have learned how to stop, start and turn on a lead, under saddle and in harness after two hours or so. Since with light horses I typically can pat myself on the back if I saddle them after three days, imagine how soothing a Shire is on my poor nerves. They so want to please and will do any amount of work in exchange for affection. Not only that, they give new meaning to the term “bomb-proof.” I remember being in Michigan State Stadium at the Great Lakes International Draft Horse Show and our team–half-sisters to Cassanova–actually fell asleep in the arena. A year later their sister, was enjoying herself at a petting zoo and had children literally crawling underneath her before their parents were able to get them back under control. Of course, she was more upset when they left than when they were harassing her, but it certainly made me feel better!

It doesn't seem as though 12 years have gone by, but all of a sudden she is 16. My dad is panicking a little because she will have to be retired soon and we don't yet have a Josie filly to replace her. The truth is, we owe absolutely everything to this mare. Though we have had several other mares all with successful foals, none have come close to producing as many as this one. She produces both quality and quantity! In essence, without her we would not have reached either of our goals as a breeding farm: to help the breed survive and to expand its supporters. Josie and her foals have worked among the Amish, won national awards in hand and under saddle, gone trail riding and reached countless people. They live everywhere from Maine to Michigan to California, and most of her babies have gone to first-time Shire owners–if not first-time horse owners. So it is not just us who owe Josie so much, but the breed itself.

Theresa Hubbell is the daughter of Daniel Hubbell, owner of Rice Creek Shires, Traverse City, Michigan, and the current President of the American Shire Horse Association. She and her sister, Meaghan, have been training the farm's foals since its conception, which gave her a basis of knowledge to begin her own business in which she specializes in training “difficult” cases. In 2009, she worked with New Vocations in Marysville, Ohio, and broadened her expertise to include off-the-track race horses. She currently attends Otterbein University in Westerville, Ohio, as a Junior Equine Pre-Veterinary Science Major with her eventing Thoroughbred, Jack. She thanks Vern and Kristen Stark and Heinz Naef for their assistance in writing this piece.

ruth

CLYDESDALE
MAPLEWOOD RUTH

The title of "Best Broodmare" on Iron Horse Farm is held by Maplewood Ruth, a giant bay mare that rules the farm with an iron fist. Maplewood Ruth 18895, by Thistle Ridge Argyll Geordie and out of Maplewood Gypsy was foaled February 11, 1999. Ruth had an average show career in halter, cart and youth classes as a younger mare. However, the foaling barn is where Ruth excels. At 13 years of age, she is carrying her ninth foal by five different stallions. She is the dam or granddam of many show winners and All-Americans that are now producing the next generation. The characteristics I attribute to a great broodmare are an easy breeder, good mother, crosses well with multiple stallions and has a long productive life. Ruth has proven to meet all of these requirements.

I can only claim half ownership of this outstanding mare. Bob and Pat Ross, Crown Point, Indiana, purchased her as a yearling at the National Clydesdale Sale from Richard Wegner of Clinton, Michigan. She was bred as a 2-year-old and produced a filly foal the following year. Bob's health declined and he was looking for a partner on the mare. As a 3-year-old, Ruth ended up in central Illinois at Larry Warnick's farm after the foal was weaned. Larry contacted me and wanted to know if I would like a half-interest in her since Bob did not feel well enough to keep her and foal her out. She arrived at my farm, as a big rangy mare with an unending appetite, in foal to Grandview Eli's Just-In-Step.

The first foal was to be Bob's. Sami arrived unexpectedly five weeks early. This was the first of many lessons that Ruth taught us: how to save an extremely premature foal. I took over full ownership of Sami as both her veterinary expenses and the time commitment to save her escalated. Sami not only survived but she thrived and was shown successfully as a yearling. She has also excelled as a broodmare. Sami is the dam of Iron Horse Samurai who was Best American Bred gelding as a 2-year-old at the National Clydesdale Show and a two-time Reserve All-American.

Ruth's third foal was Glenbuchat, also by Just-In-Step. Glen was a huge foal at birth, and allowed Ruth to teach me another lesson: correcting foal malpresentations. Glen was coming head first with his front legs back. With the assistance of Gary Hale and my husband, Jack, the dystocia was corrected and he was delivered. Gary thought he was one of the biggest newborn foals he had ever seen. He was not yet dry when I called Bob and offered to trade half of the next foal in exchange for half of Glenbuchat. This proved to be a smart move. Glen was shown as a yearling and then sold to Anheuser-Busch, Inc. They exhibited him to Junior Champion at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair and Supreme Champion Stallion at the National Western Stock Show. Glen has continued in his mother's footsteps as an exceptional producer. Glen presently has three gelded sons in the Budweiser Clydesdale hitches and his daughters are expecting their first foals this spring. Beth Palmer has successfully shown his daughter, Belleau G.F. Carla, in both Canada and at the 2011 World Clydesdale Show. She is a big broody mare that certainly resembles her granddam. Glenbuchat was also the sire of Belleau G.F. Cher. Cher was sold in the 2011 National Clydesdale Sale to fund the newly formed "Budweiser Scholarship," Anheuser-Busch's commitment to higher education.

Glenbuchat was successfully crossed with Pinnacle's Audi, producing the stud colt Iron Horse Audacious Image. Image was Best Foal at the National Clydesdale Show and Grand Champion Stallion at the Boone County and Indiana State Fairs as a weanling, while his mother took Reserve Grand Champion and Grand Champion at the same fairs. Image was purchased by Greenwood Farms, Inc., Richmond, Michigan, where he continued his winning ways and was All-American Stud Foal and Yearling. They are expecting his first foal crop this year. Glenbuchat has no off-season at the Warm Springs Ranch–after breeding season he is used to break the young horses to drive. John Detweiler says he is, "the best breaking horse I have ever had." To date, 32 foals by Glenbuchat have been registered, with a new foal crop on the way this spring.

A third mating to Just-In-Step produced the black mare Iron Horse Illini Destiny. Bob and I were partners on this mare until I bought his interest of her as a weanling. She also had a successful show career as a young horse and is now a broodmare and best friend to Cathy Clark of Kenny, Illinois.
Ruth's next foal was sired by SBH Phoenix. His name was Spartan Lad until he was exported to Glasgow, Scotland, by A. Steel & Son of Jackton's Clydesdales, where he is now known as Jackton's Discovery. Jackton's Discovery was the first American-bred stallion to sire a Supreme Champion of the Lanark Foal Show; Jackton's Mary Rose. She was also Champion Foal in 2011 at the Nielston Show, the Stonehouse Show, the Newmilns Show and the Kittochside Show.

Ruth was next crossed with BFC Dante's Triton, thanks to the Birkey family of Indiana, producing Iron Horse TES Forde. Ruth's next lesson to me was patience. Forde would readily nurse from a bottle of mare's milk (provided to him by his two-legged mothers) before he nursed from his mother. His stubborn side finally gave in and he decided to drink directly from the source. Forde also managed to convert a devout Belgian breeder to the world of feather, hence the TES prefix as he is co-owned by Elise Singer. I think the frequent late-night bottle feedings clouded her mind since she purchased half of him before he was two weeks old. Forde has never missed a meal and stood 18.2 hh as a 2-year-old. He also demonstrated his talents in harness as a 2-year-old, taking second in the Futurity Cart Class at the National Clydesdale Show and third in the Stallion Cart Class at the 2011 World Clydesdale Show. He will be standing at stud this year for his first crop of foals at Iron Horse Farm.

Ruth was then crossed to May's Marquis of Iron Horse, producing a bay filly, who came to an untimely ending as a weanling. We are expecting Ruth's next foal (also out of May's Marquis) this spring. Ruth continues to produce year after year, stallion after stallion, good, healthy foals that are an asset to the Clydesdale breed. In 11 years of production she has only failed once to carry and deliver a live foal (one abortion associated with a viral infection). Over the years, she has taught me many lessons as a Clydesdale breeder, including patience and perseverance–the highest of the high and the lowest of the low, both in the show ring and in the barn. Ruth has, without question, been an asset to our farm as we have successfully exhibited and sold many of her offspring. She has continued this legacy in the foals now being produced in the next generation. Many of my draft horse mentors have said it does not take a great show mare to make a great broodmare. Ruth is a great broodmare.

Iron Horse Farm started 19 years ago with my first two mares from Guy Parr of Shelbyville, Illinois. The mares are now 20 years old and are enjoying their retirement years. Our breeding herd consists of five mares and two stallions. The mares are Maplewood Ruth, her daughter Sami of Iron Horse and three Doura Sensation granddaughters: Pinnacle's Lady Jane, Pinnacle's Audi and Pinnacle's Melody. This year we will be standing at stud Ruth's son, Iron Horse TES Forde, and May's Marquis of Iron Horse. We strive to raise two to four foals per year. Caring for 14+ horses, standing stallions for stud service and my full-time job as a veterinarian at the Arthur Veterinary Clinic keeps me very busy. Arthur Veterinary Clinic is an equine and small animal practice located in central Illinois with an emphasis on draft horse medicine. This is certainly a benefit if you are going to own, raise and exhibit Clydesdales. My success in draft horse breeding is due in large part to Lisa Eller, DVM, owner of the clinic and the great support staff. Their dedication was instrumental in raising many of Ruth's foals.

Linda is serving her second term as a director of the Clydesdale Breeders of the USA. Her emphasis as a Board Member is equine health and education. The Clydesdale horse and breed are two of the most important aspects in her daily life–She says she cannot imagine a day without Clydes!


Rosa

SUFFOLK PUNCH
ROHAN'S ROSA TOOK

When asked to write a story about what makes a great broodmare, I knew it would be tricky to get 800 words worth out of our draft horse foreman, Don Yerian. Although he is a man of few words, his experience and dedication to the draft horse breeds, the Suffolk Punch in particular, is nearly impossible to top. Not only is he a master teamster, he also is a Montana Draft Teamster Hall of Fame honoree as is his 92-year-old father. His body of knowledge started when his own father gave him the lines when he was six years old. Don exhibits a great sense of pride in what draft horses can accomplish as opposed to using machines. In the past, along with his team, he helped repair a 1912 dam 13 miles into the mountains of the Bitterroot Wilderness Area in western Montana. No power equipment of any kind is allowed in U.S. Wilderness areas.

Maryanne Mott and her late husband Herman Warsh, the owners of B Bar Ranch, moved behind the Suffolk Punch draft horse breed over 20 years ago when they were looking for a rare breed to help. The Suffolks' gentle disposition and strength in farming were attractive to them. In the last 13 years B Bar Ranch, through Don Yerian, has helped to promote the breed by producing 67 foals and selling 74 horses for work around the country, doing logging, pulling carriages, farm work and simply for pleasure. Don's carefulness in watching bloodlines for breeding has been paramount to the program's success. His training is widely respected and has included all haying implements and manure spreading and trail grooming. Don has offered one-on-one training to those hoping to learn from him as well as clinics with Doc Hammill for groups. The program is winding down as the herd has been recently reduced, as planned. The B Bar Ranch has been pleased to participate in promoting this breed and proud to have had Don at the helm. The ranch continues to grow and sell organic heirloom vegetables locally, raise Ancient White Park cattle for organic grass finished beef, host overnight guests who ski and hike and to prioritize being good land stewards of this special place.

It has been our great pleasure and honor to have one of the best teamsters in the country establish our Suffolk Punch draft horse program. He is responsible for heading the B Bar’s Suffolk Punch rare breed program, where he has bred, foaled, trained and sold over 100 Suffolk Punch horses in the past years.

Simply stated by Don on what constitutes an outstanding broodmare is that she must be a great mother. He spoke of the importance of a mare who gives birth to foals who consistently have good dispositions, compact strength and the ability to survive in challenging conditions. A great broodmare is one who can be bred to any stallion and breeds back well every season. She also shows the capacity to clean her newborn without the immediate need for assistance.

When thinking back through the years of great Suffolk Punch broodmares, Don spoke of one who stands out amongst many great mares. Her name was Rohan's Rosa Took and we called her Rosa. She was out of a sire named Booker T. Lightning, and out of a dam by the name of Stoney Meadow Meagen.

Rosa was a phenomenal broodmare. Over the years she foaled ten healthy foals, three fillies and six colts from three different stallions. Two of the stallions were Cumberland’s Ezrah, who was originally owned and bred by Walden Ridge Farm in Tennessee and later sold to Shorty and Sherry French in Hubbard, Texas, and Kingsland Royal who was later sold to Mark Lobbesael in Sundance, Wyoming. Both of these stallions spent some great years at the B Bar. Rosa’s foals were named Ben, Punch, Daisy, Adam, Sagebrush, Dusty, Little Rosa, Ruby, Little Deer and Hope. Punch was sold to Guy Coats in Bozeman, Montana. Adam was sold to William Yager in Bellevue, Idaho. Dusty was sold to Dr. John McIlhatten also of Bozeman. Little Rosa was sold to the Waldorf Ranch in Saskatchewan, Canada. Ruby and Little Deer were sold together to Deena Meadors and Morris Sheane in British Colombia, Canada.

Rosa never retained her placenta and every one of her foals had wonderful dispositions. She was a wonderful mother and bred back every year, excluding one year, which Don suspects had more to do with the stallion. Rosa had a great temperament and tended well to all of her foals. Along with the staff at the ranch, Don was lucky enough to watch most of Rosa’s foals grow into strong and gentle draft horses who were used throughout the years at the ranch or sold to other working ranches and farms. These foals grew up to do everything from logging, thinning timber, mowing and hauling hay. Two of Rosa’s fillies,  Little Rosa and Little Deer, were bred at the ranch and carried on her ideal broodmare instincts. Sadly, Rosa died when she was 14 years old, during the birth of her last foal, who survived and was appropriately named Hope.

Ideal broodmares like Rosa have helped our breeding program by carrying on their successful traits through their foals. These mares are also great examples of what to look for when breeding and buying mares that will be used later in breeding programs. There is a twinkle in Don’s eye when he speaks of old Rosa and after writing this story about her, I now see why.

cheri

PERCHERON
BITTERSWEET CHERI DRAGANA

To me, selection of your next broodmare is more important than the selection of your next stallion. Because the foal will be raised solely by the mare, the disposition of the mare is not only important but imperative in your selection process of the broodmare. The mare’s attitude and personality will be passed along not only in the genes, but also in the manner in which she acts around humans and other horses. Because you are looking at nearly a ton of horse or more, she has to be both willing to learn and eager to please. She has to want to cooperate with me.

Depending on what I want to do with my drafts (show, pull, ride or farm) will determine what type of foal that I want to produce from my broodmare. The very first and absolute most important thing in the selection of all broodmare candidates is soundness and lack of blemishes or lameness.
I must start with a good wide heel and a strong hoof wall free of toe or quarter cracks. She must carry not only her weight but also the foal she will be raising.

Here is a list of and short definition of blemishes, lameness and unsoundnesses that I will be looking to avoid in my selection of any broodmare. This will be second nature to many of you but we constantly have new folks buying their first drafts and I feel they need to see this list and check their prospects carefully.

In alphabetical order;
• Bog spavin–meaty, soft swelling that occurs on inner front of hock
• Bone spavin or jack spavin–bony growth usually on inside lower point of hock
• Bowed tendon–enlarged, stretched tendons behind
cannon bone
• Capped hock–enlargement on point of hock
• Curb–bony growth on back of cannon bone below hock
• Fistulous withers–swelling of the withers
• Hernia–protrusion of internal organs through the body wall
• Poll evil–inflammation of the poll between ears
• Ringbone–bony growth on either or both sides of pastern
• Saddle sore–inflammation caused by poor fitting saddle
• Sidebone–enlarged cartilage protruding from and at the back of the hoof head
• Shoe boil or capped elbow–flabby swelling on point
on elbow
• Splint–capsule enlargement found inside the front
cannon bone
• Sweeney–decrease in muscle on shoulder or occasionally
a hip
• Thoroughpin–puffy swelling of large tendon on upper part of hock
• Wind puff–puffy swelling on sides of tendons above fetlocks

So in selecting a new mare, I would take all of the above into consideration. Some defects may be more serious to me and others more serious to you, depending on the way you use your horses. It is a known fact that it is difficult, if not impossible, to breed some of the above defects out of your offspring. So the easiest thing to do is to avoid them in all your breeding stock.

Another problem that I have seen in our draft horses as we produce them taller and with longer necks is with their wind, or what is commonly called "roarers." This inability to get a full deep breath of air into the chest cavity can affect the performance of every type of horse, no matter how they are used. Surgery can correct this defect on many horses and make them useful again. I have no proof but it sure seems that we have seen a lot more of it these past few years.

Now I want to move on to a mare that I did not breed, but she became one of my foundation mares and has stamped a lot of her offspring with the quality, character and ambition that I want in a broodmare.

In 1989, I had the opportunity to purchase Bittersweet Cheri Dragano at the Eastern States Sale. I had bought her older half-sister the year before at the sale and loved her. She had the qualities that I wanted to take into the show ring. Her breeder had planned to keep her, but when he died suddenly, she was brought to the sale in Columbus. She was a tall, gangly 2-year-old who could move with the best at that time. She had "foundation mare" written all over her. When the gavel dropped, she was headed west to Missouri.

And a foundation mare for me she became. She was left open to mature until she was four. Bred to the then Premier Sire, Blackhome Duke, she lost her first colt, but then produced a good filly who was 1st Honorable Mention in the All-American before becoming entangled in a wire fence, which ended her show career. The next year she had a stud colt we registered as Blue Ribbon Farms Hercules. In 2002, he became the World Champion Stallion. Four years later, at the next World Percheron Congress in 2006, Hercules’ half-brother–Blue Ribbon Farms Prince, sired by M.G.’s Prince–became World Champion. In 2010, at the next World Congress held in the USA (Des Moines, Iowa), a Blue Ribbon Farms Hercules’ granddaughter named Blue Ribbon Farms Unique became the World Champion Mare.

Unique carries on the great soundness, structure and animation of her grandmother. Not only does she carry the 2010 World Champion Crown, but she continues to anchor the right wheel of our six-mare hitch. When called upon to do so, she can blast past many of the geldings as she did at the MGLI last fall in the Cart Calcutta, where she placed third out of 30-plus entries from all breeds, mares and geldings. A couple of classes later, she moved up to the front of the mare unicorn and powerfully led one of the stronger exhibits in
that class.

So how do you know how to select your foundation stock? Perhaps a lot of luck, but sticking to the basics helps a lot. Start with a sound structure and then work your way towards animation and presence. Far too many breeders look at the last two and do not ever get to the first quality that will give you an animal that will have years of trouble-free service to you.

Albert Cleve and his wife, Karen, have been breeding purebred Percherons for the past quarter-century, registering 160 foals along the way. Albert served as a Director of the Percheron Horse Association of America for 18 years, including 10 as the Vice-President and four as the President. The Cleves are gearing down a bit, though are still campaigning a six-horse hitch of mares, fitted and shown by Dean and
Kelly Woodbury.

In 1978, the Cleves started an industrial lumber business, which, over the years, has grown to include plants in Missouri, Illinois and Georgia, along with sales offices in Oregon. As part of their "slow-down," they recently sold the business to their two daughters. Albert is looking forward to continuing to chase blue ribbons with his mare six, and to judging more shows.

 

marite
BELGIAN
PEACOCK VALLEY MARITE

After reading Mr. Telleen's letter inviting me to write about my favorite broodmare, my poor knees were shaking so bad that my teeth nearly fell out of my eye sockets. So I had a tiny problem–would it be OB-Lor Ruth or Peacock Valley Marite?

Ruth was a home-bred mare and accomplished many of the same things as Marite–in fact, both mares' daughters have won team classes together for Rock Creek Belgians. Ruth lived to the ripe old age of 23 and Marite is 19 today. I have to go with Marite.

In about April of 1997, I got a call from my friend Tim Sacia. He said, "Dad is in the notion to sell Marite. You'd better get here right away." I had heard quite a bit about this mare and had tried to buy her. So now was the time. Bright and early the next morning, with Frank Ellison at the wheel of the truck and me riding shotgun, we hit the highway a runnin'. We drove 400 miles north ... "wow!"

We pulled into the drive of the well-kept farmstead with my heart thumping like it usually does when I'm about to see a good horse. After greetings were exchanged, Tim lead the young mare out of the barn. My first thought upon seeing her was about the same as 45 years ago when I saw a young lady for the first time–although she cost more than Marite. So what made this mare great in my opinion? The first thing I looked at was the nice, wide, open heel, flat bone and long beautiful hock. Her pasterns, had, in my opinion, the perfect angle compared to her slope of the foot and shoulder. She also had a nice tight ankle. Now traveling on up over her rib cage, she carried enough width and depth to accommodate a big foal. Add to that high withers and a sharp neck over the top.

Oh what lovely responsive ears, nice soft eyes and saving the best for last, she walked away from me. There was only one word to describe her walk: "elegant." Allow me to explain–many years ago, horses were brought into the sale ring at a walk, and walked for one or two rounds. Let's face it, most of the mares that are bred to our stallions will produce offspring that will be worked at a walk. So, in my opinion, the dams and granddams of our stallions should be graceful, spirited, with ears responsive and hocks together. They should also have a nice, wide, prominent chest complete with a well-defined collar bed.

When Tim took this mare into a trot, my poor old heart had nearly more than it could stand. To make a long story short, after haggling the price, we headed back home, checkbook drained and smile on my face. Why did I want this mare? What had I learned through the years? I don't know for sure, but I think I'd learned something. Our stallion of years ago, Master Sandman, had a tremendous dam and granddam. Our next stallion, Four Star Charisma (sired by Sandman), had an extremely good dam and granddam. It was the same with Harbor Haven's Extreme. So my long range plan was for Marite to be the dam of a stallion on our farm. Her dam was the best mare Sacias had owned. Her name was Belgian Acres Amy. Marite's sire was Cedar Lane Mac, a high-headed son of the popular Oakland's Silver Mark, and Amy's sire was another extremely high-headed horse, R.K.D. Bruce. So Marite had every right to carry herself extremely well. She was a handful of explosive energy. In 1999, after foaling a good young colt by Dylan, Rod Kohler came to see the mare on the information that horseshoer Lonnie Miller had provided. We had many opportunities to sell her for big money, but Rod asked if Oak Haven could lease her. We agreed and I nearly cried seeing her go out the lane.

Rod recalled Marite's first time in a cart class, at her first show. It was the ladies cart class and Rod's wife Missy was driving. Missy was nervous and somehow the back end of a truck equipped with a Reece hitch was her first obstacle on the way to the ring. Cart wheels just weren't designed to go under such a hitch, so, of course, the wheel went over it. Needless to say, Missy was thrown from the cart. Luckily she had on nice high-heeled shoes designed specifically to provide more traction on a spooked horse. Somehow, she got stopped. Rod was young and full of winning fever and yelled at Missy to get back on the cart. She refused. Rod insisted. And like all women do, she meekly obeyed her loving husband, jumped on the cart and proceeded to win the class! He called me later, excited that they'd won their first mare six at the Indiana State Fair with the same two lead mares that I'm still working together today. The big highlight was winning again at the 2000 North American Belgian Championship. Marite won in many shows, in various hitches, and still today is part of our lead team on machinery. She still walks with that graceful animation.

Then something happened that altered our plans. We saw Harbor Haven's Extreme as a colt and I thought that was what I wanted to raise out of Marite. So we now had a few sons of Marite and had bought Extreme for more money than my first 80-acre farm. We counted our pennies and decided we'd better sell some good mares to pay for Extreme ... dumb move.

To make yet another long story short, we sold a few mares at the 2001 Mid-America Sale. Marite was the top-selling mare. I did not know this until many years later, but Tim Sacia had told his wife that Marite was going back home to Peacock Valley. $20,250 later, he was right. I was to take her home and foal her out, then breed her back to Charisma and send her home. She had a huge foal and ripped up part of her reproductive tract in the process. The vet said that she'd have no more foals. So I got the big rascal Twin Oaks Martin and bought Marite back as a workhorse. But a few years later, I had learned a few things and we patched up Marite, bred her to Extreme and gave her lots of Reg-u-mate. Lucky beyond belief, she carried to full-term and foaled Twin Oaks Mariah, who was crowned All-American Filly Foal, then was sold into Rock Creek's hitch. A year later, another full-sister hit the scene, Twin Oaks Marcia. She, too, landed in Rock Creek's outfit. Both mares are owned by Jim Ahart, but I plan on owning them after their show careers come to an end.

We have a very good son of Mariah, sired by Legacy, at home, and quite a few offspring by Martin. He is presently leased to Dan Mohr of Michigan. I don't like having two stallions on the farm, so I bred my Extreme daughters to Martin, and we like what we see. We also have Twin Oaks Miriam, yet another working daughter of Marite's on the farm.

Marite is still full of energy and after being open for three years, we are trying again this year to get her in foal to our present "old horse," Chief Supreme, and we are hoping for a stud colt. Our vet checked her and is hopeful. Chief is out of the same type of mare, the great Blossom.
Where would we be without ever owning Marite? I don't know, but she gave us quite an exciting ride. Willis Schrock used her Dylan son, Twin Oaks Mark, another big horse. We also have a very good daughter by him. Again, with Twin Oaks Martin, a horse standing over 19 hh, and in Dan Mohr's (a good horseman) words, "We hope to have a lot of Marite influence in our mares as time goes on."

I have made lots of mistakes and one of the big ones was selling a good young horse too soon, which I later regretted. Another, was being too big/scared/whatever to ask for advice.

I remember the wise horseman Gary Hale giving me a good piece of advice. If you breed what is in your opinion the best mare you have to the best stallion you have access to, and they complement each other, don't give up if the first foal is not up to your expectations. Try again and if it's still not quite what you had in mind, try a third time. 99% of the time, you won't be disappointed. After thinking on that, I realized that ya, Ma and Pa tried 14 times until they got it just right. Whew!

P.S. Congrats to Bob Gunville and Wilderness Ridge for a fine job representing the Belgian breed!

Oba Herschberger, his wife, Lorene, and most of their 13 children live on a 180-acre farm in central Illinois. They milk 47 registered Holsteins in tie stalls, feed out steers and maintain replacement heifers, bringing the total bovine head count to "about" 100. They also raise about 10 Belgian foals each year, and do all of their fieldwork with their dozen mares–including filling silos with a two-row Gale chopper (requiring eight horses). Lastly, they provide family-style dinners for wayward tourists and various groups at their home.

Read 9860 times
More in this category: « Heavy Metal, Heavy Horse

SUBSCRIBE: Sign up to receive a notification when the new quarterly journal is published, enter your email address below

DHJ-Side-Issue_spr12