Unpopular Opinion: Breeding Grade Horses

MacKenzie Harris // BHS Maroon Tribune // Berthoud, Co // 3.13.2020

The topic of horse breeding tends to be a controversial subject in the horse world. Whether it’s breeding for bloodlines, color, confirmation or attitude, everyone has something to say about horse breeding. Most people like to say that grade horses are a problem & registered horses are the only horses that should be bred. However, these people don’t even the half of it, in some cases, grade horses can just as if not better than some registered horses.

For better understanding, Grade horses are horses whose parentage is unknown & registered horses have traceable parentage through a pedigree. Registered is also another way to know if a horse is purebred. Horses that are registerable can also be considered grade if they were never registered.

The main reason grade horses get so much backlash is mostly because they can’t make any money in the professional show world. “If a horse can’t be registered to show then that’s money lost. I don’t think we should have horses that we can’t benefit financially from,” states a Longmont rancher, who wished to keep their name anonymous.

What some people don’t see in the horse breeding world, is that registration papers don’t guarantee anything. Papers do not prove a horse is sound physically or mentally, free of genetic illness, or capable of performing well. The only thing papers do is increase the horse’s sale value & it gives a record of parentage. Parentage & bloodlines is one of the biggest selling points of registered horses, which can sometimes be very misleading. Grade horses sell mostly on their own merits of soundness & functionality.

“ I don’t think there is anything wrong with have a grade horse. Personally, I find that grade horse can be better than registered horses in some cases,” says Kristine Johnson, a horse owner out of Loveland.

One thing that often gets lost in the flood of information about horse breeding is genetic variation. In registered horses, continually breeding a specific trait or breed type, it diminishes the amount of genetic variation within that breed. When this is done, genetic problems arise, which nature previously reduced through genetic variation. Many species of animals that humans breed for specific characteristics tend to develop genetic diseases. The inability to restart a foundation breed is often a result of genetic diseases.

Take the canine mutt, for example, one of the longest living breeds in dogs, no one knows why exactly they live so long, some suspect it has something with genetic variation, but they do & they often make very good companions. The same principles apply for grade or mixed breed horses. Just because they have no record of parentage or mixed bred parentage, doesn’t mean they are necessarily bad. Having genetic variation in a species it what helps the population of that species thrive.

“Not that breed grade horses is bad, it’s just that if you breed a horse with some not great qualities with another horse that also has not great qualities, you’re going to end up with a bunch of grade horses with awful qualities that no one will want,” says a Berthoud high school student, who wished to keep their name anonymous.

Personally, I don’t think that the breed of grade horses is a bad thing. Take my horse, Mickey, (pictured below) for example, Mickey comes from a long line of ranch & cow horses. I know this because his Sire was registered & the bloodlines showed that he came from a cow & ranch horse line. However, Mickey’s Dam was grade which ultimately makes Mickey a grade horse. This only affects his value partially, because he is built so stout, most would assume he is purebred which isn’t the case. Mickey is the product of mixed breeding.

Honestly, if Mickey was a stud & I had a mare with a similar build & willing attitude, I’d breed him. Knowing that the offspring won’t be able to make any money in the show world, sometimes it’s not all about the money. I feel that having a horse that is solid & that swing my leg over them anytime, means more than having a horse with a pedigree that can only be ridden in a certain discipline.

Left photo courtesy of Horse Clicks.com

Left: Regristerted Horse, Pepto Cee Lena

Right: Unregristerted Horse, Mickey

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