Sunday, December 19, 2010

Warmbloods or Quarter Horses?

Every time I walk into the barn, I marvel that this beautiful creature blinking her big, soft brown eyes at me is my horse.

From the time I was old enough to say the word horse, I’ve loved horses. In college I wanted to learn to ride “English” and fell into lessons from a dressage instructor. A few years later, I saw my first warmblood, a Trakehner/Quarter Horse cross. I fell in love with the big, powerful creatures bred in Europe for their movement and temperaments.

My dream horse became a 17-hand warmblood. Over the years, I fantasized about owning such an animal. Now I marvel at the fact that I do own the very horse of my fantasies. So I’m trying to enjoy every minute of it as I doubt I’ll get another warmblood. If I do, there’s no way it could ever match Gailey in my mind.

As I read and studied about warmbloods, I was fascinated with the warmblood breeding programs. Warmbloods aren’t purebreds, they’re types of horses named for areas in which they are bred or breeding programs. The various programs often add horses of other breeds into the mix to refine/improve the breed. Also, most of the warmblood registries require some kind of testing in order for a horse to be approved for breeding, regardless of whether or not it’s already registered with the society, especially stallions. This also fascinated me. In America with our American breeds, you can buy an Arabian, Quarter Horse, Appaloosa, etc., and breed it to your heart’s content and register all the offspring. No testing required. Anyone can have a backyard breeding program. In fact, you don’t even need a purebred registered horse.

Breeding anything to anything just isn’t done in Europe. Many of their breeding programs are run by the government or were originally run by the government. Does this result in a superior horse? I would suspect your average warmblood off the street is superior to your average American breed, depending on your criteria. On the other hand, I would also match the best of our horses against the best of their horses any day. If that’s even possible because it would be like comparing apples to oranges. Quarter Horses were bred for a completely different set of qualifications than warmbloods. They were working cow horses with inbred cow sense. My warmblood mare wouldn’t have a clue what to do with a cow.

Warmbloods were war horses at one time. Now they’re bred as sport horses, mainly for jumping, dressage, and eventing. Yet, if I was in the market for a nice, low maintenance trail horse, you can’t go wrong with a good Quarter Horse. Around here, an average warmblood goes for about $10,000, while a nice trail-horse-type Quarter Horse is around $2500. Then add the costs of feed and maintenance. Usually warmbloods are more expensive to feed, as they’re larger. Also my warmblood certainly has more health issues than my Morgan/QH ever had.

I love riding my warmblood. I’ve never ridden a more comfortable animal. I also love just looking at her. She’s a beautiful, noble creature. Yet, despite my admiration of warmbloods, I’m guessing my last horse will most likely be a Quarter Horse, as I slowly transition from competitive riding to trail riding. I can’t justify the expense of a warmblood unless I’m showing it. Plus, I could probably keep two Quarter Horses easily on my property, as opposed to one warmblood.

So as Gailey struggles with soundness, I’m trying to live in the present, but I’m also considering the future. I’m guessing my future horse is a Quarter Horse.

I want to wish everyone a Happy Holidays and a very Merry Christmas. I hope you have a good one.


Gayle Carline said...

I do want to point out that you can't breed a registered Quarter horse to another breed and register it as a Quarter horse, altho perhaps that's not what you meant. The only allowance in QH is that they are allowed Thoroughbred breeding (these are called Appendix horses), but there are extra rules for them (can't breed Appendix-Appendix or Appendix-Thoroughbred). To register a Quarter horse, you have to have a lot of paperwork PLUS genetic testing (unless you can prove live cover to a single stallion) to prove that the mare and stallion are correct according to all that paperwork. I'm sure there are ways to work the system, but the AQHA really tries to keep that from happening.

I have two Quarter Horses - momma and her almost 7-year old baby. I love them.

Anonymous said...

I've had warmbloods and warmblood crosses and TBs for many years, but my most recent horse is a ranch-bred quarter horse. He's got beautiful, big, solid feet and legs, is absolutely sound and is hardy, intelligent and fit. I couldn't ask for more. And he's small enough I can mount from the ground if I have to.

That said, there are a lot of terrible QHs out there, but there are terrible WBs and TBs too.

Laura Crum said...

I'm probably the wrong person to comment on this post, as I know zilch about warmbloods and am a huge fan of QHs, and have owned many of them. I came from a cowhorse background and a QH type horse is what appeals to me--its what I expect to see and overall the best suited for the cow work and trail riding I have always done. But there are QHs and QHs. Halter type QHs don't appeal to me--and they don't look like QH's to me. Show me a sixteen hand critter with a massive body, and tiny head and feet, and I'll shrug--not a true QH in my book, no matter what his papers say. Nowadays I'm interested in horses about 14.3--easy to get on for a short gal--but I truly don't care if they're registered QH's or not. (Sunny's not). What I am looking for is a type. A little, "soggy" (old term--means stout, with good bone), horse, with a calm mind and a willing attitude. Not overly refined, not hot, not too big. So, I guess I think its more important to look for this type of horse than to focus on the breed, or whether the horse is registered.

A funny sidenote, Jami--my friend has a QH that he is thinking of selling. The person who seems most interested is a dressage rider with two very fancy warmbloods--who are apparently not a lot of fun to ride on the trail (I'm not saying they're all like this, mind you). Anyway, she just wants a calm, quiet horse to trail ride, and so she's looking at this little QH rope horse. Her big issue? Why is he so cheap? By her standards, the horse is way too cheap so she figures something must be wrong with him. I thought that was pretty amusing.

Jami Davenport said...

One of my all-time favorite horses was Moses, my little Morgan/QH. I could wrap the reins around the saddle horn and just ride down the logging road. I didn't even have to pick up the reins to canter. He was so incredible when it came to just about anything. If I could find another trail horse like that I'd be all over it.

I know what you mean about cost. A mediocre warmblood costs 4 times the price of a nice little QH cross. And the American bred warmbloods, depending on the registry, aren't held to the standards of their European counterparts. Of course, if they aren't approved by a warmblood registry than all bets are off as to what kind of quality you're getting.

kippen64 said...

Best breeds for me are the Thoroughbred, Standardbred, Highland Pony and Connemara Pony. Standardbreds are used a lot in trail riding in Australia. Heaps of Pony Club teenagers are mounted on Thoroughbreds. I adore Thoroughbreds but concede if they are hot, then I don't want them much over 16hh because I am only 5'4". Owned a Warmblood/Thoroughbred back in the 1980s named George. He was wonderful. Very sweet and great at trail trail riding. When he was still at the trainers being saddle trained, I had to give the trainer on his quiet Quarter Horse a lead over a bridge while on George. The trainer was taking us out for our first trail ride together. George was 16.3hh.

Anonymous said...

You can get into a fairly athletic, decently-bred Quarter Horse for not a lot of money, especially if you have connections to a good trainer or two. My reining/cowhorse-bred QH mare is the horse of my dreams...and she's got a good mind, loves to do her work, and actively works with me when we amp up our training works.

And, sweetest of all, she's 14.2 hh, which means she's easy to get on. Plus since she's pretty much now in the "finished horse" category, I can go out to the barn after a week without riding, throw on sidepull and bareback pad, and have a perfectly nice ride without worrying that she's going to spaz out or be a butthead.

Definitely convinced about cowhorse breeding on my part, anyway.

Alison said...

I love these horse conversations. We have good friends (who are great riders) who finally gave up on their warmblood loves because they had way too many dramatic rides and near-accidents on the trails. Now that they're getting older and don't want to compete anymore, they're rethinking their choice of horse breeds. My QH/Appy cross is like Linda's two horses--slightly lazy and a sweetie. Can't manage an extension or a side pass, but I never worry he's going to go postal.

HorseOfCourse said...
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HorseOfCourse said...

I do envy you guys the diversity you have!

Another question: How much of the horse's individual traits are due to breed, and how much depends on other facors?
Do we have different character traits depending on what horse rase we are looking at?

Breeds that have roamed about in the wild and have had to mend for themselves up to rather recently are often both very food motivated and easily kept, as scarcity of food has been a strong selector in survival.
The smart and the sturdy ones survived. The others did not.

In my opinion you will find more "personalities" with native breeds than you will find in Warmbloods (or thoroughbreds) where many of the survival instincts are bred away.

Of course there are many other factors that influence. Each horse has its own personality of course, and the environment also play a large part.

But selection also plays a role, doesn't it?

If we take the thoroughbred as an example. The main purpose for that breed has been to be fast.
So we have a flight animal, where you actually enhance that instinct. There are all kinds of TB, also pluggy ones, but if I am allowed to generalize I would say that you have a fast horse with quick reactions.
You don't breed the pluggy ones.

Now look at the dressage warmblood horse. If you go back 20-30 years, the horses were much heavier than they are now.
The breeding of dressage horses has turned the WB into a lighter and more reactive, "electric" horse, by using TBs and selective breeding.
The result has been a horse that is moving better, but also a horse that is prone to be hotter and more tense.
Which is not always easy to ride, and thus we get rollkur-riders...

Laura Crum said...

Horse of Course-- I really don't know much about breeds other than QHs so can't speak. But within the QH breed there are so many types that its almost impossible to generalize about a QH. QHs bred for the track have a preponderence of TB blood and can be very hot. (And yet my son's horse, Henry, is all running bred QH, and is neither hot nor tall--a calm, sturdy 14.3). Cowhorse bred QHs are often as joycemocha describes, sensible and willing, not to mention athletic, and yet I have known some very hot ones that were extremely flighty and not sensible AT ALL. Foundation bred QHs are said to be the calm ones, but I have known my share of these that were downright broncy and truly dangerous. And then there's the halter type QHs, which, in my opinion, are mostly cute and useless--big body, pretty head, tiny feet, not too much brains--but again a generalization. Within each "type" are plenty of great and not so great individuals. And I haven't even gotten around to the QHs that are bred for these English showhorse classes where they need to be sixteen hands at a minimum. These horses don't look like QHs at all to me, but I've never ridden or trained one of this sort, so can't say what they're like.

Anyway, that's why I say I'm looking for a type of horse rather than a QH. I imagine this variation occurs in all breeds--certainly the comments would indicate that warmbloods vary widely.

Francesca Prescott said...

According to my dressage trainer, the great thing about my Kwintus is that he has the movement of a Warmblood bred for dressage, and the personality of a Quarter Horse. Now that he's retired, one off my big problems is going to be finding a horse that will give me as much pleasure both in the arena and out of it. This being said, seeing how Kwintus gave me back my confidence following my bad accident years and years ago, maybe I'll be up for something a little hotter.

I don't see myself going for a QH type as I'm tall (5'9), so a Warmblood is going to be better suited to me. Kwintus was a little small for me at 1.62 (I guess that's 16 hands?), but as he's quite compact and rounded "(old fashioned" according to some people...), I didn't look like an elephant sitting on a sparrow. Officially, he was my daughter's horse, and she's quite small so they looked perfect together.

Also, the only QHs I've seen here have been competition horses who look fine when they're doing they're thing (spinning and sliding, etc), but appear crippled to me as they walk in and out of the arena. Surely all those spinning and sliding movements have terrible effects on their hocks? What do you QH people think about that? I've often wondered.

Switzerland breeds some nice Warmbloods, but they're outrageously expensive in comparison to what you can get in Germany. My first horse was a Swiss Warmblood with a lot of TB in her - she was pretty hot stuff, and not really suited to my needs at the time, but I didn't know any better. Would I fall for her again? Probably not, as her movement was "flat" compared to Kwint's big bouncy "swung". But then again, she was brilliant over rough terrain and never put a foot wrong.

If I lived in America, or even maybe in certain parts of England, I'd probably go for the QH/
trail horse type next. But Switzerland isn't exactly trail riding paradise, especially where I live. You simply can't go for miles and miles, so we our outside rides tend to be short and repetitive, and well, kind of boring, really! When I think back to the trail rides I enjoyed when I lived in California for a few years back in the eighties, or to the fabulous rides in the New Forest in the South of England, there's simply no comparison to the outside rides around here. It comes down to a matter of open space, and Switzerland simply doesn't have much. Which is probably why I enjoy practising flying changes in an arena!

Francesca Prescott said...
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Francesca Prescott said...
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Laura Crum said...

Francesca--I was involved in training and showing reined cowhorses for several years, and these (along with reiners--who don't work cows) are the ones you see sliding and spinning. In my opinion, yes, there is a tremendous amount of abuse involved in this sport and yes, it does result in lots of lame show horses. The big problem is that these horses are usually competing at a pretty high level by the time they are three years old, and they have to be pushed pretty hard in their two year old year to do this. And, as I think we all know, it is not conducive to a sound horse to push a two year old of ANY BREED hard. So that's one thing.

Otherwise, yes, the stops, particularly, are hard on the horses, physically. However, a cowhorse bred QH is built to do this sort of manuever, and ridden correctly, not started too young, not pushed too hard, some can and will execute such stops and spins all their life and stay sound.

I hear you about trail riding only being fun if you have trails to ride. But your photos of the barn and countryside and descriptions of riding to the village do sound lovely.

Joy said...

I learned to ride as a youngster on a huge warmblood. He was amazing and very good to us little girls. Huge tho.

I love my cutting bred QH. He could be described as bull-dog type. He looks almost exactly like Doc Bar (great g pa) and Freckles Playboy (g pa). Even the blaze and socks are the same. I love the build. I always have. Very athletic build in my opinion and the ever wonderful 14.2 shortness to boot!