What Came Before

I think all of us who are involved with horses know that they’re a journey, and sometimes a really really long one. Instant gratification isn’t really a thing, success is hard to come by, and you often have to put in a whole lot of blood sweat and tears long before you ever reap any kind of reward. This is especially true when it comes to breeding.

I mean… let’s think about the whole process here. First you have to have a mare, whether you already have one or have to go pick one out and buy her. Then you have to pick a stallion, which requires you to (hopefully… please god hopefully) do a lot of learning, research, poking around the internet, watching videos, finding offspring, digging through pedigrees, maybe trips overseas, comparing and contrasting, so on and so on. That could take months or years. But let’s fast forward and say ok, you’ve finally picked a stallion. You pay the stud fee. You get the mare bred. Hopefully she’s in foal. If not you try again. Maybe again. Maybe she aborts early in the pregnancy. Maybe you try again. Maybe she gets in foal that year, maybe she doesn’t. Let’s assume she does.

Inca’s like “wait she does what?”

Then you wait a whole year, give or take, for the foal to even be born. And we all know how that can go south in a hurry. But, for the sake of this story, let’s say mare and foal both survive with no major complications. Now wait 4 more years before said foal really gets going under saddle. Then another 6 or so before it (theoretically, in this scenario) reaches it’s prime.

That’s an 11-12 year investment before one offspring could even possibly reach it’s peak potential. And you know how often things go swimmingly according to plan in horses? LOL NEVAR.

btw I have a new surprise for y’all tomorrow

So last week when I was checking out the entry status for Texas Rose and saw “Like Magic WTW” listed there, confirming his entry, I had to screenshot it and send it to Michelle. Is it a baby horse’s first BN? Yup. Is it that exciting? Probably not to pretty much anyone but us. But – fun fact – it’ll be the first WTW horse to do a real official recognized show (under saddle) of any kind. The first WTW foal to finally come of age and step foot in the show ring to do the job that he was so carefully and lovingly bred to do. It’s a big big moment, even if it may seem like extremely small potatoes to anyone else. Especially if you know the full background of all that has come before, what has gone into the program just to get to this point. Let’s recap.

I met Michelle in 2013, when I leased my mare to her. She’d been trying for a couple years to get another mare (her first warmblood broodmare) in foal, and had no luck despite many attempts. And that year, she didn’t have any luck with my mare either, starting so late in the season. The next year it took several attempts, finally culminating in actually shipping the mare to the stallion’s farm and having to figure out some hormone imbalance issues before she finally checked in foal. Nobody even wants to add up the dollar amount just to get that very first WTW pregnancy, but it took about 3 years of effort.

one of her many books of research notes, this one for eventers

Merlin was born in 2015. During that time another mare was purchased already in foal from another breeder, with that foal also born in 2015 (technically not bred by WTW). That mare had complications and died shortly after foaling, despite some truly heroic and no-holds-barred efforts from the vets, leaving behind an orphan (who luckily made it). No foals were born in 2016. There was a learning curve about repro vets and what to do/not do, who to use/not use, etc. All this time there was also continuing education about bloodlines, breeding, vet work, more trips to Europe, repro classes, etc. New mares were purchased and added to the string. In 2016 the mares were hauled hours away to use a very good repro specialist who used frozen semen, resulting in three pregnancies. In 2017 three foals were born, including Presto. And, uh, well, you know Presto’s early life story. That year was especially brutal, with another foal sadly passing away before weaning due to a bad reaction to medication. In 2018 two more foals were born. Then Merlin, the oldest WTW foal who was living in the Houston area with his new owner, died suddenly and unexpectedly from an acute colic. Horses are hard. Breeding is brutal.

You guys have been part of all the foal crops since. I’ve been so proud to see Michelle’s program grow and improve, see her develop such a keen eye, learn to do her own breeding and lab work, etc. I’ve had a front row seat to witness the creation of a real legit sporthorse breeder. But the truth is that all this work, all this money, all this effort, all these sleepless nights and tears and at times just plain suffering – for a breeder, you’re talking about a decade before you start to see any real returns on any of that. Decades (plural) before you really start to make a name for yourself through the horses you’ve bred. It’s a long long long game, even in the horse world where every damn thing is a long game.

One of the many stacks of printouts from research about TB influence in modern sporthorses

So was it momentous to see that very first WTW name in an entry status, even though it’s just a 4yo entered in BN? You freaking bet. I am so honored to have the first horse from the program out in the show ring, so proud of everything my friend has built and really delighted that she’s let me be such a big part of it. Maybe I’m biased, but I really think that as these horses prove themselves over time, she’ll be one of the best breeders in the country.

You can bet that Presto will be wearing his WTW bonnet with pride

There’s a lot of talk about American breeders not producing horses that are up to the quality of Europe (which I strongly disagree with. The quantity of Europe, no. The quality, absolutely yes.) or complaints about how expensive foals are (welcome to America where keeping horses is expensive). The breeders really are the unsung heroes that keep providing us with nice horses yet get little to no recognition and even less support. Thankless doesn’t even really begin to cover it. They do it because they love it, and they love their horses.

If it feels like I’m always over here trying to get on a soapbox about breeding and supporting the US market, it’s because I am. It’s because of all this. It’s because I know how long it really took just to get this one gangly 4yo giraffe kid to his first recognized event, and it certainly wasn’t just the past 3 months of training. Michelle is 10 years invested into this breeding thing now… TEN YEARS since she tried breeding that first mare to that first stallion… and the first horse bearing the WTW suffix is finally gonna hit the show ring. What many would call the beginning of a story has really had a very very long history just to get to this starting point, something that most don’t really know or see. No matter what happens, its a pretty exciting moment for the program, and I’m so proud to finally get my WTW horse out there and represent what my friend has built.

12 thoughts on “What Came Before

  1. Hats off to Michelle and all of the breeders who hang in there, year after year. It’s a better sport horse world because you. 🙂


  2. Well, and haven’t not yet made it to completing a BN on any horse, ever, I can speak to how much work, time and effort it takes to get a horse ready to enter a recognized BN. BN is no joke these days, and finding the right combination of soundness, ability, brain, movement, etc is next to impossible. If you don’t have the budget to buy one already going, you’re looking at years of work. I don’t think BN is anything to scoff at, and only those that have brought a young horse along really understand how much work is required.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. A-freaking-men! Connor’s breeder has been breeding for 20 years, working steadily toward an ideal that entire time, and it’s only been in the last three or four that she finally started selling her entire foal crops as weanlings and getting national recognition for how good her program is. It’s so thankless. And that’s not even mentioning how hard the 2008 recession was on breeders, when both sport people and breeders stopped buying foals and she almost threw in the towel. Publicizing her breeding program is a huge reason I show and blog. Not to pin the world on my new little guy, but I sincerely hope I can take him far in the sport just to show off her program, so I totally get it.


  4. I love this post SO much! So so so so so much! It pains me every time I see a horse being shown as “unrecorded breeding” or when someone I know imports some 5yo warmblood from Europe bc it’s “cheaper”. Having grown up with a family who raised really nice Quarter Horses, I get the breeding thing. I know what goes into it. I know the heartache and the joy. I love me an OTTB, but Simon has ruined all future OTTBs bc none will ever be so perfect, so I know my next horse will be from a domestic warmblood breeder.
    Thanks to what Michelle (and you!) are doing for the future of sport in the US. I can’t wait to see WTW at some 5*s and International Derbies and Grands Prix!


  5. Fantastic post, and I agree wholeheartedly! I think you said it so accurately – it’s a long long long game in an already long game. I love the photos of all these babies and the spotlight on them not just because they’re cute, but because they’re all so so so nicely bred. You can absolutely tell how much research Michelle has done for each cross she makes, and their quality is lovely. America really does have some amazing breeders out there – we just don’t have the quantity as you said. That is so so amazing to have Presto be the first one to show, and it’s absolutely amazing to see his name there in that BN show list. Congrats to you both!


  6. I had no idea Presto would be the very first WTW in the show ring! I also didn’t realize how long and hard Michelle has worked to produce these lovely babies we all get to enjoy. What an AMAZING accomplishment and I can only imagine how full her heart is to see Presto representing, not to mention yours. This is just wonderful. Rest assured that you have hundreds (thousands?) of blog readers who are extremely happy and excited for both of you!


  7. Huge congrats to both you and Michelle! I have a friend that is a boutique warmblood breeder, and while her main goal is for all of her foals to find wonderful loving homes, I know that she would also be thrilled if they all made it into the show ring and made a name for themselves and her program. I was so excited to purchase a foal from her and be able to compete with her breeder suffix down the road, but unfortunately we lost the foal early and I don’t know if I have the heart to try it again. It’s often a hard and thankless task, but so grateful for the American breeders that keep trying to produce quality horses for the future.


  8. My only experience with this world of horses is through your blog, for the most part, and damn. Congratulations. Huge congratulations to the team of you. This is HUGE. And I got all kinds of chills reading through this post. What an amazing program and what an honor for you that Presto is the first to take this step!


  9. This is such a great post – thanks for sharing it. Breeding is quite the process as I’m learning first-hand now.

    Congrats on Presto’s first WTW entry too – looking forward to hearing all about that!


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