On breeding unrelated asil bloodlines to each other

By Tzviah Idan

Posted on September 12th, 2009 in General

Joe Ferriss wrote: “But perhaps now is a good time for some of us to free ourselves from the temptation for compartmentalized thinking about asil bloodlines with the aim of producing more Waddudas, or Sindidahs or Old Speckled Jellabis.”

I couldn’t agree more.

I think that we, and those who came before us, have done a wonderful job of both educating the public and preserving the various AK/asil lines over several decades. Dividing them into sub-groups by various criteria in order to preserve the uniqueness of the various groups was certainly the right way to go, and the Craver model with the Davenports, which created even more possibilities within a limited pool, sheer genius.

It has occurred to me from time to time that perhaps we have now reached “Stage Two” where we should be deliberately blending more of the subgroups in new ways. I’m not saying we should stop doing what we’ve done, only starting doing something new alongside.

Certainly some of it should be well-planned and done in the ‘Western mode’ of thinking, with specific goals in mind, but I can’t help thinking that some of it should be done ‘haphazardly’ [in comparison to our Western, compartmentalized way of thinking] just to see what might turn up, such as breeding together asil horses that complement each other phenotypically from unrelated bloodlines, or choosing horses as far removed genetically from our own as possible from within asil choices.

Wouldn’t it be neat to do an experiment where volunteer breeders each ‘donate’ a breeding season from one of their mares, during which time she would be bred to something unrelated, that is from a different source or combined sources from within the asil/AK fold? Throw the name of volunteer stallions into a hat and then somehow draw an unrelated stallion for each mare?

This type of experiment, repeated every few years, might really shake things up. Then again, it might not, but we’d all learn something from it. And if it creates just one truly exceptional horse it would help us think about our horses and how we think about preservation models.

I know there are economic considerations but I would guess that it would intrigue enough breeders that some would donate a stallion breeding or breedings even if they could not afford donating a mare.

Certainly I personally find it challenging to try to breed the best horses possible from within what we have defined as the Babolna-source Egyptian pool. That’s all part of the fun of being a breeder; and I’m sure that other asil breeders feel the same about breeding within their own groups.

But shouldn’t we also be thinking about what might result if a few of us choose to ’step out of the box’ and do something new?

6 Responses to “On breeding unrelated asil bloodlines to each other

  1. Dear Tzviah:

    Like you, my bloodline knowledge is more familiar with the straight Egyptian. Within our community, we have so many isolated groups, i.e. Straight Babson, Sheykh Obeyd, Heirloom, Heirloom/El Deree, Pritzlaff, Post-58, Non-Nazeer, etc.—each group has been successful in conveying the message and the need for preservation, creating viable programs exclusively within these lines. While some groups are more numerous than others, we still have these bloodlines, even if the numbers aren’t as large as what we would all like them to be. So, like you said, now what? The overall aim of breeding within preservation cannot be just this, to justify pockets of obscure bloodlines because someone decided that these horses are important enough to be preserved, there has to be a reason for preservation and the ultimate use of these horses for something bigger and better, right? I seem to be thinking alot about the saying “not seeing the forest for the trees”. What’s our forest? Breeding for better horses that appeal to a larger audience of horse lovers? Have we become obsessed with the “trees” or the details of the diversity of asil bloodlines? Are we really breeding better ARABIAN HORSES or are we breeding better sub-species like Davenports, Blue Stars and SBE’s? Have we become specialists, like the horses we criticize in the show ring who lost the versatility of the horses we remember from the past? Are we more focused on breeding bits and pieces? I know that my blinkers have been on for a long time with Egyptian Horses…and I need more “versatility” in terms of understanding and appreciating other Asil lines.

    I know that this post that I am writing is somewhat controversial and a bit provocative, and I know that somehow, these words will get “juices” flowing and that some of my words/thoughts will be misunderstood. Well, that’s the risk I am going to take, in order to push people into really thinking about these great ideas you have suggested.

    I do not advocate the elimination of preservation breeding. We need it. Preservation is as vital as the need to breed better horses. What I am saying is that combined source breeding has to really be a combination of “the best” and not just breeding obscure horses together to create yet another isolated group of horses, who are the “be all, end all” to themselves.

    If a combined source horse is to compete against the mainstream, non-asil Arabian, we really need to make certain that these horses are extra-beautiful horses, extra-athletic horses, extra-excellent tempered horses who are going to celebrate the wisdom of the people who preserved the different genetic components making up this “Asil super horse”.

    In today’s economy, horse interest is not at the same level as 20 years ago. In a recent article, I read that 100,000+ broodmares are out of production, all breeds. With many unwanted horses flooding rescue centers who are not prepared for the number of horses, I am concerned that our Asil group of horses will be heavily criticized for producing even more horses in these tough, economic times. How do you justify the creation of more, when so many already created need everyone’s help? We really need to encourage that people breed only for the best. We really need to discourage the practice of breeding horses whose overall breed type is poor or coarse and the functional conformation is also equally poor. We also have to accept the fact that declined interest in certain lines is really just that, as hard as it may be to accept, fewer and fewer people appreciate a particular family of horse and we just need to let it be.

    I really believe that the time has come for the Asil Horse to save the Arabian Horse breed, as we know it. To catch the attention of people who may have previously dismissed the Arabian Horse as a “hothouse flower” and restore the credibility of the breed, as a versatile, easy-to-handle, excellent companion horse who gave birth to the rest of the horse world and the breeds that others enjoy today.

  2. When I started advocating this a decade ago I was either told not to be silly (to put it politely) or totally ignored. You have to realise that these sorts of ideas are shocking to a great many, but in order to preserve and prolong the Asil Arabian horse you need to consider this. Thank you all for your contributions and best of luck with it.

  3. I have seen where way more importance was placed on the bloodlines, and those included (or excluded), and not the type and ability of the resulting horse. “They are rare! So lets breed them together!” And not give any thought to what was being re-created. I learned from Walter that sometimes we do have to take the good with the bad… to achieve what we want. But not over and over and over. Without getting desirable results. There are some issues, such as breeding soundness, that will eventually eliminate themselves in any event. Perhaps those Arabians “wonderful” qualities would have carried on if they would have added something a little different to the gene pool and bred them outside their respected breeding group.

  4. Yes, if it is happening over and over and over, then something is not right! Not necessarily with the bona fides of the bloodline, but with the particular genetic set that is left.

  5. What do refer to as “bona fides? I don’t understand. Do you mean foundation? Or what?

  6. Not referring to whether or not the bloodline is asil; just whether or not there happens to be a good gene set left from it.

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