Thursday, September 23, 2021

The Business of Horses – How Much is a Pedigree Worth?

November 19, 2008 by · Leave a Comment 

Often we hear from a seller that his horse has so and so in its background and that the horse is worth more money because of that. But is that really true?

All horses come with a pedigree, whether they are good or bad but when we sell that animal, who is on that pedigree helps determine the price that we can ask for the horse.

Throughout this article, you will not find a price that you should ask for your horse. But we will discuss the importance of a pedigree when you are selling a horse, raising a foal or buying a stallion or mares.

To begin, we should examine those breeding programs that are in demand by the public, which stallion is producing the most winners out of a diverse population of mares and which mare is producing the largest number of winners. Once we have that information, we should examine the pedigree involved in producing those animals. They may be the product of line-breeding certain horses or they may be from an outcross that produces a superior animal. Something that you should keep in the back of your mind is that not all horses are created equal even if they are the same breeding or full brothers and sisters. Genetics are a fickle creature. In my personal experience, I have seen great horses and full brothers who were complete opposites. One being a superior animal and the rest were just mediocre in conformation and type. Because they were full brothers, they were able to produce foals that brought more than the average and as such were successful for their owners. However, they never attained the success of their sibling.
In order for us to be successful in the horse industry, I think that you have to research what the breeders and trainers have done with the bloodlines that you may or may not want to use. This will help us in our quest to train or breed the next world champion or super horse. If someone has made it work for them and has been successful, maybe we can be too. It will only happen though if we apply the same dedication to our business as the person who developed the type of horse that you are going to produce or train.

And there lies the problem. Many of us do not apply the same dedication and work ethic to our horse program that the original developer did. Every horse program that has succeeded in the past has been through the efforts and dedication of the major entities involved (horses and their owners). Even if you have the best in the barn, you will not succeed if you are not prepared to promote and sell your product at every opportunity.

A successful program involves being innovative in our methods. We should follow our research but we should be willing to change if it does not produce the results that we want. Over the years I have seen working horses evolve into halter horses and vice-a-versa, trainers have gone from look-pretty horses to ride and slide horses and are still very competitive. In a changing world we must change with it if we are going to survive in the horse industry. Our goals should be clear from the beginning but our methods of reaching those goals should be under constant change in order to achieve them.

Another thing to remember is that the program that you are emulating was the product of many years of trial and error. You will experience the same. You should not be disappointed but view it as a challenge to be met. The great horsemen who are the legends of our industry had an ideal in their minds at all times and labored to create that type consistently. If you have looked at many horses, in your mind you can tell which program the horse came from. The breeders created those horses to have certain traits that set them apart from others of the same breed. You can tell an Impressive bloodline from Doc Bar line, Barlink Macho Man from Scribbles, and etc. etc. simply by the type of horse that you are looking at.

Which brings us down to how much a pedigree is worth to you as a horse buyer or seller. If our interests are working horses as opposed to halter horses, or vice-a-versa we would look for an animal whose parents came from bloodlines that had that breeding. We would consider horses whose relatives, preferably close up in pedigree, had been outstanding individuals in the discipline that we want to play in.

If you are a breeder or wanting to produce a foal, you would want the same things. Your mares would be uniform in type, conformation and pedigree and your stallion should have qualities,(type, conformation, pedigree), that would improve the shortcomings of your mares. And the foals should as uniform as their parents.

Will it happen all the time? NO. But it will happen more often than not. The end result is that you, more often than not, will produce a product that will bring a better price than the horse that may be the equal of yours but does not have the pedigree that people are looking for. Translation; if you have horses that sell for more money than the average most of the time, you will survive the ups and downs of the market. They may bring less money, but certainly more than the person who has been haphazard about their program and its direction. Over time, one can be quite successful with their horse program.

By Ralph Bain

M. R. Bain has been a horseman all his life and a professional trainer since 1955. He is an owner and breeder and has been employed as a breeding and stable manager. His intent on writing these articles is to educate horse people on how to operate a successful horse business. You may contact him at with your questions and comments.

Also, look for his upcoming book, The Business of Horses–Creating A Successful Horse Business

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