Warmblood Whoas

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Here’s my method of determining and/or influencing the sex of unborn foals: in the stalls of the mares from whom I want colts, I hang at least one blue water bucket; in the stalls where I’m hoping for a filly, pink. Of course, it goes without saying that every pregnant mare drinks or eats out of a first premium orange bucket at least once a day. [The KWPN use orange to signify ‘first premium’ at their inspections/keurings.] Thank You, Marianne Hamshaw, for always thinking of me when you place your stock orders for The Cheshire Horse tack store—I have first premium orange coolers, first premium orange fly sheets, first premium orange water buckets, and even, first premium orange manure buckets. Not that I’m superstitious or anything.

Well, back to my system of influencing the gender of my foals: as luck would have it, it doesn’t seem to be working especially well this year. The pink buckets have produced colts and the blue buckets fillies. And, to top it off, the purple bucket hasn’t worked either.

“Purple bucket?” you ask.

Yes. Purple. I want some of my mares to produce geldings. Do you think I’m being unreasonable? Given the almost-universal acceptance of the Darwinian principles of evolution and the infrequency of producing a colt that will eventually become an approved breeding stallion, let alone, a worthwhile breeding stallion, is it unreasonable to expect that most Warmblood breeding populations will eventually produce geldings in utero? I think not—hence, the purple buckets in two of my mares’ stalls. Unfortunately, I realize I’m running the risk of producing a baby, struggling with his identity, destined to spend the next three or four years being taunted in the pasture by his more “stud-like” herd mates. I digress.

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Seriously. Think about it. In Holland and Germany alone, there are close to 45,000 foals born each year. If roughly half of these are colts, somewhere around 22,350 pairs of testicles will inevitably need to be removed. How much easier would be for all concerned if the vast majority of the boys were just born sans testes? Did you know that human beings are gradually producing smaller and smaller little toes? It’s because these little guys have stopped having a purpose—eventually, unless we all start living in trees again, future generations will have children with only four toes on each foot. There will be no piggy to go,“wee, wee, wee, wee!” all the way home. Are you getting the connection here? If lack of use is going to eventually result in our last toe in line “having none,” perhaps it’s not unreasonable to expect that Warmblood colts could one day be born with “none.”

I shared a draft of this column with a friend of mine for some feedback. She suggested that Warmblood studbooks narrow their selection process even further by breeding for a distinct trait or condition in the colts that are destined to be stallions, such as a first premium orange scrotum for KWPN horses or testicles that automatically fall off on day ten for the German studbooks. This would not only eliminate the tendency for us breeders to declare almost every colt born a “stallion prospect,” but also save the studbooks an incredible amount of time and money in that the approval process would be substantially shorter and more efficient. Orange scrotum—he’s a stallion. Day ten, tiny testicles in the straw—he’s a gelding and should be a gelding.

Personally, as much fun as it is to be a critic, I like the selection process, and I like declaring my one-hour-old colt-that-was-supposed-to-be-a-filly a stallion prospect. At the same time, I’m not giving up on my purple buckets.

Originally published in Warmbloods Today July/August 2009

About Scot Tolman: He has been breeding Dutch Warmbloods for the past 19 years at Shooting Star Farm in Southwestern New Hampshire. Read more of Scot’s writing at www.shootingstarfarm.com.