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How Much Does A Horse’s Breeding Affect His/Her Performance?

Panel Expert: Denny Emerson

Submitted by member: JoeM

Is a horse’s bloodlines or pedigree more subjective or objective and how much does it determine the horse’s performance?

Answer by Denny

Pedigree is something which is quite objective, in that the performance of the offspring of a particular stallion or mare can be tracked. Yet, for all its objectivity, pedigree popularity is subject to all kinds of rising and falling tides of fortune, and is therefore almost more subjective than objective.

Someone called it “present expectation of future success based upon the past performance of the parents and grandparents.” That’s not a bad definition, because the key word is expectation, not guarantee. Assume three bay Thoroughbred yearling colts are standing in a row. They all look and move essentially alike. Yet one is worth $1,500 at a Thoroughbred auction, the second will sell for $15,000 and the third will fetch a staggering $1,500,000. This is entirely based on the pedigree, since they are all three very correct individuals. Their buyers have reason to expect that these colts will run to their pedigrees, that the two inexpensive babies will race in the claiming ranks, while the gold plated youngster has the potential to win graded stakes.

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Denny Emerson

“One of the 50 most influential horsemen of the Twentieth Century ...” (The Chronicle of the Horse, 2000). The only rider to have ever won both a gold medal in eventing and a Tevis buckle in endurance. In 2006, Denny was inducted into the United States Eventing Association (USEA) Hall of Fame. He is also a member of the Dartmouth College Athletic Hall of Fame and of the Vermont Academy Athletic Hall of Fame. Denny Emerson, eventer, trainer, coach, author, leader, activist, has been a significant, influential force in the equestrian community for a half-century. Beginning with his first competition, the Stoneleigh Prospect Hill School Gymkhana, at the age of 12, Denny has forged a career with horses which culminated in his receiving both the USEA’s Wofford Cup for lifetime service to eventing, the American Riding Instructor Certification Program (ARICP) Lifetime Achievement Award, induction in 2006 into the USEA Hall of Fame, and included leadership in such organizations as the USEA (twice president), the USET (vice-president of Eventing for seven years), the USEF (on the Executive Committee), and Chairman of the Breeder’s Committee of the AHSA. For more information about Denny Emerson visit:

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