Although I am not a breeder, I have worked for breeders, bred one horse of my own, and been avidly interested/semi-involved in the breeding industry for over a decade. Often when I see a horse at a show that I particularly like, I will approach the owner and ask what it’s bloodlines are. 9 times out of 10 I get a blank stare. Once I even had to tell the person that their horse was registered BWP (according to it’s brand) because they had no idea what that “wagon wheel” was. Serious facepalm moment.
I understand that sometimes papers are lost and people just don’t know anything about the horse, but the amount of people who also just don’t care in this country is pretty shocking to me. If you ride sporthorses, and have any interest in riding them in the future, you should care! The breeders are the ones that produce the horses, but the riders are the ones that end up with them. We wonder why Europe outproduces us? Do we just enjoy paying 10k+ on top of purchase price to import their horses?
I think what a lot of people just don’t understand is how heritable many traits are. It’s no coincidence that certain lines are known for producing a certain temperament, or requiring a certain type of ride, or being slow to mature, or jumping over themselves in front. If you ride a horse that was purposefully bred for sport, someone somewhere planned that breeding with an end goal in mind. They picked out both parents and considered traits that they hoped both would bring to the table. The results may vary, but they are no accident. You can often tell a lot about a horse just by looking at the papers.
Even those of us sitting on OTTB’s (or QH’s, or Arabs, or Morgans, or or or) should not consider this a reason to be uninterested in pedigree. In the same way as sporthorses, any breed has lines that have become known as standouts for certain abilities (or lack thereof) in sport. Study well enough and eventually you’ll be able to look at a pedigree and make a guess as to what the horse might be suitable for, even though it was originally bred for something else. Sure, there are exceptions, but you’ll be right most of the time.
Dr. Ludwig Christmann did a really interesting study on heritability with the Hanoverian registry many years ago. Want to know the two things that were found to be MOST heritable? Head and jumping ability. What ranked lowest? Legs and correctness of gaits. If you want to read more about it, go here. Of course, some stallions pass on certain traits more than others (for good or for bad), but those little nuances are the things you learn along the way.
Really I cannot wrap my head around why anyone just plain wouldn’t care about breeding. Even if you say “I don’t need a top level jumper or an amazing mover, I just want something that is enjoyable to ride!”. Guess what else is highly heritable – temperament, character, rideability, and willingness to work. Guess what some of the qualities are that they evaluate at stallion testings – ding ding ding, you got it.
I know it can be mind boggling at first, but in the internet age where we have so much information at the tip of our fingertips, it’s easy to learn. Be that weirdo that sits in the stands with me at horse shows and looks up bloodlines on USEF, only to be super frustrated when there’s nothing listed. If we want to get better we have to fix this, and it starts with changing people’s minds about how much it matters.