This story spans 12 years from the beginning all the way to our final resolution, so I’m not kidding, it really IS a saga. I’ll try to keep it as brief as possible and just hit the main important bits plus all the things I did wrong along the way (because those are the best parts of any story anyway, right?).
It all started in 2005, the year I decided I want to breed my own horse. At that time I didn’t have a suitable mare available, so a local Texas person that I knew through an online forum offered to let me lease Hope, one of her TB mares. Hope was your basic TB, nothing particularly amazing, but she was a good mover with a good temperament and I thought she would work for my purposes (full disclosure: if I knew then what I know now, I would have been more thorough and diligent and done a “custom foal” option through an actual breeder. Lesson #1.). The deal was struck and we agreed that I would lease Hope for the 2006 breeding season, with me paying all the breeding fees plus a monthly lease fee while the mare was pregnant and until the foal was weaned.
In late summer 2005 I went with the mare owner (lets call her MO) to an RPSI inspection to help her present her horses for breeding approval. Hope was a bit wired for sound that day and didn’t show her canter very well (unless you’re into Pepe LePew) but still managed to score just one point under premium. Pretty good for a TB mare, and I was happy with that.
I paid the stallion’s breeding fee in late 2005, and in 2006 Hope was bred to Westporte. The first try aborted between the 16 and 45 day check, but the second try was successful and in May 2007 Sadie was born.
Originally I had planned to take Sadie and Hope to ISR/Oldenburg for inspection and foal registration since, at the time, it was closer and easier for us to get to. But of course, the morning we were supposed to leave for the inspection, Sadie had a HUGE hematoma on her stifle. Not sure what she did overnight, but I wasn’t going to trailer a foal to an inspection with that thing. After talking with MO and people at ISR/Old, we decided to just present the mare the following year and having Sadie’s registration done then.
This was the biggest of all of my mistakes.
Once Sadie arrived in Austin after weaning, I had an increasingly difficult time getting ahold of MO as time passed. I couldn’t get straight answers about anything, and she no longer seemed interested in having Hope approved ISR/Old (even on my dime) so that I could have Sadie registered with them. Eventually I gave up and figured I would just take her RPSI instead, since Hope had already been approved by them and I wouldn’t need anything from MO. Of course, by that point I’d already missed the inspection in 2008.
Roll forward to the next year. Now it’s 2009 and I’ve got a really heinous-looking midget of a 2yo (seriously, she was maaaaaybe 15.2h then, she’s 17h now) but I loaded her up and away we went to RPSI. They inspected her, branded her, and issued me… a “certificate of pedigree”. Since they didn’t have DNA on file for Hope (which I didn’t realize), and since the filly was being presented without her dam, I had no way of proving that Sadie was actually out of the horse that I claimed she was out of. Considering I was now 4 years into this whole thing, not to mention ungodly amounts of money, walking away with a piece of paper where the entire damline reads “UNKNOWN” is a serious letdown. I knew exactly who her dam was, I just couldn’t prove it.
I kept trying for a while to contact Hope’s owner to try to get a DNA sample from her, to no avail. I began to suspect that Hope had met a not-so-great fate. Eventually MO threw out a feeble excuse saying that Hope had been stolen, which I don’t buy for even a minute. If someone steals your horse, you kick and scream all over the internet about it, you don’t keep mum. Sad to say, I’m fairly certain that Hope either died or was carted off to auction to make a quick buck. I still look for her online from time to time, but have not seen hide nor hair of her since 2007. Either way, I had absolutely no way to obtain DNA from her, so Sadie’s papers remained unchanged. Next lesson learned – if you’re going to breed a mare, take a chunk of her mane or some tail hairs and store them away for DNA purposes the second that foal hits the ground. You just never know.
What are the implications of having a pedigree that says half is “unknown”? For a show horse, none really. Her papers showed that she was in fact RPSI registered (albeit in their “lowest” book) and that her sire was the Hanoverian stallion Westporte, so if I wanted to sell her I could at least prove those things. But if you want to breed a mare, her papers are really important. Having an “unknown” parent makes her ineligible for anything but the very lowest of studbooks, and in fact many registries will not even inspect mares with unverified lineage. She could produce RPSI registered foals, but her foals in turn would still have the same “lowest” status as she did.
While all these years were passing by, the Jockey Club seriously upped their game. They became much easier to contact and work with, and their online presence increased 1000 fold. So earlier this year when we revisited the topic of Sadie’s papers, we realized that the Jockey Club started doing DNA in 2001, earlier than I had originally thought. Hope was born in 2000, so the odds of them having a sample from her were 50/50, depending on when she’d been registered. Nervously, I emailed them to inquire and they responded that YES in fact they did have a sample from that mare! But I needed XYZ paperwork for them to release it. Next stepping stone: would RPSI be willing to go back and run the DNA and upgrade Sadie’s registration status? Another yes! With more paperwork, of course. Lots of paperwork.
I’ll spare you details here, but after all the forms and some impressively fantastic customer service and cooperation between JC and RPSI, we officially have a DNA match from the JC’s 2001 DNA from Hope to RPSI’s 2009 DNA from Sadie. My horse is now 10 years old and will FINALLY have the proper papers and registration status that she deserves… her papers are being reissued from Germany as we speak! It also means that Sadie is eligible for breeding approval with several other registries now, since we have a verified pedigree. Basically, her world (and value) as a broodmare just opened up tremendously, for herself and for her foals.
Thanks Jockey Club and RPSI for helping me finally bring this to a proper resolution! Everyone else: don’t be dumb like me. It could literally take a decade to fix it.