Final Thoughts

Scot Tolman Thoughts on Breeding

From the Editor

The end of 2022 comes with a bittersweet end to a beloved chapter.

This year, Scot enlightened us with heart-felt and witty tales of inspiration founded on honesty and realism, giving us all an insight into the rigors, challenges, and rewards of this warmblood breeding industry in North America. There were highs, and there were lows. We joined him every step of the way, empathizing, sympathizing, and reflecting on our own breeding and personal life experiences. Scot wraps up his column with yet another thought-provoking piece addressing a critical (and unaddressed) topic in North American breeding: Breeder Recognition.


Thank you, Scot, for your contributions to our readership this year! We wish you nothing but good luck in your future endeavors.

As I begin my last column for WarmbloodBreeding.com, I’d like, firstly, to thank Anna and Nat for the opportunity to share some of my thoughts over the past year and be part of the inaugural year of this site. Secondly, I’d like to end my tenure writing for this important informational tool by jumping back onto my soapbox to make a plea for more recognition of North American breeders.

There are many reasons North America will have difficulty matching, let alone surpassing, our European counterparts in Warmblood breeding, ie, the sheer size of our countries, the lack of an accredited educational system and certification for trainers, lack of access to people to effectively start young horses, the European “imported” label bias, etc. Many of these things will take generations of purposeful effort to overcome, and some, such as the size of the US and Canada, will never change. One thing we can change with minimal effort and almost no monetary investment nor systemic threat to the financial apparatus that controls much of the Warmblood market in North America is more recognition for our breeders.

During the Dressage at Devon breed show, North America’s most prestigious platform for showcasing our breeding efforts, I received a text from my good friend Judy Reggio, who was in attendance. She was flabbergasted that none of the announcements nor written material mentioned the horses’ breeding, let alone any mention of the breeders.

Let’s imagine for a minute that my occupation is pie baker instead of horse breeder. Someone comes to me and orders a Tolman’s Strawberry-Rhubarb Crumb Pie to take to a holiday function. He or she pays a fair price for the pie, brings it to the event, and calls it a Country Crumble Fruit Pie. That’s fine. You paid for the pie; you can change the name. People at the event love this pie. They know the owner of the pie isn’t the baker of the pie, but they don’t care. It’s delicious. They just want to eat it. The person who bought the pie from me doesn’t bother mentioning who did, indeed, create this pie, and who would know that the buyer has changed the name to exclude any reference to me. He or she even leads them to believe that the pie is imported at great cost and prestige. On top of that, this event is being televised for a holiday special, and there are a number of close-ups of the owner and the pie. The credits roll at the end, and the purchaser is listed as contributing this fantastic dessert. Social media goes crazy. “My” pie goes viral. It’s a huge hit. Suddenly, every time this person is invited to a similar event, the host requests another Fruit Crumble Pie. How many lost opportunities are there in this sequence of events for me, the creator of this pie, to get some recognition and garner some well-deserved accolades for my pie-baking business?

I fully realize that a breeder does not “make” the Grand Prix horse, but, on the flip side, there wouldn’t be a Grand Prix horse without a breeder. I also realize the absence of an accredited, progressive program to certify and identify trainers is undoubtedly a bigger issue than not recognizing the breeder. But, damn it, it pisses me off.

At almost any European show, the breeders are recognized both in print and in announcements. Helgstrand and other major stallion owners have contractual arrangements with many top breeders to have first dibs on their foals. Schockemohle regularly holds ceremonies for the

breeders of the top horses at his events. All of the major studbooks call the breeders out to the center of the ring, along with the owners, when their stallions are approved. These may seem like small, inexpensive, seemingly insignificant moments of recognition, but moments like this give a very public face to the importance of the breeders’ contributions to successful horses.

These moments rarely happen in North America. Breeders are left to do their own promotion, post a comment with the breeding on social media when a rider or owner celebrates the success of his or her horse, etc. It gets old. Sometimes, I feel as if I’m the poor farmer in New Hampshire jumping up and down with his hand raised, trying to get anyone’s attention to fight for a little recognition for the decision making that went into creating this special horse. And, after 30-plus years of breeding dressage horses, if I feel this way, I can only imagine how those of you with smaller programs or just starting out feel.

We are lucky. Or, I should say, Carol and I have created our own luck. We’ve been doing this successfully for a long time, I have a huge social media following, I’m not afraid of self promotion, and we’ve developed a reputation that gets recognition more than the average breeder. This is a war I’ve been waging for over thirty years, however. There is no reason our major North American publications, websites, breed shows, and competitions couldn’t at least mention a horse’s breeding and who is responsible for that breeding. It would cost a little extra ink, a few extra pixels on a computer screen, and one more exhalation of an announcer’s breath. That’s it.

As I said, I’ve been waging this battle for a long time. People have shared all kinds of theories with me about why it isn’t happening, most of these theories going back to the person who is making the money makes sure he or she gets the recognition so the financial cycle continues to be a benefit. I’m not sure that’s true. Although, It’s definitely true that the breeders are not the ones making the money. I think it’s a systemic North American devaluing of what it takes to breed good horses. Nothing more. Just ignorance.

Oh, my goodness. Angry Scot. You’d think after a pie metaphor and all the pie I’ve eaten in the last couple of days because of the holiday I’d be in a better mood.

In fairness, our North American breed organizations do a good job of recognizing breeders in their publications, meetings, and inspections/keurings. The problem is that we are breeders preaching to breeders. We all already know how important the breeder is in the equation that equals a successful horse. The horse-showing and buying population in general doesn’t belong to these organizations and doesn’t have a clue. We need a systemic shift in breeder recognition that gives them a clue.

So, my final plea to you in my final piece: Take action. When you see a post on social media about a successful horse, hell, any horse, post a comment, “Who’s the breeder?” The next time you’re reading a print or online publication that doesn’t mention the breeder, shoot them an email or message, “Could you mention the breeders of the horses you highlight in your magazine/site?” Along with the hefty check you send in for the entry fees for your next horse show, include a note, “It would be great if you include the breeders of the horses in your

program and in your announcements. Baby steps. And, if there’s anything I’ve learned about making systemic change, there are two options, baby steps or all-out war. I’m not advocating the latter. I’m just saying if we breeders don’t initiate change, it won’t happen.

Again, thank you, Anna and Nat, for allowing me the opportunity to be part of the inaugural year of WarmbloodBreeding.com. I appreciate your kindness and enthusiasm. Thank you to all of you who have reached out to me over the last year with your thoughts and comments. Happy to chat anytime, just ask me if I have to pee first. I’m going to have another piece of pie.


Scot Tolman is the owner, with his wife Carol, of Shooting Star Farm, a family-run, Platinum Level breeding farm with the KWPN-NA. Scot, and Shooting Star Farm, have been written up in several equine publications, here and in Europe. As a writer, Scot has been published most notably in Warmbloods Today magazine (no longer published), and he maintains Scot’s Journal on the Shooting Star Farm website.

Scot stands three Dutch Warmblood stallions, including Floris, his riding horse. Click to view their Stallion Profiles on WarmbloodStallionsNA.com:

Floris SSF

Top Character and New Pedigree for North America

Gaudi SSF

The most popular dressage stallion in North America!

Jaleet SSF

World-class expression and athleticism!

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4 Replies to “Final Thoughts”

  1. ANNA L GOEBEL

    Thank you, Scot! Your combination of humor, personal reflections, and searing insight into the issues for breeders in North America has meant columns that are not only a joy to read but provocative as well. I am proud to have them as part of our breeder resource. Thank you for noticing issues that might otherwise slip under the radar, for having the courage to question anyone and any thing that seems important to you on behalf of American breeders, and for asking hard questions with such tact and humor. You are a National Treasure for the breeding industry!

    Reply
  2. Jan Marquardt

    Don’t stop preaching to the choir, Scott. It takes a village and until others start, or continue, asking “who is the breeder?”, breeders will continue to be the unspoken, unrecognized, albeit the very foundation, of our sport horse market. Without a doubt, it is not the breeder’s who “make all the money!” Only other dedicated breeders can appreciate what they put into their programs for getting a foal safely on the ground. It’s not just monetary, but also very stressful and emotional. Nothing is more true than, “breeding is not for the faint of heart” (or wallet). Thank you for continuing to reinforce the necessity of breeder recognition.

    Reply
  3. Margaret Kaiser

    I am in agreement Scott. Your outspoken approach will surely result in more breeders taking measures to improve the inclusion and acknowledgment of their contributions.
    As a breeder I know I would appreciate public recognition when one of my horses competes. What a tribute to include the breeder in the awards ceremony!
    I certainly would be honored by the inclusion.

    Reply
  4. Caryn Vesperman

    Having bred horses I compete and bought horses I compete, I’m always disappointed at the big, recognized shows that are USEF/USDF-sponsored that do not announce who the breeders are or list it in the program (unless it’s one of only a couple of fabulous announcers who prepare for these shows and dig up the info and announce it…but it’s still not necessarily in the program and more times than not, it’s not included in the news story). What’s so hard about doing that, especially if riders have sent in their horse’s paperwork to compete in USDF year-end breeder awards? We need to keep voicing our dissatisfaction with the gap—a gap that I’ve been hearing about for decades.

    Reply

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