We at WarmbloodBreeding.com and WarmbloodStallionsNA.com are firm believers in the future of warmblood sporthorse breeding here on North American soil. We have seen this industry grow leaps and bounds over the last twenty years, with stallion owners bringing in top European bloodlines, and passionate industry leaders establishing notable exhibition opportunities based on internationally acceptable procedures and scoring. The North American Stallion Sport Test exemplifies these efforts, allowing for testing and licensing of North American stallions based on European qualification standards, hosted by professional establishments accommodating geographical dispersion.
Read on for further insight on the tests from test rider Jessica Wisdom, and long-time spectator and mare owner Susanne Manz. Then join the discussion by commenting below!
It should come as no surprise that we are BIG fans of the dedicated efforts put forth by the North American Stallion Sport Test team to ensure that there is a legitimate and respectable testing process in place for North American stallions that rises to the standard of our European counterparts. Due to the efforts of the NASST team and the dedication of stallion owners raising qualifiable stallions in North America, this testing has grown in size and quality of participants every year, with two testing locations each year (one on each coast). You can find more information about this testing, including the results of historical tests, at https://www.stallionsporttest.com/, or follow on Facebook @nastallionsporttest.
Warmblood Stallions of North America is a proud sponsor of the North American Stallion Sport Test, providing advertising certificates to stallions completing the test each year. It can be tough for a young, freshly-approved stallion to get visibility to mare owners in their early years. By providing these stallion owners with a leg up on their advertising budget and exposure, we work towards our mission to support the Warmblood Breeding industry in North America by supporting North American stallion owners, registries, and discerning equestrians in their quest to create and source top warmblood sporthorses here in North America.
Thank you to Jessica and Susanne for their contributions to this article! If you get the opportunity to attend the tests yourself, you will not want to miss it!
View from the Saddle
Test Rider’s Perspective
By Jessica Wisdom
It is always a treat to be the test rider for the NASST. It gives me the opportunity to “preview” the new generation of stallions available fresh to North American breeders. Having done this for several years now, I’ve also learned a ton, both for the judges brought in to evaluate the stallions and from the stallions themselves as trends evolve and bloodlines mature over the generations. The current format puts the onus on the stallion owner to adequately prepare, condition and train their young stallions for the age-related requirements and expectations of the test. It is vital that both stallion owners and observers understand that the stallions are expected to perform within their discipline at the level indicated by their age regardless of current occupation or other extraneous circumstances. Though small exceptions might be made to accommodate extremely late foal dates, excessive growth, etc, on the whole, the curriculum is relatively set and stallions that struggle to perform their tests will receive lower scores regardless of pedigree and/or quality. Conversely, stallions that are fit and well prepared are more likely to have opportunities for a higher score range.
As the test rider, I can add that any stallion that is nicely light to the aids, tractable and adjustable will create better opportunity for higher rideability scores than one that is resistant to the rider. Light hearted freshness or honest startles are well tolerated as we are all horsemen and they are, after all, young horses, but dangerous outbursts or clear resistances are less forgiven and do affect the scores regardless of the quality of said stallion. Remember also that the test rider is directed to some degree by the judging panel – we, as a jury, discuss what we would like to explore in my short time on each stallion’s back; what we would like to see improved or tested or just to confirm they are as spectacular as they appear under their daily rider.
North American breeders are very fortunate to have the opportunity to present young stallions for licensing with multiple registries in one location and to be able to maintain influence over their development and presentation during the process. It is an increase in responsibility for prospective stallion owners, but allows for a more level playing field overall. I feel very fortunate to play a role in the process.
View from the Stands
Mare Owner’s Perspective
By Susanne Manz
I was lucky to get a ticket to the NASST held at Hilltop Farm, Inc. in Colora, Maryland on October 12-14, 2022. Tickets were scarce with only 20 spectator seats sold. This was simply because the venue couldn’t accommodate more people. With 18 stallions each accompanied by owners, riders, and grooms there were a lot of people there already. There was also a slew of officials including judges, discipline experts, guest riders, vets, and registry representatives. The event was well organized by the Hilltop team. Full disclosure, I do have 3 horses right now living at Hilltop Farm and I love to visit the farm regularly. It was amazing to see the transformation of the facility to accommodate 18 guest stallions in addition to the normal Hilltop stallion lineup. There was a lot of testosterone in the main barn! A tent was put up outside of the barn for delicious lunches for competitors and spectators.
The NASST is a big and important event for breeders in North America. It is nice to see it continuing with more stallions each year. It was great to see so many quality stallions presented. Many of them were bred and raised in NA. Stallions came from far and wide including Florida, Kentucky, Kansas, and Canada! It takes a great deal of time, effort, and money to present a stallion for testing. I congratulate all the stallion owners that made such a big commitment to prepare and present their beloved stallions for testing.
It is nice to see opportunities for stallion owners to get their stallions tested and get some good visibility. Obviously, we don’t have the numbers of stallions seeking approval as they do in Europe. And the great distances stallions need to travel adds difficulty and expense for stallion owners. I hope to see the NAAST continue to grow but there will need to be some long term thought about bigger or more venues for testing. I did not get to see the West Coast NASST in person but hope to do so someday.
I am a firm believer that performance testing is essential for demonstrating capability, movement, rideability, heath, soundness, and longevity. As a mare owner, I want to breed sound and healthy athletes with long-lasting careers. So, performance tests and competition results are critical factors in the stallions that I choose for my mares. As much as possible, I also like to observe stallions up close and in person before I use them for my mares. I feel you can learn a lot about a stallion’s temperament and rideability by seeing them up close and in normal activities in their stall, grooming, and training. I want to see the stallion’s legs and hooves up close and from different angles. I like seeing stallions go through a rigorous performance test and, even better, a long-term performance career. So, attending the NASST was a great opportunity for me.
There was quite a bit of variation in how stallions were presented. Some stallions were presented with a high level of professionalism equal to anything seen in Europe. Other stallions were presented by less experienced riders, and it showed in the performance of the stallions. This is where the guest rider had a big impact on my impression of the stallion. Both guest riders (one for dressage and one for jumping) were amazing. In some cases, there was very little difference in the performance of the stallion under their normal rider and the guest rider. In other cases, there was a dramatic difference. In many cases, the stallion looked much better under the guest rider, Jessica Wisdom.
Stallions are required to complete an age-appropriate test. As a mare owner, I want to see the capability of the stallion to perform that test. But it is not just about who performed the test best on that day. I want to see how the stallion copes with the process, with stress, and the unfamiliar. I want to see how they improve over the three days of testing and from year to year. There were varying levels of fitness and some stallions seemed less fit and were obviously tired on the last day. And other stallions gradually relaxed and performed best on the last day. It was also nice to see the stallions up close and from the front and back to assess conformation, hooves, straightness. Mare owners don’t always get to see stallion legs and hooves up close and from multiple viewpoints.
While I have respect for some of the amateur owners or less experienced riders that worked so hard to present their stallions, they were not always able to present their stallions in the best light and it reflected in their test scores. I know it costs more for stallion owners to hire professionals, but in fairness to the stallions and their long-term attractiveness to mare owners, it is important to show them at their very best. Preparation, fitness, and presentation do make a difference in how the stallions look and perform. And that makes a difference to mare owners seeking a potential stallion for their mares.
One point of confusion for me was the variation amongst the different registries. The German registries have been participating in NASST for some time. So, the NASST complies with the rules of the German FN. But, at the end, when we heard the scores for each stallion, it was not clear if or which registries approved each stallion. I think some of the stallion owners were confused as well. I heard one registry official tell a stallion owner that he had not completed an application and paid the licensing fee to that specific registry, so his stallion was not licensed with them. Stallion owners need to pay careful attention to the rules of the individual registries from which they are seeking licensing/approval. In the past, KWPN has been a notable absence from the NASST, and it was good to see that they sent registry representatives this year. KWPN has a different approach and licenses/approves fewer stallions each year. But I think they are hearing the voices of their members about increasing opportunities for NA-bred KWPN stallions. We will have to see how that ends up.
It was great to watch the event and a wonderful chance to catch up with some friends and fellow mare owners. Thank you to all the stallion owners and riders for letting us see your lovely stallions. As a result, I have some new stallions on my prospective list for my mares. Thanks to all the NASST organizers and officials for making this a successful event. And thanks to Hilltop Farm for hosting and making the event possible. I hope that other mare owners get to attend future tests.