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Reprinted with the permission of Dressage Today@2003.
For more information, and for all results of the 2002 test,

Sires And Dams: Stallion Performance testing

Con Brio Farm's Kyle Karnosh reports that the "short test" was the right choice for one breeder to prove his young stallion's performance potential.

Ken Borden Jr. was worried when he brought his 3-year-old Holsteiner to the stallion performance test at Paxton Farm last fall. His worry was not so much about the testing itself-he had a good idea of what to expect after putting his Dutch Warmblood stallion Opus through the test in 2000. This time, however, his stallion Raymeister-by Rantares and out of the Thoroughbred mare Call Me Penny-had contracted strangles four months before the start of this year's testing, significantly affecting his condition and training. Due to his illness, Raymeister also had missed the under saddle pretest recommended by the ISR/Oldenburg N.A. registry in which he is licensed. This meant that Raymeister had to score a minimum of 100 points instead of the standard 80 points to be approved. Also, because Borden, of Wilmington, Illinois, had entered his stallion in what is called the "short test," his stallion had only 30 days catch up with the other stallions in terms of conditioning and training.

© Bob Tarr
Raymeister ridden by his owner,
Ken Borden Jr., during the 30-day short test.

Stallion Testing Choices

Historically, there have been two routes to satisfying the stallion performance requirement of most breed registries: pass the 100-day stallion test or obtain upper level competition results. For a dressage horse this means scoring well at Federation Equestre Internationale (FEI) levels.

For some registries, there is now a third option. In addition to the standard 100-day stallion performance test, since 1998 the ISR/Oldenburg registry has offered the short test, originally intended for older competition stallions in intense training. During the short test, stallions are ridden by their own rider/trainer and are evaluated by the test's training director for 30 days at the test site. These stallions then complete the final test with the other stallions at the regular 100-day test. Borden knew the drill since he had successfully completed this shorter test with Opus.

The duration of the stallion performance test has been a subject of some debate among breeders and trainers. How long must the stallions be at the testing site in order to obtain accurate results? A shorter test would certainly be more convenient for all concerned, providing the results were comparable to the longer test. The actual cost of the testing would be less, but the end cost to the stallion owner can be affected by other factors.

It may appear that the German Federation's new 70-day stallion test is a move in the direction of shorter testing but, in fact, it is really part of a two-test system, which still totals 100 days. It consists of a 30-day test early in the stallion's third year, followed by a 70-day testing in the fall of the same year.

While this system, which is still in development, may work for Germany, it is unlikely to be viable for North Americans. lilt would be unreasonable and expensive to expect stallion owners [in North America] to ship their stallions across the country twice for a two-test system," says Ekkehard Brysch, CEO of Federation Stallion Testing LLC, which organizes the testings under the auspices of the Federation of North American Sport Horse Registries. "In addition, in North America, we don't see many 2 and a half or 3-year-old stallions presented for approval. They are usually older."

So for now, the North American stallion testing will remain at 100 days, since that is the standard recognized by most registries. However, continuing a tradition of being responsive to the input of their breeders, the ISR/Oldenburg N.A. offers the short test as an alternative. Originally recognized only by the ISR, the short test is now also accepted by the American Holsteiner Horse Association.

It's important to mention that the overall short test scores are not directly comparable with those from the regular 100-day test. This is because the final scores are relative to the mean score of all the stallions included. It's sort of like grading on a curve. The 100-day scores are computed separately, then the short test stallions' scores are added to the statistical data, which changes the mean score and, in effect, modifies the curve. Here's an example: If two short test stallions scored well below average, they would bring the median score down when added to the results of the 100-day test. If a third short test stallion then scored exactly the same as the top scoring stallion in the 100-day test, his score would be higher because the mean score is now lower. For this reason there are two sections listed in the results-one for the 100-day test and a separate one for the short test.

Advantages of Performance Testing

Borden, a U.S. Dressage Federation (USDF) "L" program graduate and active dressage competitor, is a strong believer in stallion performance testing. While he might consider going the competition route with a stallion that was solely a dressage specialist (i.e. possessing minimum jumping ability), there are considerable drawbacks to that approach.

"It takes at least four to five years of training and showing, and that's a lot of lost breeding time," Borden explains. "Plus, you're taking a huge gamble. If the stallion gets hurt or disabled before meeting the requirements, you end up with an unapproved stallion."

Borden believes the 100-day test is a good option for a young horse if the owner lacks a trainer in whom he has confidence or one who can take time off to complete the short test. "It's sort of like boot camp for young stallions," he says.

Hands-on involvement in the day-today training of your stallion is one of the advantages of the short test, says Borden. "I like being more involved, and since I'm capable of training and riding my own stallions in the short test, why not do it instead?" However, it also increases your personal responsibility for the stallion's performance. "If your horse doesn't pass the short test, you can't blame it on someone else's riding or training," he explains. While the testing director gives input and serves as a second set of eyes evaluating the stallion's progress, Borden emphasizes that "the results of the short test are only as good as the stallion's rider/trainer."

One of the negatives of opting for the short test is the limited time the stallion has to settle into the testing routine, preparing physically and mentally for the final test, which is held the last three days of the testing. Therefore, proper preparation prior to the start of the 30-day test is critical for success. The testing director can provide trainers with a guide for preparation and a general training and conditioning plan. Also, in the short test, the rider has to take time off from his or her regular occupation. Borden, a professional actor and teacher at two local colleges, had to take the entire semester off. Since he also manages his family's large breeding/training program, someone had to take over those duties as well. Such a time commitment tends to offset the lower cost of the short test. Between the lost income and the cost of living away from home for a month, Borden figures the short test did not save him that much money.

Despite Raymeister's bad luck prior to the testing, Borden needn't have worried. The stallion quickly caught up to his testmates, which Borden attributes to his Thoroughbred blood. "I used to be skeptical about having any Thoroughbred in my warmbloods, but I've become a believer in the influence of quality Thoroughbreds," he says. "I think the Germans are right when they talk about the ideal warmblood mix being one-quarter Thoroughbred.

Borden says that several stallions in the testing seemed to flourish at the end of the testing period, while others may have peaked prior to the final test. "Some of the horses were just plain tired by the time of the final test." The biggest change in performance may have occurred on the first day of the final testing, during .. the free jumping before a crowd of onlookers. According to Borden, some of the stallions performed better than they ever had during the entire test, while others were distracted by the crowd and put in a sub-par effort. In spite of these variations during the final test, Borden says, "In general, this was a very evenly matched group of stallions." Raymeister did extremely well, scoring 131 points overall and having one of the highest scores in both the guest rider and cross-country phases, as well as 8s and 9s in the character and temperament categories. Da Vinci was the high scoring stallion in the 100-day test (see Arena, DT, Jan. '03), while in the first sport pony stallion test, Forrest Flame, was top scorer. As to Raymeister's future, Borden says he will stand at stud, although he is for sale. Will Borden be participating in the testing in the future? "I've got five, 2-year-old stallion prospects, so I expect to be doing the testing again in two years," he says with a grin.

Kyle Karnosh, with her husband Tim Carey, owns Con Brio Farms in Gilroy, California. For the past nineteen years, they have bred Oldenburgs, Hanoverians and Dutch Warmbloods, producing premium mares and foals. Karnosh also has bred horses competing to the Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI) level. For more information about Con Brio Farms breeding program, visit the Web site

Reprinted from the May 2003 issue of Dressage Today magazine.

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