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A Never-Ending Debate
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A Never-Ending Debate

Oh, the never ending debate. The debacle, the crazed battle of REGISTRATION PAPERS. Do they matter? Does a fancy typed, filigreed, stamped piece of paper encode the worth of a horse? In this day and age the word GRADE may as well stamp the horse with some sort of undesirable trait such as leprosy or having a backward hind leg. Unregistered horses are more often than not cast to the dark shadows of the sale rings and horse advertisement sites and watched upon with a weary eye. Why is this? Less than 30 years ago, many horse enthusiasts would hardly bat an eye if a horse came from an unknown background; and now, people won't buy a trail horse unless he is an own son of so and so out of a daughter of whosamacallit. So what has changed? Registries were created thousands of years ago by some ancient guys who were really proud of their horses. Why might you ask? To preserve, reproduce, and better the traits of their beloved bloodlines of horses. Someone a long time ago decided, "Hey, I really like this horse, If I cross him on this great mare I might just get something better." So low and behold, the pedigree was born. The only way to record and establish the pedigrees and ensure the survival of a specific line was to create a registry to keep track. In the United States, Registration Associations such as AQHA didn't come into play until 1940, when once again some guys who were really proud of their horses decided to preserve that heritage and move forward with the bright-eyed future of creating one heck of a horse. It is in my opinion that the relative newness of the AQHA is why so many still have a hard time grasping the " registration debacle", and why so many will argue that "you can't ride papers".

We all have had that great horse. That one that may never have been papered, or was a long gone descendent of some really great horse the won something someplace or another, or maybe that one that performed far past his capabilities of what he was "bred" to do. Those special horses, those hammer-headed, sickle hocked (from my personal experience) diamonds make us all question if papers really mean anything. Isn't it the horse that matters? What's in their heart, how hard they try, their grit; shouldn't that be more important than a flimsy piece of paper? Well the answer is YES. In those circumstances, no piece of paper could ever change the worth of that horse in your heart. Now here's the catch, it was the intention of registration to preserve all these qualities. To reproduce a desirable animal, the ones (minus the hammer head and sickle hocks) that make you remember them. We as horse owners have strived for thousands of years to produce Athletes, performers, and models of equine perfection. The flip side to this is that just as there are great GRADE horses, every once in a while you come across that ridiculously well bred Cull. You know, the one's with the mental capacity of a clam and the athletic ability of a wet paper bag. There is an exception to every rule. However, how many "culls" are there in the batch? The odds on a poor performer in their "bred for" industries really aren't that high. How many of Dash for Cash's offspring have excelled? How many of High Brow Cat's babies are winning? The numbers are staggering. This is the POINT of papers. When we can decipher the right mix of genetic code that gives us the probability of producing an outstanding Equine partner isn't that what it's all about? When we can keep track and weed out genetic illness and imperfection, single out certain traits that maximize potential in certain areas of performance, and most of all when we can find the heart of a champion and through his or her sons and daughters PROVE it to be true; isn't that what we are after?

Someone's sweat, blood, tears, countless sleepless night, and pride in their equine partners are behind every set of papers. That piece of flimsy paper means so much more than you think. It is a family crest. But then again, don't count out those rough cut GRADE diamonds.

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Leave a Comment

  1. Archippus
    Vote #5! Slidinbyastar, the importance of registration papers depends on why someone purchases a horse.
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  2. PonyGirl
    PonyGirl
    Interesting blog. I pony horses for a living on the track, and the vast majority of my pony horses have not had papers. Since they're all geldings and since I don't want to show them- it really makes no difference to me. I do however prefer to use stock horses- Quarter horse "types" if you will. I've had two Appaloosas (one with papers, one without), several QH types ( one who, judging by the name on the Coggins, had papers at some point in his life ), a paint with papers, 2 registered QHs, and a half-QH, half-Percheron, who I suppose I could register warm-blood, since his parentage is documented, and both parents are registered with their respective breeds. All have been great horses in their individual ways- the grades just as good as the registered horses. I personally love the cutting horse bloodlines, and without the registries these lines and the traits that go with them would be diluted. So while papers don't matter to me in individual horses, I think the registries play a very important part in creating and maintaining the excellence of the many different types of horses.
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  3. MHarris
    I grew up riding a grade Quarter Horse mare. She was fabulous. While I was younger, my Dad could work cows on her all day long, bring her in, put me on her, and she'd settle down and make a great babysitter. As I grew in riding skills, she was a great teacher. She taught me what I needed to know just as much as my Dad did. We were exactly one year apart in age. She was a foundation type, stocky King bred mare, the grey Jesse James bloodline. And, most of all, she was part of our family. On her I learned spins, rollbacks, and all the fun stuff. At least until my Dad caught me, then the real lessons started. She was my first horse of a lifetime. It was a horrid day when we moved and she could not go with us. My, our, first act of betrayal. It is only recently that I have learned the family she went to kept her until her death at age thirty. With them, she again taught many young people to ride, and worked many cows. She truly was a Baby Doll, my Dad named her right. Now I'm middle aged, and he's an old man. We know he'll take one last ride on her.
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