Promotional Videos Prove an Important Factor in Breeding Success
Like accidents do, it happened fast. Brenna Weaver, a then seven-year-old horse-crazy girl, quietly picked up her mom’s camera. As it tends to go with children and expensive gadgets, she subsequently broke it. It was when she would unwrap the first camera of her own, a birthday gift from her mom, that her passion for images would be ignited; a passion that would eventually lead her to a career in equine video.
That, too, happened fast. By her senior year in high school, Weaver had created her first promotional video, and it was a no backyard stud, but of the 16-time world champion, John Simon. And in the four years since then, under her company name of Superlative Equine, she has done 27 stallion promotional videos. Her clients have included several leading sires, multiple world and Congress champions, an AQHA Superhorse, and the winningest stallion in AQHA history, Hot Ones Only. This success can be attributed to two factors: Weaver’s obvious talent and the rise of promotional videos in equine marketing and breeding.
“I’m so thankful for the first handful of stallion owners who took that leap of faith and got this whole thing rolling. It’s incredible that a few short years ago, no one in this industry had any clue who I was or thought that quality video would make a wise investment of their time and energy,” Weaver says (pictured right). But, according to industry breeding leaders, promotional videos are exactly that.
Erin Bradshaw, the owner of APHA stallion John Simon, calls promotional videos crucial, estimating that 85% of breeding bookings for John Simon are from people who have never seen him in the flesh. “Not all mare owners are able to come watch a stud show, tune in on online at the World Show, or live close enough to hop in their car and go see them. That leaves those breeders with one option, a stallion video. “The internet and Facebook have overtaken horse promotion, times have changed and technology has advanced,” Bradshaw says.
Amy Gumz, who, with her husband, Kevin, own Gumz Farms in Morganfield, Ky., couldn’t agree more. Standing five of the industry’s leading stallions, Gumz recognizes the importance of promotional videos as the industry continues to change to meet the demands of its tech-savvy customers. “In days past, people would come to the breeding farms and see the stallions and their get, or at a bare minimum go to the horse shows to see them. Not anymore. They want to see a video online so they can view on their schedule.”
Christi Christensen, the office and breeding manager at Highpoint Performance Horses in Pilot Point, Tx., where 11 stallions of various disciplines are standing this year, shares the same opinion. “Many people do not make it to the horse shows to see the stallions perform. It is important not only for breeders to see conformation in pictures but for them to be able to watch the stallion’s movement freely and under saddle,” she says. Last year, Highpoint bred more than 800 mares and Christensen’s office was routinely stacked to the ceiling with express shipping boxes during breeding season.
Between the rise of artificial insemination and social media, the breeding game has changed.
”The days of car loads coming to the farms to look at stallions are over,” Gumz says.
So where are breeders looking? Both Weaver and Bradshaw cite Facebook as one of the best places to market a stud.
“A quality video spider-webs across social media like wildfire, striking harder and faster than any other type of marketing, leaving a lasting impression and having a residual impact,” Weaver notes. She illustrates this with an anecdote of her video of 2009 AQHA stallion Ultimately Fabulous. When it hit Facebook on Nov. 30, 2016, it had over 12,000 views and 76 shares practically overnight.
Now, just two and a half months later, that same video has over 111,000 and 408 shares. Bookings for breeding to Ultimately Fabulous in 2017 were nearly full before the breeding season had even begun, according to Weaver.
A promotional video can be a double-edged sword, however. A low-quality video can have a similar residual impact, leaving a negative impression in viewers’ minds long after the video ends.
“It must be a quality video. A bad video is worse than no video at all,” Gumz says. “You need to show the horse to the best of his ability while highlighting his attributes.”
Perhaps being a self-proclaimed “picky” mare owner herself gives Weaver an edge in doing exactly that.
“I understand that there are layers of information needed in order to make an informed decision for my mare and to also predict where the best investment is for my time, energy, and money,” Weaver says.
Bradshaw, Gumz and Weaver all cite the same “layers” that are necessities in a stallion video. The first is a series of still shots so a breeder can evaluate the stud’s conformation. Breeders strive to produce a foal that meets or exceeds the breed’s conformation standards, improves on the mare, and becomes one of the greats. Still shots that make conformation easy to evaluate can help breeders judge whether a stallion will be complimentary to a mare’s strengths and an improvement on her weaknesses. (pictured left, Its A Southern Thing)
A strong video also needs to show the horse’s movement, both at liberty and under saddle. Observing natural movement is critical, and Bradshaw warns to be extremely cautious if a video seems overly edited. “You have to kind of watch all of today’s technology advancements when it comes to videos of horses. Make sure they aren’t slowed down. You can normally tell if a video has been slowed down by the movement of the horse’s tail,” Bradshaw explains. “The video should be in the raw; filters are fine, but there should not be edits to the stallion’s movement clips.”
According to Weaver, under saddle footage can show trainability, demonstrating whether the horse might be able to pass on the mental and physical capacity necessary for the rigors of training and showing. Bradshaw notes that if the horse has been shown, a video showing under saddle movement, both in and out of the show pen is important, too.
In fact, a quality video showcasing movement under saddle was one of the factors that led Delores Kuhlwein to breed her mare, Sensational Dimension (pictured right), to John Simon – not once, but four times. Though she did extensive research, which included bloodlines, genetic testing, color percentage and more, Kuhlwein says the chances of her breeding to a stallion without a promotional video these days are slim.
“Because we use so much artificial insemination in our breeding, the chances of breeding to a sire we’ve never seen are very high, so we probably would not breed to a stallion without a video at this point,” she says.
Aside from conformation and movement, these breeding experts all point out other details that can be helpful to breeders as they view a video. Gumz notes that temperament and personality should be evident in a promotional video. She also appreciates seeing highlights of the stallion’s pedigree and get. Bradshaw says that a video must show the horse loping in both directions. Christensen, too, appreciates videos that show the stallion’s character.
Of course, even with all of the beautiful still shots and the video clips that show that flowing front leg or deep hock, which are sure to turn breeders on to a stallion, there are factors that will do nothing but turn off potential breeders.
“I do not like short clips as I feel like they are not wanting you to be able to see what you need to see to make your opinion. I want to be able to see how the stallion travels, untouched by editing, and a long enough clip to be able to judge it,” Christensen says.
Gumz emphasizes the importance of a professional-looking video.
“A good video needs to be clean and neat, nothing fuzzy or shaky – that drives me crazy. I am not a fan of the video tricks – I want to see a nice combination of still photography and video footage. Present the best product you have while showcasing the best attributes of that animal,” Gumz advises. Doing that through investing in a high-quality video communicates a pride in the stallion and a commitment to excellence that breeds confidence in the mare owner,” Weaver says. (pictured left, These Irons Are Hot)
Making that commitment and getting those beautiful shots doesn’t come without costs, however.
“While they do take all day to film, cost money, and you find yourself almost getting run over by a stud in a pasture multiple times,” Bradshaw laughs, “They are worth it in the end. Breeders come from all over.”
“Every shoot has its moments. I have footage of one stallion getting smacked in the head by a bird flying by, and I’ve been nearly run over several times,” she says.
A near miss dodging a stallion in the pasture, a kid breaking a camera, and a video of a promising stud going viral overnight, well, it can all happen so fast.
CLICK HERE to view Superlative Equine’s ad in the February Stallion issue of GoMag