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Breeding Western Pleasure Horses for Purpose and Function – with Ken Masterson and Debbi Trubee

Why is it essential that horses are bred for their specific discipline? The obvious answer? So they can perform their distinct tasks to the best of their ability. While horses can be versatile, it is also essential, in today’s ultra-competitive arenas, to breed for your specific discipline. This is an often-discussed and somewhat extensive topic, but here are a few tips as starting points for breeding western pleasure horses from two field experts. 

This article will cover the three main points to look for when breeding a horse for western pleasure. These include breeding for purpose and function, what to look for when choosing a pair, and conformation vs. temperament.

We spoke with Ken Masterson of Masterson Farms, home of the legendary sire, RL Best Of Sudden along with The Lopin Machine, and Debbi Trubee of North Farm, who stands her up-and-coming stallion Makin Me Willy Wild, as well as The Best Martini, about their advice on breeding form to function for the western pleasure class.

Breeding for Purpose and Function Defined

Debbi Trubee of North Farm, a breeder of top western pleasure horses for over 15 years, explains breeding for purpose and function. She defines it as “choosing both a mare and a stallion that will complement each other. They need to have the desire to perform as a western pleasure horse with characteristics such as a slow mover with a good mind.”

After speaking with Ken Masterson of Masterson Farms, he noted that selecting a sire and dam that will exhibit the physical and mental attributes of a winner is very important. This will help you pick a winner for your specific discipline and help ensure they are successful.

What to Look for when Choosing a Pair

Breeding horses is not as easy as one may think, and a lot of time and effort goes into creating a winner. When asked whether conformation or temperament was more critical, Masterson states, “I can’t say one is more important than the other. A horse with great conformation, but a rotten and dangerous temperament, won’t be successful in what our customers do.”

Similarly, Masterson adds, “The kindest horse probably can’t succeed and stay sound for long with a bad structure. I do think that for practically all customers, a kind horse is hugely important for their enjoyment and fun.” If you are looking to breed a winner, consider these two aspects when picking the perfect match.

Trubee added that conformation is all about form to function to make them move correctly. “The back has to be shorter than the underline. The neck has to be longer than the back. The forearm has to be longer than the cannon bone. The hocks must sit low. It’s all about what conformation makes a horse able to be an athlete,” says Trubee. “The stallion is not going to fix a mare’s faults…or vice versa.”

When Masterson was asked what he looked for in a winner, his response is, “Generally, if a horse is pleasing to my eye, it will have good balance and muscle with a good heart girth, a good slope to the shoulder, and a neck that ties in well and is proportional in length. The desirability of the old ratio of two–to–one in length from poll to wither, compared to wither to the point of hip, seems to hold. And, since rail appeal is so important to our discipline, a pretty and short head always helps.”

It is essential to choose horses to complement each other. Producing great foals requires a lot of homework. Trubee explaines, “If a mare is short backed, but her family line is known for being long-backed, the mare has a greater chance of producing a foal with a long back.”

Trubee added to this by noting most people always want to go with the latest and greatest studs, but she personally loves the tried-and-true horses that have stood the test of time, not only in the show ring, but also in the breeding barn. Part of doing homework is asking for advice. Masterson emphasizes, “Get some expert and unbiased help from a professional.” 

Conformation vs. Temperament

Another choice breeders have to make is whether conformation or temperament is more critical when choosing a good mare or stallion.

Trubee says, “If a horse is mega-talented but rotten-minded, it will be impossible to train up to their ability in a lot of cases. If a horse is the best student, always ready to do whatever task you ask, that horse may eventually have more success, as it allows you to train the skills that will be needed to succeed. The perfect blend, of course, is the incredible talent along with a great work ethic.”

Masterson, who has been a breeder for over 26 years, mentioned that he has experienced certain bloodlines that make excellent foals and later show horses. Their stallions at Masterson Farms, including RL Best Of Sudden, represent the ultimate western pleasure bloodlines. Masterson’s last piece of advice is, “Ultimately. The proof is in the pudding!”

About the Author: Kaitlyn Boykin grew up riding and showing American Quarter Horses in the small town of Kiowa, CO. She recently graduated from the University of Wyoming with a B.S. in agricultural communications. Her passion is to use her voice for the equine industry through writing and showing. Kaitlyn’s favorite events to show in are trail, reined cow horse, and reining.