KWPN-NA Breeders Share Secrets for Keuring Success

Breeders devote their lives, energy and hopes to producing world-class sport horses that will compete at the top levels of dressage, eventing, jumping and driving. One of the best tools available to help breeders in their quest is the keuring, or inspection, of breeding stock. The 2010 KWPN of North America (Royal Dutch Warmblood Studbook) keurings will take place at 11 locations throughout North America and offer breeders the opportunity to have their bloodstock evaluated, as well as see the results of other breeding programs. The outcome of keurings can increase the value of horses and also provide excellent marketing opportunities. So how can you successfully prepare your horses to receive the best marks from the jury? Several top KWPN-NA breeders share their secrets for making the most of the keuring experience.

“My favorite things about the keurings are seeing the other breeders’ foals and offspring produced by different stallion and mare combinations,” says Julie Ballard Haralson, owner of Haralson Farm in Newnan, Georgia. “You see a lot of pictures and videos on the Internet, but it is not the same as seeing them in real life. This helps me a lot with future breeding decisions.” Julie has produced numerous first premium foals. She has foals by Indoctro and UB40 that will be joining her herd this year. “I look forward to the comments from the jury and their future breeding advice,” she continues. “Good, bad or ugly I treasure these comments to help me make better decisions in the future.”

At Haralson Farm the youngsters are primarily raised outside with run-in sheds. She feels that a natural environment helps them develop mentally and physically and is a fair exchange for the occasional scrape or scratch. However, to help prepare her horses for the keurings, Julie takes every foal with their dam to at least one USDF breed show. She explains, “They become accustomed to trailering, seeing the sights of a busy show arena, being bathed, handled by strangers, clipped and braided-all with mom there to ease them through the process. They also learn about trotting in hand next to mom. The keuring is then pretty routine.”

Kathy Childs, owner of Crooked Post Farm in Topeka, Kansas, agrees with Julie about the importance of having youngsters properly prepared. She tries to take her foals and their dams to an indoor arena prior to the keuring so they are not overwhelmed by new experiences. She also works feverishly to ensure they are presented in tip-top shape by maintaining a quality nutrition program, farrier schedule, etc. Her pre-keuring checklist also includes daily handling, trailer-training and halter breaking. The capstone of preparation is immaculate grooming that includes a full body clip. “I’m a big fanatic about presentation,” says the breeder of numerous USDF award-winning horses. “I want them to look their best.”

The results of hard work have paid off for Kathy, not only with loads of awards and recognition, but also as a marketing tactic. “[Keurings] have helped me get my young horses sold,” she emphasizes.

While most people think of foals and young horses being presented at the keurings, the studbook evaluation of the three-year-old and older horses is the most important step of the keuring process, says Martha Haley, the 2009 KWPN-NA Breeder of the Year. “At this time, breeders/owners get a written linear scoresheet on the horse, evaluating both conformation and movement. I often refer to this scoresheet when making breeding decisions for my mares. It is also helpful in the sales of horses, to provide potential buyers with a more objective evaluation of the horse.”

In the under saddle portion of the keuring, Martha wants her dressage horses to be developed enough to be properly balanced with swing through the back, forward and not on the forehand. Rather than rush her horses she prefers to wait until they are four to five years old to present them at the keurings.

Julie concurs with Martha on the preparation of the older horses. “The ridden horse needs to be very well prepared prior to the IBOP, [the riding test], in good weight and gleaming show condition. Ideally they have been shown or at least experienced a show environment under saddle.”

This preparation and energy might make an owner nervous prior to a keuring, but Lana Sneddon, a breeder from Lagrange, IN, who has also been a KWPN judge since 2002, encourages breeders and owners to focus on all of the benefits. “Don’t be afraid! We all want the same thing– to see pretty horses and be the one owning them. Don’t worry about the little stuff. We are not judging the owner’s knowledge of the system. We are all in it together and want your keuring to be fun.”

What if your horse doesn’t score as high as you hoped? Lana continues, “Relax. Breathe. Some of my best show horses are second premiums.”

Lana suggests making contact with other KWPN-NA breeders in your area prior to attending your first keuring. “The goal should be to be one big family. We all help each other to better the breed, and in turn, that will better your program as well.”

The 2010 KWPN-NA keuring tour is from August 31 through September 13. Bart Henstra and Toine Hoefs will be the inspectors. Bart has been a KWPN jury member since 2003. His Stal Hentstra is a breeding and training facility, which produces 10-12 foals for both dressage and jumping each year. Bart is also an active dressage competitor at the ZZ (Grand Prix) level.

Toine Hoefs is an internationally recognized sport horse expert. He has been a licensed KWPN breed judge and inspector for more than 15 years. He has judged at some of the world’s most prestigious shows, including the Pavo Cup and Dressage at Devon. Toine has extraordinary talent for spotting gifted foals and youngsters, such as the approved stallions Juventus, Uptown, Washington and Adamo, as well as competition horses, including Sagacious HF.

The KWPN-NA keurings offer inspections for both young and mature horses. Foals are examined for correct movement, conformation and type. The jury comments on each foal, making the process educational not only for the owner or breeder, but also for spectators. Mature horses are evaluated on conformation, movement and jumping (if applicable for their type) and are assessed in-hand and moving freely. A variety of under saddle and driving classes are also offered. Horses are able to advance to the studbook, earn predicates and generally strut their stuff.

“The primary reason for organizing keurings is to evaluate horses on their ability to perform in their own breeding direction,” says Willy Arts, KWPN-NA Chairman.

“Keurings are also an opportunity for breeders to receive advice on the selection of mares and stallions that are likely to produce horses that meet the standards for the Grand Prix in each of the breeding directions.”

For breeders seeing a healthy foal awarded first premium status grow into a useful and successful riding or driving horse is reward enough. However, now breeders will also receive recognition and prizes from the new KWPN-NA Breeder’s Achievement Awards sponsored by Rabobank.

Breeders can earn points as their foals receive first premiums and their older horses earn their predicates, including star, crown and preferent. Silver, Gold and Platinum level awards can be earned.

“The KWPN-NA Breeder’s Achievement Awards will honor and recognize the accomplishments of breeders who put their heart and soul into producing top horses,” explains Willy Arts. “We are pleased to offer this program thanks to the support from Rabobank.”

Complete details about the KWPN-NA Breeder’s Achievement Awards and keurings can be found at www.kwpn-na.org

About the KWPN-NA In 1983, the Dutch Warmblood Studbook in North America was established as the North American Department of the Royal Warmblood Studbook of the Netherlands (KWPN) in order to promote breeding and enjoyment of the KWPN horse in North America. To learn more about KWPN-NA membership, stallions and breeding, visit www.kwpn-na.org