Clinic Report: Mo Swanson

Breeding Champions: An evening with Mo Swanson
Mo Swanson of Rolling Stone Farm joined a group of over thirty LVDA members and guests on March 7 to share her insights and experience breeding warmbloods and how to license stallions and mares in both the Oldenburg and Hanoverian Verband.

Raising youngsters, evaluating stallion prospects
Mo started her talk by describing the way she raises the youngsters, focusing primarily on her colts in this lecture. Her  youngsters live out in same sex groups getting fresh air, building up their legs and hindquarters, running and playing. At an early age she can identify those colts that might be stallion prospects.   She looks for three things in stallion prospects: what she calls the "big ring look;" clear masculinity; and good movement. She aims to have the horses backed by 2 1/2 years--in part because  the colts are easy to manage when younger, and in part to prepare them for the Oldenburg inspections/licensing.

Stallon licensing
Mo shared video footage of last year's Hanoverian stallion licensing and the similar process at her farm with the Oldenburg inspectors. She described the process, what the graders are looking for, how the 2.5 year-old stallions are prepared for the in hand trotting (which shows off their extravagant gaits), and the free jumping. She debunked a few myths along the way and shared some of the slightly unsavory tactics used to create those big gaits and overjumping. Recently some stallion inspections have added a new type of evaluation  -- lunging prospects in side reins  -- to better assess future rideability. We were treated to footage of the highest ranked stallions at a German licensing and the prices paid by breeders and the state studs. From here the stallions have to complete a 70-day test, which includes endurance, cross country, more advanced riding tests, lunging on hard and soft ground and conformation assessments to be fully licensed. Last year Mo had a Quaterback offspring participate in the German Hanoverian inspection. Of  6,000 stallion applications for the licensing, only 150 were accepted (including hers). 

Meanwhile, back in the USA

Mo has two young stallions that will be sent to Oklahoma for the 70 day test, and we saw videos of each (one, Dheputy, is shown left). For performance, in addition to or instead of breeding licensing, the stallions go for a 30-day test, known in Germany as the Bundeschampionnat. A very similar procedure for mares runs in tandem and results, depending on their scores in "elite" or "premium" ranking. Mo gets her mares licensed as well as she feels it is important to assess the rideability from both sides of the family tree. She also prefers to offer for sale horses that come from two licensed parents so they can truly be called Oldenburg.

Breeding the amateur horse
Mo's breeding ethos revolves around rideability, conformation and paces, although she said the three most heritable traits (and these are only around 14%,) are jumping ability, rideability and the trot. Most of the German warmblood breeding societies are today more like brands rather than breeds, with the exception of Trakheners.

The audience had many questions ranging from how she manages to keep all the horses feet shod and trimmed to what she feeds at different stages in their development, to the riding regime and whether she sells more youngsters or riding horses at 3 or 4 years old. This has changed with the economy and she is now selling more fully made horses as the market for youngsters, typically sold to those who would like a nice horse but can only afford it as a yearling, has almost disappeared. Her business has had to change, increasing costs to keep the horses longer and train them, but allowing her to take on Pierre St Jacques and prove the horses a bit more in their early years. Mo kept the audience engaged for over two hours, and we thank her for her generosity!