What percentage of ‘failures’ in horses do you get, or do you research their bloodline and background and pretty much know beforehand if the horse will train well?

“Stacy, What percentage of ‘failures’ in horses do you get, or do you research their bloodline and background and pretty much know beforehand if the horse will train well? I love watching your videos!”

Interesting question! The answer to the question really depends on how the words ‘success’, ‘failure’ and ‘goals’ are defined.

Newt likes laying down on the job.

Newt likes laying down on the job.

With my own personal horses I have the freedom to make an educated guess about what the horse will likely excel at…but if it doesn’t work I can change the goal. An example of this would be a horse I bought a couple of years ago as a ‘project’. My main goal was to rebuild his foundation so he could be a solid citizen. Along the way I trained him to be a reiner. He was good at it…but he was sold as a roping horse. I didn’t consider his career change to be a failure…it wasn’t my main goal. I don’t know if you ever watched the cartoon Lilo and Stitch but the main character, Lilo, always said she was looking for the creatures ‘one true home’…that is how I look at my horses.

I think your question was probably more ‘sport’ specific, so I will answer it that way also.

Many of the horses that I ride have been ‘created’ because my husband Jesse has recommend certain mares be bred to certain stallions. Jesse has ‘created’; Whizards Baby Doll (Roxy), Can Can Vaquero (2011 Freestyle Champion), SV Peppy Whiz (Rookie of the Year Horse) and other horses that have won over $100,000 in combined earnings. Jesse ‘created’ Jac also. Jesse was trying to create horses that would be successful in the reining pen. If we define “success” as horses who earned money in the reining pen then with his knowledge he has had about a 75% success rate. The rate is lower that maybe it could have been because some horses were sold to people who didn’t rein with them, they showed in cutting or barrels or trail rode. They weren’t ‘reining’ money earners…but they were still nice horses….were they a success or a failure?

One of the reasons that training for the public can be a challenge is because of how these words are defined. I have the freedom with my own personal horses to ‘go with the flow’ and know that success is having a happy well trained horse that will be enjoyed by someone. That is the reason why I can enjoy all horses…because my ‘success’ isn’t defined by the show pen.


  1. Suzi Sturgell on April 18, 2014 at 7:45 pm

    Well, I’m going to put my 2cents in here. I rarely get “well bred” horses in for breaking and training. My clientel are back yard horse owners, weekend trail riders, total beginners, and wanna-be rodeo champions, along with a few more expert horse people bringing their horses. I get an entire gambit of horses in for training from QH’s, Paints, Arabians, race breeds, and even some Norwegian Fjords. As far as each breed is concerned, I have to say I prefer the QH’s and Paints the best, but also enjoyed the challenge of training the other breeds because their temperments were so different. Now, since I rarely get what one would call ‘great bloodline’ horses in (lets say with the quarter horses here), when I do actually get in one that has the right names ON its papers, I’m going to tell you: those horses are generally easier to train! I’ve had plenty of opportunity to find this out, I’ve been doing this for years. Once in a while I get in a nice horse that does not have “names” on its papers and it turns out to be a breeze to start and train, but those truly seem to be the exception, not the rule. If I had my way, all my client horses would be well bred (and the ones I breed WILL have the proven names on their registry!).
    I’ve also had some of the “back-yard” bred Arabians and they were the ones who give them a bad reputation! Flighty, neurotic, small and slim– then I had the blessing to get some absolutely champion bred show Arabians in to ‘break’ and was able to prove my theory. These horses (both stallions to boot) had the brains, size, conformation, muscle, intelligence, personality and easy temperment you would wish all young horses had.
    Another pet peeve I have is having to start aged mares (of ANY breed!) these mares have already figured out what they think their life is to be and they will more often than not try to ‘out stubborn’ you at every turn when trying to start them in training.
    I’m not saying at all that ‘back-yard’ horses can Not be trained, just that often they take a bit longer than their better bred cousins. I’m sure there’ll be those that will disagree, but again, I’ve been doing this for a long time and have had quite the variety of horses to start. Most “big” trainers get good horses, and also train specifically. Not only would a weekend trail rider not consider sending their horse to Bob Avila for breaking, (nor want to pay that bigger expense), Mr Avila has the ability to CHOOSE who he will take, and unless it is going to help keep his show reputation strong, most likely he is not taking my neighbor’s unregistered, unruly, horse in for training.
    I train for the everyday person, most who never show. They still deserve a horse that does all things well. I do a good job with all horses and will do all I can in my own power to make each horse into what the owner hopes to have, but often, that is a difficult task.
    So, to answer that question above. I do think the better bred horses (of any breed) have a better “chance” of being trained well if given the right opportunity, because of the better genes, body and mind combined which makes a trainer do well also. I’m not downing or judging those who have horses without popular names on their papers, some of them are the most solid horses in history, (like my husband’s horse!!) and I believe ALL horses deserve a chance to be great and I of all people will do my part to make it so! But if given the choice, I would suggest putting some proven names on your future foals.

    • Jackie De Joe on April 19, 2014 at 8:16 am

      Suzi … your reply is very interesting and I enjoyed reading it. It made me wonder; genics or environment? I wondered if the horses that were well bred normally ended up with more knowledgable horseman? Those bred in someone’s backyard … the owners may not have the same level of horsemanship skill. Thus … by default the genics seem to win out but mainly because the start of these horses were with knowledgable horseman. And what is the factor of the well trained horses around the untrained horses in the same pasture/stable? How much does a horse learn from observing other horses behavior? I am a beginner and I know that how I handle my horse may make him look stubborn, but when my trainer (experienced) handles him he looks like a pro. This is a great subject.

    • ingridl999 on April 19, 2014 at 4:53 pm

      Very informative!

  2. Diana Pieters on April 18, 2014 at 2:46 pm

    Im so happy you sayed this: That is the reason why I can enjoy all horses…because my ‘success’ isn’t defined by the show pen. As a professional horse trainer cause a lot of people only think in succes and thus showpenn! Thank you!

  3. Holly Sell on April 18, 2014 at 10:10 am

    I purchased a yearling a few years ago. He was lovely. Selle Francais/Saddlebred cross with loud pinto markings. Stunning. I worked with him all the time. He was always explosive and at times, dangerous; however, I was still very attached to him. Rather than have one or both of us get injured, I sold him. He is now at a huge barn. Turns out, he needed the constant stimulation of an extremely busy barn, something my very small farm couldn’t offer him. He’s thriving and they adore him. You really have look at the horses as individuals and realize that they aren’t failures, they just need different jobs.

  4. Annie Hostetter on April 18, 2014 at 9:17 am

    I agree with Mrs Westfall, a successful horse, is a well rounded happy well broke horse, that any horse person would be happy to spend there friendship and life with. That’s a great horse!

  5. Bonnie M. Butler on April 18, 2014 at 7:59 am

    Very well put……………….

  6. Nikki B on April 18, 2014 at 3:07 am

    It’s a tough question for sure, some of my horses I am sure are not probably living up to their potential, in someone else’s hand could maybe excel at something but in the end I enjoy poking about on trail rides and my daughter likes gymkhanas so they will be used for those particular pastimes and loved for it. As long as the horses are treated well I’m sure they don’t have a feeling of loss towards not doing anything in particular – I’ve yet to start my QH so that may change if he really likes cows!! I may have to look at doing some team penning – looks fun.

  7. Roberta Altman on April 18, 2014 at 12:40 am

    That is truly an “AMEN” to your post! I have worked my rescue horse for what I thought him to be…. only to find his TRUE happiness is chasing cows! I also like chasing cows, but years not doing it… who would have thought!?!? He is very loved, and a happy horse now! It has brought out the light and joy in my boy!

  8. Susan on April 17, 2014 at 9:36 pm

    I think if you have a horse and owner who both enjoy what they do, that is truly success. Regardless of the discipline. There are so many horses out there who will never meet their potential but that doesn’t make them failures. Just as long as the horse and the owner are happy, that’s all that really matters.

  9. Mackenzie on April 17, 2014 at 8:39 pm

    Loved how you answered this. A horse is successful if they are a happy horse at what they do, if you try something and they aren’t happy that’s not successful.

  10. Alli Farkas on April 17, 2014 at 7:21 pm

    Hmmm…wondering if by “train well” the person who asked the question really meant how can you tell if a horse has the aptitude for the discipline in which you want to train him? For example, how do you know how long to try with any given horse before you know he’ll either make in one sport or maybe should switch to another. Or as another example, with perhaps a “difficult” horse, how can you tell if he’s talented but just not willing to play the game?

  11. Jade on April 17, 2014 at 7:09 pm

    bloodlines in my book mean bupkiss. i’ve worked with many horses both with and without any particular breeding every horse is different and all have their own pace of learning. i find that bloodlines aren’t going to make a horse trainable or not and i don’t think it’s really fair to judge a horse because of it.If a horse doesn’t want to learn he doesn’t want to learn turn him out and give him a break try another day =)

  12. Deb Geurink on April 17, 2014 at 7:01 pm

    Love the way your answered this. Well done!

  13. karen Thomas on April 17, 2014 at 6:39 pm

    Stacy, that was a good observation! The time you spent training each horse for it’s “specialty” made it a solid citizen for anyone to do ANYTHING with it…I love that you don’t define success/failure by the show ring, I sure don’t. But ex-show horses are so well-schooled that they often make wonderful trail buddies (-: and more…

  14. Heather Ray on April 17, 2014 at 4:26 pm

    …..and this is why you are so stinking successful! Bravo! Very well put and I agree 100%! 🙂

  15. scott202 on April 17, 2014 at 4:01 pm

    Hi Stacey, just to follow on with this a little, I have been following your Jac series with interest. Very thought provoking and inspiring stuff. It got me thinking about the differences between a very well bred horse like Jac’s brain and others without such amazing bloodlines. Do you notice a marked difference in the brain and trainablity of the well bred reining horse?

  16. Diane Allen on April 17, 2014 at 3:58 pm

    I think the only failure is a horse that was so wicked out he was unsafe to ride. A horse who isn’t cut out to become what the owner wants can still be a success at say trail riding or western pleasure. I very much doubt you have had any failures.

  17. Candice Greene on April 17, 2014 at 3:48 pm

    Beautifully said, Stacy. I agree, If a horse can be enjoyed by someone, somewhere for no matter what discipline (even if just a pasture pet), then it can’t be considered a failure.

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