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I’ve Been Blessed, by Dena Kirkpatrick

2 foals by As Good As Nick Gets and mareI believe that horses have strong family traits just as humans do, I have been fortunate enough, at my age, to have had opportunities to ride and/or study many bloodlines that have been used in barrel racing. In the world of barrel racing, genetics are varied and diverse, unlike many other equine disciplines. There have been great barrel horses that are pure Cutting or Reining bred, or purely Racing bred, and many that are a mix of these. The varied sizes of arenas, surfaces and conditions that a barrel horse may encounter at any given event gives the opportunity for many different styles and body types of horses to be successful. These truths, and the fact that ours is not a judged event, make for a very complicated puzzle to put together when a person is trying to be successful in barrel racing. Bloodlines of the horses we use are an important piece of the puzzle, so I make a point to study the lines of a young horse that I am putting in training. If I have no prior experience with his or her lines, I will contact someone I know who has had experience and success with them.

The lineage of a barrel horse prospect can be very helpful when you are training him or her if you are familiar with the tendencies and behavior of the parents and grandparents. Similar to people, some genetic traits seem to skip a generation, while others are passed, very obviously, directly to the offspring.

It is interesting to look at a particular horse and be able to have an idea of his lines by assessing his physical appearance. Many horses will produce offspring that are easily recognizable, if you are familiar with them. I believe a horse’s appearance can give me clues as to which traits of his parents he or she has inherited, but I have no scientific proof that physical appearance of a horse indicates which parent his personality will be more like.

Evaluating the genetics and traits of specific bloodlines is definitely not an exact science. Each horse is as individual as our fingerprints and their personalities will reflect this fact. It is, however, helpful to have knowledge of a horse’s bloodlines while training them. There is a saying, “Forewarned is forearmed.” I like to be prepared to deal with anything that may arise in the practice pen when I am training my barrel horses, and knowing their genetics helps me do this.

In my future blog contributions, I will discuss some of my favorite bloodlines from the past to the present. I have been blessed with some awesome horses in my life, and am now riding some of their offspring and even their grandsons and daughters.

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