American Breeder Series Part 1: Iron Spring Farm

In the first part of a weekly series on sporthorse breeding in America, DressageDaily's Stacy Gormley was able to catch up with owner of the prestigious Iron Spring Farm, Mary Alice Malone to get her thoughts on American breeding and how Iron Spring Farm is contributing to higher quality sport horses in the United States. Her commitment to excellence and young horse development has laid the groundwork in the sporthorse industry of America.

Photo: Malones successful in the dressage ring: Mary Alice Malone (on Contango), Mary Alice Malone Jr (on Fresco) and Catherine Malone (on Ivan)

DressageDaily: How has the quality of sport horse breeding stock changed in this country?
Iron Spring: The quality of horses we have now is much higher than it was even five years ago. In North America, we have a very nice base of mares as well as stallions. We certainly have the opportunity to produce very nice horses. Overall North American breeders are much more knowledgeable than they were. Certainly many people are taking advantage of embryo transfers and shipped, frozen semen in order to get the best match for their mare. Dressage people are much more aware of bloodlines than they used to be.

DressageDaily: How important is it for Americans to produce their own athletes?
Iron Spring: I think it's really important because we have the horses and bloodlines to produce world class horses. When we produce our own horses and get to the point where there are more trained horses on the market in North America we won't be at the mercy of the fluctuation of the Euro and trade embargoes. Sellers in North America are more likely to be responsible for correct representation for what they've sold you. You can have your veterinarian do the pre-purchase on the horse. In Europe there are some sellers that think once a horse leaves the country it's not their problem. Of course that's not true in every case. It's important to deal with people you know and have confidence in wherever you are. Having a vet you know is really important. Most veterinarians in America try really hard to have integrity. Practical matters not withstanding, it's very rewarding to have American horses competing and winning for America.

DressageDaily: How important are the Young Horse classes and the USEF/ Markel National Championships?
Iron Spring: They are very, very important. You have another set of eyes evaluating your horses, including judges that will eventually be judging your horse as an FEI horse. These classes make breeders and riders much more aware of the quality of North American horses. It's going to be meaningful to have a horse that has done well [as a young horse] and it will make everybody more aware of what a really good horse is. Just like the NAYRC has grown and become very important, I think these Young Horse classes will continue to grow in both size and prestige.

DressageDaily: How have the mares in this country changed over the years?
Iron Spring: Overall there are more mares with better conformation and pretty nice show records. Having your mares evaluated has really made people aware that it's not just about having a good stallion. The warm blood or warm blood-cross was an answer to the Thoroughbreds, who for the most part are bred to race. Now we are seeing discipline-specific mares, i.e. just dressage or just jumping. The breeding has become much more selective. Whether this is good or not, it's definitely a trend.

DressageDaily: Any comments about Iron Spring's role in changing the face of American breeding?
Iron Spring: When I started, I bought stallions to both compete and breed. Showing my stallions was a novel concept, both here and in Europe. People didn't show stallions while they were breeding. Now it's almost mandatory. I have tried to choose our stallions for their bloodlines, temperaments, performance records and suitability to produce horses for the North American market. I have tried really hard to have nice horses and make them available to a lot of people, including Pony clubbers and young riders. We have also offered educational materials for our breeders. We have produced DVDs on artificial insemination and breeding with frozen semen, and showing in hand. On our website we provide our clients with sale listings and web pages as marketing tools for their horses. Our goals have always been education and helping North American breeders produce quality horses.

Check in next Thursday for part 2 in our series featuring Hilltop Farm.

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