American Breeders Series Part Five - DreamTime Farm

At the 2005 Devon Breed Show, it was the American bred three-year-old colt Raison de Joie who took home the top honors, winning the Cosequin USDF Horse of the Year for in Hand, the Three-Year-Old Colts and Gelding Class and Championship, Three-Year-Old Material Class, and Suitable to Become a Dressage Horse. That same year, Raison de Joie became the USDF Horse of the Year in the 3-year-old Colts and Geldings class and he finished fourth in the Materiale HOY

Raison de Joie is bred by DreamTime Farm, which also claimed ribbons and trophies with their Raison d'Etre, the best American bred young horse and winner of the 6-year-old Young Dressage Horses class in Devon. Under Elly Schobel, Raison d'Etre placed fifth in the USEF/Markel National Young Horse Championships.

Phaedra Spradlin and Carolin Walz are the driving force behind DreamTime Farm. This interview with DreamTime Farm's dynamic duo is the fifth installment in Dressagedaily's American Breeders Series.

Dressagedaily: How has the quality of sport horse breeding stock changed in this country?
DreamTime: It has changed dramatically from what we’ve observed. We (Phaedra Spradlin and Carolin Walz) started our breeding operation in this country in 1993, and we, like most of the people we knew, started with American TB mares and what was available in local stallions. Now breeders have a wide variety of domestic and imported stallions to choose from and have access to frozen semen from Europe. They also are breeding with either imported mares or the F1, F2, and F3 crosses they have bred themselves. A lot of people still breed TB mares, and a number of them are of excellent quality and produce well. From what we observe, the quality of breeding stock is often similar to that in Europe (and Carolin grew up in Germany, rode auctions and attended stallion and mare inspections of a number of registries, so does have a basis of comparison).

Dressagedaily: How important is it for Americans to produce their own athletes?
DreamTime: It is quite important for a number of reasons. American breeders already produce world-class horses, it’s just not fashionable yet (or American riders are not aware enough of these horses) to buy American when it comes to top horses. Naturally there are problems with shopping in the US – the horses are spread over a huge amount of real estate, they are not as consistently/systematically trained as in Europe, there are not as many well-trained horses available in a small area, making shopping much more expensive here. However, if Americans ever want to become independent of the European market and stop being the cash cow of the European registries, they need to produce their own top horses and realize that they’re already available here. Breeders here need to unite their efforts to market their product more efficiently to reach riders.

Dressagedaily: How important are the Young Horse classes and the USEF/Markel National Championships?
DreamTime: They are really important to showcase what American breeders can produce, and that what they produce is on par with Europe. We still see mostly European breds in these classes, however, American-breds have broken into those ranks over the last couple of years and have shown that they are more than competitive. Also, the young horse classes will encourage breeders/riders to get their horses started in a more expeditious fashion and move them along, naturally depending on the horses’ individual maturity, both physically and mentally. One of the things holding American horses back is the mentality of treating horses as pets and not bringing them along in fear of hurting them. Nobody advocates treating sport horses as TBs, i.e. breaking them as yearlings and running them as 2-year-olds, but a young horse can be started nicely at three and should be mostly able, depending on the individual development, to do the 4-year-old classes without harm to body and psyche. Kudos to Hilltop Farm’s Scott Hassler and the others involved in the Young Horse Trainers’ Symposia, because they fill a necessary void in teaching people how to start/bring along young horses.

Dressagedaily: How have the mares in this country changed over the years?
DreamTime: The quality that is being bred is really much improved. Breeders used to breed anything that had a uterus; nowadays, the more serious breeders have realized that good sport horses have to have quality parents. Inspections have certainly increased the awareness that mare quality is important. However, we deplore the trend in some registries to do away with TB mares; these mares are an American treasure, and if selected correctly, can produce outstanding sporthorses. TB mares produce horses more suited to the average adult amateur because the offspring is often not so heavy, easier to keep going forward, and lighter on the aids than some of the more traditional warmbloods. Some of our best young homebreds (Raison d’Etre, Raison de Joie, to name two) have TB dams, and while we have upgraded our mare herd to include more warmblood mares, both domestically bred and imported, we will always breed a few carefully selected TB mares each year.

Dressagedaily: Any comments about DreamTime’s role in changing the face of American breeding?
DreamTime: DreamTime Farm is an example of the small farm without unlimited funds, which can produce nationally (and hopefully in the future internationally) competitive horses in all disciplines for reasonable prices (we are lucky in that we are able to start and train our young horses ourselves). We started with a few TB mares, carefully selected and rigorously culled if not productive, and have slowly build up a nice mare herd. We’re breeding mainly with American-bred stock (the stallions we stand are all domestically bred, even if their bloodlines originate in Europe), and have our horses branded by an American registry. We do not breed to the stallions du jour, instead try to show that our own, domestically bred stallions can compete with their offspring against those stallions du jour (we just had someone ask whether we could export frozen semen of Regulus to Europe). We have found that judges look at the quality of the horse, not the brand on its hindquarters, and have produced two HOY award winners in the short time we have been breeding. We’d like people to realize that you can breed top-notch prospects without importing from Europe for a lot of money if you have a good eye for quality and an intimate knowledge of bloodlines. If you are not barn-blind and willing to cull your herd, you can be successful, as good stock exists in this country already and is just waiting to be discovered.

Related Links
HorsesDaily Breeder News - Series on the American Sport Horse Breeders

Elly Schobel's Raison de Joie Captures Colt Honors
Elly Schobel and Raison D'Etre Headed for the USEF/Markel National Young Dressage Horse Championships