Tom Reed is a well known and well respected breeder, who has a stud based between Killaloe and Scarriff, near the shores of the beautiful lake Lough Derg, in County Clare, Ireland. He is also the breeding columnist for Horse International Magazine, giving valuable thought provoking articles on sport horse breeding.
Tom has a passion, and with his committed drive for sport horse breeding, hopes to become one of the leading sport horse breeders in the world.
Caroline caught up with Tom during his busy schedule, when he had just returned from the Trakehner Verband Stallion Licensing that he was covering for Horse International Magazine.
By Caroline Ironside (Nov 09)
Tom admits to doing "a little breeding" between the ages of 12 to 18 years old, but said he had to leave that behind when he went to University. He achieved a PhD from Columbia and then went to work as a Professor of Business at the University of Hong Kong. He returned to horses in the mid 1990's and decided to become a "serious breeder" in 2000.
Asked "What do you think are the most important aspects to becoming a top breeder in the world?" Tom replied - "Discipline, continuous learning and an independent point of view - not following the herd. I believe successful breeding is a combination of science and art, of analysis and instinct. I use science and analytics to help me eliminate the 99% of stallions and mares that are not useful in my breeding program. Once I have a reasonably sized pool of stallions and mares to choose from I believe it is the art of breeding that is very important."
KWPN stallion "Ekstein" grandfather to Olympic Champion "Hickstead"
After owning Chairmaker for several years and seeing the state of showjumper breeding in Ireland I decided to sell Chairmaker and find a super young stallion as the foundation of Morningside Stud. I ended up looking at about 150 stallions in Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark and France and I found Condios (Coriano x Landgraf I) in the Netherlands in 1999. Condios was a 4-year-old and already approved by Oldenburg and Danish Warmblood. For me he was the complete package. I brought Condios to Ireland at the beginning of 2000 and he has developed into a very good sire (producing both international eventing horses and international showjumpers) and he competed at the highest level in sport – World Cup Qualifiers, Super League Nations Cup, European Championship, etc.
After Condios I purchased Ekstein (Zion x Joost). At the time Ekstein was ranked about 997th in the world as a sire of international showjumpers but I knew he would not stay there for long. Within two years he was ranked 38th as a sire and the next year he was ranked 40th. If Ekstein's semen had been able to be shipped - mares had to come to him – I am convinced he would have been a top 10 sire. From only 550 foals in the Netherlands he produced an Olympic showjumper (Joel), progeny that won 5 medals in the European Young Rider Championship and European Junior Rider Championship, and many international showjumpers. And of course Ekstein is damsire of Hickstead, winner of the 2008 Olympic Gold Medal in showjumping.
After purchasing Ekstein we bred a number of approved and licensed stallions that we still own:
Ulysses M2S (Ekstein x Voltaire), who is now jumping international Grand Prix with his half-owner, a Belgian young rider named Rossella de Simone;
Wang Chung M2S (Royal Bravour x Ahorn), who is jumping for Germany with Felix Hassmann and won the 2008 Zwolle "Future Stallion" Championship with Eddie Brinkman in the saddle and this year, with Felix, has already won five international classes;
Conspiracy M2S (Condios x Corrado I), who competed in both showjumping and eventing;
Ballistic M2S (Ekstein x Condios), who will go to Germany in 2010 to do a stallion performance test; and
Boy Toy M2S (Ekstein x Limmerick), who also will go to Germany to do a test.
And most recently, several years ago, we purchased the French stallion Desir du Chateau (Quidam de Revel x Cor de Chasse). We have counted eleven of his progeny jumping internationally and one eventing internationally."
Tom stands several very successful stallions and I was keen to find out who his first stallion was...
"Putting aside the stallion I owned as a teenager, the first stallion I owned was an Irish Sport Horse stallion named Chairmaker. I purchased this Grade B showjumper (he soon became Grade A and also jumped in the Millstreet International show) as my riding horse and I had a great time with him. I did not go out looking for a stallion but I ended up with this horse. I stood him at stud and did Irish Riding Club showjumping and dressage classes with him. We won the IRC Preliminary Dressage Championship in 1999.
"Condios" Approved for Oldenburg & Danish Warmblood Jumping Copenhagen Grand Prix
Tom is very strict when it comes to breeding mares, and I was interested to find out more about his selection process:
"The most important characteristic of breeding stock, be they stallions or mares, is the quality of the genes they possess. And I believe the most important characteristic of the genes is the quality of the damline in the stallions and mares. For my breeding program I define "quality" as having produced international showjumpers.
The second most important quality is athleticism. A horse can be well-bred and come from a very good damline but that does not mean it is highly athletic.
After these two criteria are met then other factors come into play such as conformation, rideability, etc."
"Conspiracy M2S" (Condios x Corrado I)
I was keen to hear Tom's views on specialisation, as this seems to be a current topic for breeders:
"Specialisation is driven by sport and the marketplace. International sport requires specialist athletes and therefore buyers require specialist athletes. I do not think specialisation is new; what I believe is new is that a few studbooks have institutionalized it in their rules and are forcing breeders into boxes. I don't like to be boxed in."
Although Tom has only been breeding "seriously" (as he would put it) since 2000, stock from his stud, and many homebreds have done extremely well so far in sport, in all discplines, just as Tom had predicted from the outset.
I wondered what the future held for Tom, so asked him what his future goals and plans were...
Tom is so focused on his end goals that I was curious as to how he selects what stallions to use on his mares...
"There is no greater advantage in breeding then to be using sons and daughters, and grandsons and granddaughters, of stallions and mares in your breeding program.
For every breeding, from every foal that is produced, I look for insights into what the stallion is producing and what the mare is producing. "
I went on to ask him what he looks for in his foals:
"Athleticism and elasticity: these are the most important characteristics. If a foal is not athletic and elastic he is not going to be an athletic and elastic adult. After that the quality of the canter. Then conformation and other gaits. But I course I would not be interested in seeing a foal if it is not well bred with a superior damline.
When you read Tom's articles and own "blog", you get to understand more of what he hopes to achieve in his breeding plans. His dedication and persistance to breed equine athleets for the highest of sport is what gives him this underflowing river of making sure that his mare herd carries only the best of bloodlines and damlines. He is not afraid to "cull" mares (as he puts it) if he feels they are not producing what he is looking for.
Tom mentions a lot about the "culling" (removing) of mares and stallions from his breeding programme, and I wanted to understand more of what he meant by this...
"If we hope to improve a certain characteristic in our breeding population – and that population can be at the studbook level or in our individual herd – we must select on that characteristic and remove those animals from the breeding population that do not advance us toward the goal.
So each year I rank my foals from best to worst. I have developed a methodology that requires me to remove from my breeding population each year the bottom 10% of mares. At first I was removing individual mares; more recently I have been removing mare families."
"Ulysses M2S" (Ekstein x Voltaire), who is now jumping international Grand Prix