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Appaloosa breeders – catching up with George Contos and Claire Amm

The modern Appaloosa has gained tremendous popularity, but not only thanks to the breed’s spectacular colours. Appaloosas are also known to have great stamina and versatility.

They excel in the Western disciplines and are successfully used in endurance racing, showing, dressage, polo, trail rides and ranch work. They are reliable family horses and are prized for their easy-going temperament.

HQ asked two Appaloosa breeders some pertinent questions about the breed, as well as their own breeding goals. George Contos of Kondos Appaloosa Stud and Claire Amm of Alpha Appaloosa Stud give us their views.

HQ: Name the 5 characteristics of the breed you find most outstanding.

George: 1. The beautiful colour patterns the horses of the Appaloosa breed exhibit have to be one of the main and most outstanding characteristics that set these horses apart from other breeds. The beauty that these patterns exude, with the richness in colour and the variation where no pattern is the same as another, is nature’s work of art and always fills the observer with awe.
2. The Appaloosa temperament is another of the Appaloosa’s greatest characteristics. This is a horse who through his soul takes hold of your heart and lives there forever.
3. The athletic ability of the Appaloosa together with his all-around versatility in most equine sports make him a horse who can adapt to the needs of just about whoever owns him.
4. The Appaloosa is a hardy horse and will do well in most environmental conditions.
5. The Appaloosa is a highly intelligent horse, who if treated right will give you back tenfold and more. Once you have owned an Appaloosa, you will never, in my opinion, want to own another breed of horse.

Claire: Gentle temperament, easy-keeping qualities, courage, willingness to work and unique colour patterns.

HQ: What are your breeding goals and how do you go about achieving these?

George: My breeding goal is to produce the most beautifully coloured Appaloosa horses, who also have the best possible all-around conformation. If I have to be more specific, I would like to breed a horse who is over 15hh, preferably close to 16hh or over as that seems to be what the South African equine market dictates at this stage.

The horse must be elegant, with a nice head, well-set neck, good length of rein, wide chest, good hindquarters and a well-defined wither that must be higher than the hindquarters. The ideal horse should be able to be split along his length into three-thirds of equal proportions. The body as a whole should be robustly built without being too heavy. Extended movement accompanied by a rhythmic cadence that pleases the eye is a must. An element of refinement should always be blatantly obvious to even the untrained eye, as the horse should always give an air of beauty and loftiness.

Claire: I have been breeding correct, sound, comfortable, beautiful horses for 40 years now. One of my stallions has sired eight national champions – Alpha Toby’s Moonshine. I still compete in endurance, having completed 30 Fauresmith rides myself. My Appaloosa horses hold records for the most completions at ten and the most for a mare at eight national rides.

Who of the horses you’ve bred is your personal favourite, and why?
George: That is not an easy one to answer. Over the years I have bred many horses and I have loved and had a very soft spot in my heart for every single one of them. As with my human children, I cannot show a preference for one individual over another. Yes, I will choose ones for shows or competitions who I know will do better than others, but somehow that has never led me to have a personal favourite as such. I cannot feel more for one horse than another. When it comes to matters of the heart, I can genuinely say that every single horse I have bred has been my favourite and all on an equal basis as compared to another. They are all my children and I favour them all.

Claire: My personal favourite is Alpha Toby’s Fire ‘n Gold, who is perfectly schooled, yet a fun, lively ride.