To understand breeding decisions, you need to learn how to examine the ancestry of a horse. Knowing bloodlines can help you to predict a horse’s potential. Pedigree research often becomes a lifelong pursuit, or sometimes even an obsession for many top breeders, and involves an understanding of genetics. Speaking to horse breeders can often, therefore, become a confusing exercise for the average buyer. However, even just a basic understanding of the pedigree chart can help beginners to get some insight into this complex and enthralling field.
A pedigree chart essentially portrays a horse’s family tree. These charts are commonly included in adverts for horses for sale or for stallions at stud. The chart usually lists four generations: sire and dam, the grandparents, the eight great-grandparents, and the 16 great-great-grandparents. Most pedigrees are read from left to right, with the branching on the top line being for the sire and his ancestors, and the branching on the bottom line being for the dam and her ancestors. Different breed registries have slightly different conventions in how these charts are laid out, and which information is kept on the horse’s papers. For example, a German-bred horse would replace the colours of b (bay), ch (chestnut), and dkb/br (dark bay or brown) with b (braun), f (fuchs) and db (dunkelbraun).
As you read more of these charts, you will start to recognise major sires and dams. If you then look up certain names and read about those horses and their offspring, over time you will start to get an understanding of the pedigrees, and the traits that are passed on by certain horses.