Alan Leavitt proposes reducing the number of mares a stallion can cover to 100 horse a year for purposes of keeping the breed from becoming inbred. Now, I will be the first one to admit my knowledge of horse breeding may fit in a thimble, but I remember my high school biology class and from personal observation, the standardbred has changed over the years and not all for the good. Sure, they are faster than ever, which we can debate if it is good that they are going that fast, but as many people will say, we have been breeding out the durability of the breed; hence the refusal of many people to race their horses in multiple heat events and there has been a reduction in the number of races a typical horse will race in a year. For those veterans of the sport, remember when Hot Hitter raced two nights in a row; three times within seven days? Try doing that with a horse these days. You can read in Harness Racing Update, Leavitt's argument. Apparently, at the 2012 annual meeting, the USTA board will be voting on such a proposal.
Rest assured there will be an argument about Leavitt's proposal. Last time certain commercial breeder's threatened lawsuits for restraint of trade before the USTA modified the proposal so only horses entering the breeding shed for the first time in 2009 were subject to the 140 mare limit, so assuming if there is any chance for Leavitt's proposal to be adopted, it will have a similar condition.
Is the breed becoming too genetically pure? Well, when you look at the major pacing events and you see most of the field having Rocknroll Hanover as a sire, you certainly must ask the question what is going to happen in a few years when those offspring hit the breeding shed. If you are a dog lover, you hear about certain breeds being so inbred that they get known for having certain problems. Your basic high school biology class teaches you all you need to know about recessive and dominate traits and the reason why first cousins are not allowed to marry each other.
Responsible breeders attempt to improve the breed, and attempt to keep the breed from developing undesirable defects. In the dog world, that is often one of the differences between a responsible breeder versus a puppy mill which will breed to anything. Of course, being a sport where the breeding of a horse may mean the difference of a $250,000 yearling versus a $20,000 yearling, sometimes basic breeding principles become 'stretched a little', but from what I have been able to read, sooner or later that rubber band of breeding tighter eventually will be stretched far enough that it will snap. So I hope Leavitt's proposal next year gets serious consideration and is approved.
For those who opposes reducing the book of stallions, the reduction of yearlings by a certain stallion should increase the value of those yearlings from in demand stallions as well as increase stallion fees. In addition, reducing the book of stallions will make the standardbred a more genetically mixed breed as more stallions will be necessary to provide for racing stock which is better for the breed in the long run. Isn't this what responsible breeders strive for anyway?
Breeding loses the edge? An individual on the underused Harnesslink social boards from down under comments if North America bans the use of drugs in racehorses, North American horses lose their level of superiority over horses from Australia and New Zealand? Has our breeding efforts for speed been a fraud and all of a sudden our horses revert back and lose seconds off a typical mile? No, I am not suggesting we are going back to the day of the 2:00 mile on the mile track, but do we lose the sub 1:50 miles and go back to 1:52 being the fastest? What do you think?