Welcome to "Behind the Foaling Door," a new series of articles that will tackle controversial topics in pedigree assignments. This issue we'll cover the time-old debate: should horses that are put up for stud or for hire be aging or non-aging? Everyone uses one system or the other, and most are pretty adamant in their choice. We have all been faced with the situation of sending away for an s/d list, opening up the envelope, and then feeling dismay when realizing that the list uses a different system. This issue has drawn breeders into two camps, and the debate continues to grow. I asked several breeders which system they used, and have listed some of the opinions here. IPABRA has no set policy on aging systems, so both are presented to help new breeders decide what to choose.
First, let me explain the differences between the two systems. Stables using the aging system will give their horses a foaling date, such as 1975 or 1987. Each year these horses become one year older. As these models age, their foals will as well. Every year another date will open up for foals to be used (this year, all aging models can produce 1997 foals, while they couldn't have done so in 1996). Here are some reasons why some breeders have chosen the aging system....
"Part of the fun of pedigree assignment is knowing we can't all breed our mares to *Bask++ (or some other great deceased sire or dam), and having to search through lots of progeny to find the right nick for our mare. If great stallions and mares never died, many breeds might not have some of their wonderful history seen in their precious old bloodlines. The loss of influential breeding stock and replacement by younger horses is what gives breeds their growth."
"I feel aging is more realistic. The models may always look the same way, but real horses age and I like these guys to carry on their lives. I like the idea of recycling models too, so if one gets old enough to 'die,' I can bring that model back as a foal of the original. Aging s/d lists are also easier then non-aging for the simple reason that an aging horse is allowed to have both aging and non-aging foals. But non-aging horses can only have non-aging foals since the aging one would surpass the parents in age. The non-aging horses benefit less then half of the breeders out there, and are utterly useless to people like me that only use aging horses."
"Aging is more realistic! I hate to say it, but real horses don't stay the same age year after year. While it is true that eventually your aging model will get so old that it will have to die and assume a new identity, you can have the horse reborn as one of its own progeny, continuing its legacy into another generation. Or, if you were somehow unsatisfied with its original pedigree and wish to find a better one, that is also an option. You will be able to keep your stock rotating, either using your own horses as sires and dams of new ones, or constantly introducing fresh blood into the stable. Aging is also beneficial if because of a lack of older parents, you make your horse only a few years old when you would have rather had it older. Give it a year or so, and the young horse will be in its prime and able to sire older foals. A non-aging horse would be stuck young and with only a few open years before it had to be forcibly retired."
On the other hand, stables that use the non-aging system will give their horses a numerical age that will not change with time. A stallion said to be nine years will always be nine years old. The foals will always need to be younger than the parent, so they will not be able to age either. The oldest age that the foals can be is permanently set according to the age of the parents (in the example above, the nine year old stallion could only have foals up to six years of age). Here's some of the reasons why some breeders use the non-aging system....
"I use non-aging because it is so much easier to keep records of your horses. Also, when photo showing, you don't have to worry about the age of your horses and try to figure out what age class to put them in."
"I elected to use non-aging, primarily due to my gray horses. They never grey out!"
-Michelle Peck Williams
"I prefer to have non-aging models because I hate to think of my models getting old, and I generally like the names and identities I have given them. I don't want to bother with having their identities changed when they are 20 because they are not in their breeding prime. I don't want to have to change their identities every 10 to 15 years; when I give a model a name I want it to stick. I think it is a lot easier to have non-aging horses as far as keeping track of them goes."
"All of my models are non-aging. In my mind it is more accurate because as a horse ages he often changes in muscle, color, ect. Models do not change like this! A foal will always look like a foal. How could you have him a 10 year old stallion at a show? Also, some of the Breyer adult models look a set age. For example, I have always felt that the grazing mare looks like an older broodmare while the San Domingo looks fairly young to me. Another added advantage is that your model will never die. An aging horse must die and therefore can never be shown again, even with a name change. No fun! I used to have my models aging, but I found it a real pain."
The debate continues to grow and shows no signs of slowing down! What do you use? Write and let us know!