Wednesday, March 9, 2011

An Educational Day

On Friday the 4th, Craig and I made the pilgrimage up to Cascade Gold farm again. I was thrilled to be invited. Last year we went up to get Tommy, but this year we drove up for an educational day of horse grading. Dr. Tatyana Riabova and Dr. Tito Pontecorvo had flown in from Russia to evaluate the Akhal Teke horses at the farm. I was tempted to bring the geldings with us, (Tommy and Octopelle), but there were parts of the freeway along the mountain pass that even the studded tires on our little car didn't appreciate very much.

But the day was full of promise with bright and sunny weather, and I was amped to learn!

The pass had some beautiful wintery mountain views....
Astrakhan says "hi". It is easy to see where Tommy gets his devilish good looks from! Even though Khan is getting up there in years (20), he still strikes an impressive figure. He has been the main breeding stallion at Cascade Gold farm for quite a number of years - and in his prime was the #1 elite graded stallion in the United States. But he is now retired and spending the rest of his days happily as a content riding gelding. I loved Khan the first time that I seen him at Cathy's farm, and it was a pleasure to see him once again.

The teachers - Dr. Tatyana and Dr. Tito. The leather encased measuring tape was ready for action!
After introductions of everyone, the onlookers (students) were asked to write down our own evaluations of the horses based on conformation, movement, and type on a scale from 1 to 10. Then Tatyana would compare her official gradings afterwards to the student gradings - and she would explain why she graded certain horses they way that she did and ask us why we graded ours the way that we did. Unfortunately I wasn't able to stick around to discuss my own personal gradings at the end of the day - but I did learn a tremendous amount. My notes are a mile long. Tito was the translator, and he was a wonderful help to explain why they were measuring certain areas on the horses and what they were looking for.

Monica (with Alpowa, Wendy Connell's Nez Perce mare), and Erin Heatherstone from Eugene, OR. Erin brought her young purebred stallion Kuwwat, who was imported from Estonia as a yearling. Wendy brought Alpowa and Sunnys Tazzy Teke, a.k.a. "Taz" - a QH x Akhal Teke crossbred gelding.
I found it extremely hard to give grading numbers to the crossbreds because they mostly had the best characteristics of both worlds. The crosses did not get "official" gradings in the Russian studbook because they are mixed - but Tatyana had us write grading numbers for them anyway because someday there will be a special place for them in their records.
Monica was a great help to handle some of the horses for people.
The young stallion Kuwwat (by Kuuvatli). A horse that is my size! And very well mannered too. I personally liked him a lot. Tito commented on his height, but for people like me - (who are vertically challenged..) he would be a perfect fit. I have learned in my fleeting years of being around animals, that every horse has it's place and there is always something out there that they can be very good at. I'm sure that Erin will find Kuwwat a job that he can excel at. I'm very happy that I had the opportunity to see this lovely buckskin stallion in person.

The young filly Mahri, one of Cathy's horses. (She is for sale, for anyone who is looking for a prospect.)
The other thing that I found really difficult to judge and grade, was the young "growing" horses. I openly admit that I don't have a very good eye for horseflesh that is still developing. Tito informed us that the weanlings recieve a grading scale from 1 to 5 - based on how they look conformationally. A lot of features are changing on a growing horse, so it makes it very difficult to decide on what score to give them.

Astra, Emery Rhodes broodmare.
Cathy is boarding this mare for Emery, and my first impression when she was brought out from the paddock was, "Geez, she's huge!" A very tall mare indeed. This mare was produced from a stallion that came from Tito's farm. When she was being trotted out for the movement portion of the grading, Tito commented on how beautiful she was. I asked him if Tatyana was looking for horses with this mare's height and build, and he said yes. It seems that there is a preference towards bigger and taller horses in the Akhal Teke breed.
This trend will tend to leave riders like me to invest in an escalator or catapult system to reach the top of the saddle....
Goshen, a young purebred colt by Goklen. Goshen is a resident at Cathy's farm and Monica has been working with him steadily. The hard work has paid off, because he barely batted an eye as chunks of hair were taken from his mane and tail for DNA samples. When talking to Cathy and Tito, I learned that some of the older horses that were registered in the studbook had only bloodtyping records. Later, they started doing DNA samples. It will be very interesting to see how this young colt develops. His sire is a very successful three day eventing horse.

Mazaly, a mare bred at Cascade Gold and now owned by Catrina Metham. Tatyana measured all of the horses that were inspected from the floor to the top of withers, and length from point of shoulder to point of hip, heartgirth, and cannon bone.

Astrakhan gets graded again. I forgot to ask how many times in his life that this guy has been graded and measured, but I'm sure that it has been more than most other Tekes in the U.S. He has been around awhile and knows the drill. Tatyana took measurements to see if he had changed much since the last time that she had seen him.
I had asked Tito earlier in the morning about what good bone on Akhal Tekes should be, since they measure and record the cannon width below the knee. When it was Khan's time to come out and be measured - Tito informed me that he was a great example of substantial bone and what breeders were looking for. In the case of his maternal grandson Suyji - the breeding efforts have paid off. The young two year old has a cannon width of 19" and still growing. A trait that is much coveted by breeders.

Salam, Cathy's new stallion standing at Cascade Gold. After Astrakhan was retired, it was time for some new blood. Ann-Marie Rasch of Freedom Run farm in Michigan leased Salam to Cathy as a replacement breeding stallion. Salam was imported from Russia and is a stunningly gorgeous horse! He has more of a compact sport style of frame and thicker abundance of hair, but is very lovely indeed. There is a foal due in 2011 out of Annastasia (Tommy's mother), that is anxiously awaited. Cathy is hoping for a buckskin filly, and we shall see if her wish is granted... =:)

Salam was very well mannered while being graded. You'd never know he was a stallion. He munched on some grass and then was turned loose in the pasture to run and play. Even though he has an old neck injury, it was a joy to see his fluid movement at the gallop around his turf.
For more information and stories about the grading, check out Cathy's blog at:

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