February 2019 - Tish Time
Written by by Kim F. Miller
Friday, 01 February 2019 05:08
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Veteran KWPN breeder & breeding services provider shifts to sharing mode.

by Kim F. Miller

Tish Quirk is not sure which came first. “Did I get into breeding because I love the full, long lifespan of the horse, or did I come to appreciate that because I’m into breeding?” she muses. She’s sure of one thing: that appreciating and enjoying every moment of a horse’s life is the foundation for a life well spent with horses and  a reward unto itself.

Sixteen year old Just In Time reminded Tish of this recently. Sired by third generation Just The Best and out of Inetta, Just In Time was the first foal born at the current Rancho Santa Fe location for Tish’s KWPN breeding program and full range of breeding services. “I was sitting on a bucket in front of her stall, talking to my rider Jamie Zumbro, and Just In Time came over and hung her head over the stall door, messing with my hair, picking up my braid, nudging me.

Tish & Just the Best

“Sometimes we get too busy with working, showing and managing that we don’t take time to smell the roses and feel those nudges.” Hands-on care and plenty of “facetime” underpin a career in which Tish has done it all and in a way that few can: from breeding, developing and campaigning countless homebred descendants of her Lucky Boy foundation sire, Best of Luck, to helping solve the reproductive riddles that make conception difficult for some mares. She’s been there, she’s done that, and she plans to keep on doing it far into the future.

Our moms are best friends.  Let’s be friends.

What’s new is Tish’s willingness to share by leasing or selling a few of these special horses and to let someone else have the “fun and fulfillment of winning with them in the show ring.” The juggling act of handling every phase of the breeding and foaling, along with the demands of farm management, make it too hard to focus on a significant show schedule.

A recent farm visit from a top trainer friend helped Tish see her niche clearly. “I introduced her to each horse and explained all the things I’d done with and for them,” Tish recounts. Her friend acknowledged mostly thinking of horses from their 2 or 3-year-old year on up.

More Like It making his International Hunter Derby debut with Emily Esau Williams, who also rode him to championships in the International Hunter Futurity and International Jumper Futurity.

“The reality is, by the time the horse is 2 or 3, there have already been three or four years of careful work put into them.” It’s always been the case that “people whose profession is going to the shows are kind of unaware of what goes into it before that horse gets to the show.” With so many competitions, more specialization and fewer owners keeping horses at home, that may be even more the case today, Tish surmises.

With this shift in emphasis, Tish is willing to part with some of her horses. “Sharing” is her preferred term and she’ll only discuss sales with buyers committed to providing them high quality, long term, loving homes. “These horses are my family,” she explains. “I’m ready to share, whether it’s through an in-barn lease or lease or sale to an owner/trainer combination that I know and respect.”

Good Luck won every performance class at the International Hunter Futurity as a 3 year old and as a 4 year old to earn the Grand Championships both years.  She was also Best Young Horse at the Sallie B. Wheeler Championship as a 2 year old.  She was ridden by John French as a 3 and 4 year old and handled by Carleton Brooks as a 2 year old.  She is sired by More Than Luck.

Hap Hansen, Emily Esau-Williams, Carleton Brooks and John French are among the top professionals who have shown Tish’s horses and for whom she has utmost respect. “I have produced a lot of fabulous horses and now I don’t have the time or finances to show them as much as they should be shown. It’s time for someone else to have that opportunity.”

Available horses range from a 2-year-old ready for the Hunter Breeding division to teenagers with plenty of training and past show mileage.

An 8-year-old mare, for example, was West Coast Hunter Futurity Champion as both a 3-year-old and a 4-year-old, with John French riding her. She didn’t show as a 5-year-old, then showed a little as a 6-year-old, with good results over fences and under saddle, winning every under saddle class she entered. “So, she’s a proven winner, but doesn’t have a lot of mileage,” Tish says. “I’d love to see her end up with somebody who would show her well.”

Carumba meets Just Amazing

Tish is also open to partnering with another professional interested in taking up the reins on the show side of her breeding business. “Someone who could be part of the home team and be comfortable going to shows without me there to micromanage things would be ideal.” Her greatest hope is to share her 40 years of experience and education with someone who has the passion and dedication to continue the entire program far into the future.

It’s a good gig, Tish asserts. One of the breeder’s favorite compliments came from Emily Esau-Williams after riding 4-year-old More Like It to championships in both the Hunter and Jumper futurities. “She said, ‘With horses of this quality, you don’t train them, you just nurture them.’”

Challenges: Bring ‘Em On!

In the breeding services part of her business, Tish loves applying her vast experiences to daily challenges and having the trust of her clients from every corner of the horse world: Thoroughbreds, top race horses, cutters and reiners, barrel racers, dressage stars and the familiar hunters and jumpers that make up her own equine family.

Working with Dr. Steve Reider of Equine Veterinary Services in Rancho Santa Fe, she particularly enjoys taking on mares that have struggled to conceive. “Our favorites are the ones where someone else has tried for several cycles or years,” Tish says. “We’ve been successful, sometimes to the point of getting several pregnancies through the use of embryo transfer.”

Inetta welcomes Just In Time, sired by Just The Best.

One example was an international jumping mare that came to Tish and Dr. Reider after four years of unsuccessful impregnation attempts.  An ultrasound revealed excess fluid in her uterus, indicating an infection. A culture and cytology test confirmed the infection and suggested appropriate antibiotics, which were then infused into her uterus. After that, Tish recommended the mare undergo the common “caslick” procedure, in which the upper part of the vulva is sutured shut to prevent urine or bacteria from entering the reproductive tract. Next, she advised rest, recuperate and try again next season, which became one of many successful mare management protocols Tish has used over the years. “This mare that had not been able to conceive in four years went on to have four foals in her next two breeding seasons.”

Another difficult case involved a mare who had not conceived with frozen semen and whose owner was heart-set on an international jumping sire with high-priced semen. Once the mare had undergone the Tish and Dr. Reider-advised protocol, she was bred once with fresh semen to prove that she could conceive, and then was bred with frozen semen from an Olympic gold medalist. The result is there are now two recipient mares carrying the foals from this good international jumper mare.

Wee-hours inseminations of frozen semen at the ideal point in a mare’s ovulation are just as much a part of Tish’s normal day as all night foal watches and wee-hours deliveries. “We have earned a good reputation for success and owners know their horse will be well cared for, whether they’re here for breeding, foaling developing, preparing to show or retirement.”

Honest assessments and frequent communications are more Tish trademarks.

International jumper champion, Archie Bunker, loving his retirement. Photo: Gisela

Remarkable Resume

Titles, trophies, honors and service to the sport dominate Tish’s long resume. Chairman of the USHJA Breeders Committee and Pacific Coast Horse Shows Association Breeders Committee and USHJA Board of Directors are among her titles. She has served on the Advisory Board of the KWPN-NA and the Board of Directors of the International Hunter Futurity, and was a Founder Member of the International Jumper Futurity. She was honored with the Ellen Scripps Davis Memorial USEF Breeders Cup Award, the California Professional Horsemen’s Association Lifetime Achievement Award, and has been National Hunter Breeding Breeder of the Year.

After a long career as a successful junior and amateur rider, Tish’s professional career has included: Leading Handler at both the International Hunter Futurity and Sallie B. Wheeler/USEF National Hunter Breeding Championship. Horses she has bred, owned and trained have been Best Young Horse at the Sallie B. Wheeler and the IHF.

Both Just The Best and More Than Luck have earned Leading Sire titles in the Sallie B. Wheeler Championship. She played a huge part in bringing that championship to the West Coast and helped start the U.S. Sport Horse Breeders Association.

Her past and present involvement with groups such as the USHJA, IHF, IJF, USEF, ISR/Oldenburg NA, RPSI, and KWPN-NA demonstrate her commitment to the future of the sport.

Along with her late husband, John Quirk, Tish was co-editor and co-publisher of HORSES magazine and has photographed major competitions around the world, including Olympic Games, World Championships, Spruce Meadows and Madison Square Garden and numerous World Cup Finals. John was the original organizer who brought the World Cup Finals of Show Jumping to Del Mar, California and Las Vegas, and Tish served as official photographer.

Challenges exist in the past, present and future for American sport horse breeders, Tish acknowledges. The “mystique” of shopping for horses in Europe and the high cost of developing young horses in the States are constants in that category. Those realities are countered by an influx of new breeders that took part in last summer’s SBW Hunter Breeding championship and a concurrent handling clinic. “Even if the young horse will grow into a jumper, the gentle patient introduction to the Hunter Breeding ring can be a good start to an education for the show world.”

While breeding may be an increasingly less travelled path in the States, those who pursue it and those who buy horses from them have rewarding experiences ahead.  
“With horses that grow up in a program like this, you are not going to get any surprises,” she says. “You are not going have a horse that’s terrified of something and wonder what happened in their young life to cause it and what to do about it.”

From a relationship standpoint, there’s no substitute for being part of a horse’s life from day-one. Many years of producing great horses that have carried their Lucky Boy legacy to show ring success is a point of pride for Tish. Having one of his granddaughters playfully tug on her braid during a quiet moment in the home barn aisle is another.

Both define a life very well spent with horses and a wealth of knowledge, experience and great horses that Tish hopes a like-minded horseman will help carry far into the future.