Saturday, February 14, 2009

Backyard breeding

Anonymous, from my e-mail.

Q: why do you think that its so bad for someone like me to breed their horse in their own home if they are going to use it for their own purposes? its not like were flooding the world with horses like huge organizations like the aqha.

A: I think you have the wrong idea.

I, in no way, think that it is bad for people to breed a single horse and keep it for their own purposes... under the right circumstances.

First of all, I have no problem if people breed good, quality horses. This means good conformation, a good disposition, they've done something else in their life other than reproduction (they can be handled, ridden, and preferably shown), and the two horses breeding have to be a good match if a crossbreed is being made.

Good general conformation: are they built nice and solidly, with strong limbs that won't break down under the pressure of work? Halter QHs are notoriously bad for having tiny hooves, horridly upright pasterns, and post legs in the back... this is not a good thing. These are the horses that break down early in life and are tossed to the auction pen, limping away around the ring. You want a good, sloping shoulder, a strong, deep haunch, and a solid back (no roach backs or sway backs!). Solid legs, as I've already said... that means fair-sized hooves, solid pasterns, good knees and a strong upper arm. In the hind leg, you want clean hocks and a solid gaskin, and a good bend in the hind leg to allow for free motion. Aside from the conformation that allows the horse to work to the best of its abilities, you want an attractive horse.

Why? Because you CANNOT 100% guarantee that something will not happen where you have to sell your horse, and a horse that is built well and looks good has a BIG CHANCE of finding a good home. Attractiveness means he's well put-together and doesn't look like a franken-horse. It also means a good, long neck and a cute head that doesn't look like someone hit a brick with a hammer a couple of times.

This is an example of a badly-conformed Warmblood:

And a well-conformed one:

A badly-conformed QH:

And a well-conformed one:

Ask yourself which ones you'd rather buy.

As for good matches... something like a Percheron and a QH go well together. QH and TB go well together, Arab and TB, Belgian and QH, Percheron and Clyde go brilliantly together, Clyde and TB is also a very awesome mix. Arabs and Saddlebreds... I could go on forever on matches that look good and make sense.

Things like Freisian and QH... Percheron and Akhal-Teke... those things, not so great actually. They won't come out so well.

Aside from looking good and acting well, the farm has to have a proper foaling facility if the mare is giving birth on site... and then good foal fencing for when the foal is there. This means NOT pagewire and NOT barbed wire. Good, strong fencing that the horses cannot hurt themselves on, especially dorky foals who will end up doing some stupid things.

A solid income is a must. If you don't have a regular job, then don't breed. If you're having a hard time supporting one horse, don't make another! The fees don't gradually increase... they DOUBLE when you double your amount of horses. Double the feed, double the vet care, double the tack...

Also, you must have the skills or resources to ensure that this foal gets trained. If you, yourself, do not know how to train a horse, RESEARCH IT PROPERLY. Figure out what a foal should be able to do and how to teach them safely and properly. If you can't do it, send them to a WELL-KNOWN, WELL-RESPECTED, NEARBY trainer and then CHECK UP ON THEM UNANNOUNCED. You think that's paranoid? Go read my last blog.

And last but not least (actually, the most important and first thing you should do), you need to ask yourself if you can pick up an identical foal at the auction kill pen and save its life. You can go on forever about how SPESHUL your horse is (there are other special horses out there), how you want to witness the miracle of birth (have your own kid?), or how you don't want to have to spend the money buying a foal (for your information, buying a foal is waaay cheaper than putting the mare through pregnancy... with the vet checks, ultrasounds, extra food, etc), I've heard every excuse. I think. I hope.

But the fact of the matter is, if you breed something and the resulting baby is identical to a foal that went to slaughter, then you just added to the horse slaughter and overpopulation problem.

And don't make assumptions. Go and ATTEND an auction. Visit the kill pen after... there are lots of NICE HORSES that fall through the cracks, many of them just babies. Some even come with papers.

Do you want to create a new life and send that one to its death, or do you want to give that one a chance at life and take a baby step forward, for the horses? I will guarantee you, saving a slaughter-bound horse will be the BEST feeling of your life. And they're cheap! Very cheap.

Some are as cheap as $40. Some can be more expensive.

I'm always faced with the argument, "I'm not adding to the overpopulation problem... it's just one horse!" Or, "how is my TINY breeding facility adding to the problem."

Here's the thing. It's like littering. You toss one gum wrapper on the ground thinking "oh, just one won't kill the environment," while someone across the street from you tosses a napkin away thinking the exact same thing... and thousands of other people around the city thinking the same. "Oh, one won't hurt."

Soon your city is piled up with trash and it's disgusting to look at, and things like city clean-ups need to take place.

It's the same here. Hundreds of thousands of farms are thinking "oh, this little bit won't add to the problem" and suddenly there are hundreds of thousands of foals born, most of which they think they can make money off of, and sell at an auction... the vast majority of the foals end up being sent to slaughter, either as babies or later on in life when they suddenly aren't wanted any more.

And again, you can argue until you're blue in the face that the foal is for you.

But you can never know for sure that you will be able to keep it for your whole life. Shit happens. You want to guarantee that in the event that you need to sell your horse, it has a chance at the future.

And YES, I know that huge AQHA farms pump out thousands of babies a year and they are the problem too. Their problem is much, much harder to fix because those mass farms are in it for the money, and the money only. They couldn't care less about the over-population problem, as long as they get paid at the end of the day. But that's a debate for another day.


  1. Great Post!!

    Yeah, like you said. Like you said.
    I love it when there's nothing to add or edit, or generally wonder about.
    Looking forward to more.

  2. Yup, what you said! The only other caveat that I might add is to make sure that the breed and type of the horse suits you. Be honest with your own level of skill and figure out what horse will best suit the job you want it to do. No QH 'lead and feed' is going to make a good endurance horse...etc. If you're planning on just some fun all around trail riding, that fabulous hot blooded horse may get pretty bored. I buy temperament, conformation, and looks in that order.

  3. Good Points Mel:

    I have a mare, she is a TB/Welsh cross, I think she was supposed to be a pony, instead she is a hony. Not a huge market for that in the hunter world. Personally, I lover her to death, she looks real cute over fences, is very pretty and when I ride her right, she is a cute mover. In the horse ring, I do the adds as getting the step could be done, but we would be flying. However, I taught her (well that is a misnomer, she figured it out herself) flying changes in about 10 minutes. She is very balanced.

    Anyhoo, starting to ramble there, will get back on track here. I have had people, including trainers, tell me I should breed her. However, I would have to breed her to a pony in order to make a truly saleable baby. Ok, fine, good ponies in my area are in high demand. Here in lies my conundrum (smiles), a ponies' future is somewhat uncertain as kids outgrow. I would forever worry about Whinnie's baby and I certainly don't need another horse/pony to ride if I kept it. Whinnie is just 13, Wizard is 12 and Buck is a solid healthy 16.

    My decision after all of this rambling, do not breed Whinnie.