Right now I’m riding three lovely young horses we bred ourselves, three of about a dozen we’ve been involved in the breeding of. As they’ve started to compete, it’s caused me to ponder again the question of whether it’s better to breed or buy a new horse.
First, six reasons to breed:
1. You won’t have to spend months or years overcoming someone else’s training or riding mistakes.
2. You won’t have to come up with a chunk of money to pay someone for the horse that you have to fix.
3. You get to experience the excitement of seeing that foal pushed out of the mare, stand up on those wiggly legs, and make his way, oh so tentatively, to nurse for the first time.
4. You can watch the foal play and guess what the things he does suggest about what he’ll be like to ride.
5. You could get a much better horse than you could possibly afford to buy as a mature horse.
6. You could get to be the first person to ride the horse and the only person to jump or compete the horse—and that’s a neat feeling.
Now, six reasons not to breed your next horse:
1. The expense. Sure, it won’t be the big lump sum you need to buy one, but that foal is going to cost you more over five or six years than you ever would have dreamed of spending on a horse.
2. The heartbreak. Assuming you can get your mare in foal, the list of potential emotional and financial disasters is endless: The mare could die before, during or after delivery for dozens of reasons; the foal could be born sickly or even dead; the foal could do any of dozens of things to injure himself and make himself useless, but not enough to kill himself. They’ll all cost you, and that’s just a start.
3. You could be stuck with a horse who’s wholly unsuitable for you due to temperament, size or soundness. And you might not be able to sell him because you can’t bear selling your precious mare’s offspring, because you can’t afford to pay a professional to do something with him so you can sell him, or because he’s not sound enough to do anything.
4. Your mare isn’t going to add anything to the equine gene pool. Be honest: She has no remarkable talent, doesn’t have a generous temperament, and she’s rarely sound.
5. The pressure of training him correctly yourself. If a horse you’ve bought has a problem or a weakness, you can always say, “The idiot I bought him from caused this.” But if you’re the only one who’s been riding the horse you bred, you’ve no one to blame but yourself.
6. If you’re not a professional trainer, be prepared to pay one to help you. Good training that creates a useful horse is the best way to ensure your baby won’t someday become one of the thousands of unwanted horses. If you can’t pay for that, then don’t breed your mare.
Finally, three reasons to buy your next horse:
1. You can shop around. You don’t have to settle for whatever comes out of the uterus, so you can be much more certain that you have the right horse.
2. You’re giving a home and a job to a horse who probably deserves them.
3. You don’t have to wait four years to get to ride him.
John Strassburger, Performance Editor