Why We Breed Horses

There’s an endless list of reasons why you might want to breed sport horses, but most of them border on economic and emotional lunacy. Yet people do it, on a scale ranging from one or two to a couple of dozen foals a year. Why’

To begin with, it costs a lot of money. How much’ Assuming you own the mare, start with $500 to $5,000 for the stud fee, then add at least $1,000 to get and keep the mare in foal through those first few months. Then add the cost of just keeping your pregnant mare — even if she lives on your own farm, figure $250 per month. That’s at least $4,250 you’ve spent just getting her to delivery.

Now pray for a healthy foal. Even then, plan on at least $500 a year in routine veterinary costs. With hay, grain and bedding, that means that by the time your precious foal is 4, he’s probably cost you another $9,000 — and that’s if you’re not paying someone to board him.

Second, breeding horses is a gigantic heartache. Horses simply don’t reproduce with the ease and efficiency of cattle or goats.

So the odds are pretty short that your foal will be born with some kind of problem that requires veterinary care — anything from diarrhea to an infection or contracted tendons, or worse. Or the mare could develop her own problem, some of which can lead to death. Then you’ve really got a challenge, because somehow you’ll have to feed that foal every two hours for the next several months. Unless you find a nurse mare — and either way will cost you bucks.

Third, youngsters can concoct a million ways to hurt themselves. But somehow they usually survive and, quickly, that adorable foal turns 3 and is ready to start training, to start preparing for the rest of his or her life. And that’s going to cost you even more time and money.

The bottom line’ If you’re just trying to produce a horse for yourself, you can find far less financially and emotionally expensive ways to do it. And if you plan to breed horses as a business, well, you better be selling something else, too, because even selling a 4-year-old for $15,000 isn’t really profitable.

So, why enter into this lunacy’ First, it’s the mares, who become so huge they can barely fit through doorways, who become so sweet and kind and mellow and lovable. And there’s no devotion as moving as a mare to her foal.

Second, it’s those foals. Every foal is adorable, with their baby fuzz, their early attempts at walking and then cantering and bucking and eating grass, their determination to nurse, and their joy at discovering new things.

Third, and most importantly, it’s the promise those foals represent, the hope of what they could grow up to be, whether it’s a steady trail horse, a competitive show horse, a foxhunter you trust for years, or an international performer. Yes, that’s it, the hope — that’s why we breed horses.

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