Carole Mortimer: Breed with your head, not your heart *H&H VIP*

  • Have you really thought it through? Is that stallion you have set your sights on really the best match for your mare? Of course the prospect of a foal is exciting. But exactly what is it you want to breed? And do you really need to breed a foal at all?

    Yes, it’s that time of the year when we start making plans for our mares. Each year brings a relatively large proportion of new potential broodmares into the pool — the mares that no longer have a job.

    The competition mares that have reached their limit, those that need time off to recuperate from injury, the ones that have seen their rider from Pony Club to affiliated competition and couldn’t possibly be sold because they are part of the family. So of course the sensible option is to put her in foal. But is it? Have you thought about it all the way through to 2022 when you have a lively four-year-old that needs to be sold or prepared for a job? While 2022 seems an eon away — and of course anything might happen in that time — it will come round quickly enough. Assuming all things being equal, can you guarantee a future for the foal that you have set your heart on?

    If the answer is no it’s time to think again. There are currently far too many horses in the UK — the yards of welfare organisations are full of unwanted horses. A survey by World Horse Welfare estimates that small breeders contribute the largest proportion of foals born each year adding to the surplus of horses.

    Think carefully

    Breeding a foal just because you can is an expensive answer to an unnecessary problem. Mares do not have to have foals. Go out and buy her a young companion.

    At the moment this is cheaper in the long run as with a saturated market few young horses actually sell for what they cost, or offer to rehome or foster one of the many unwanted.

    If you really want to breed, do your homework. The choice of stallions is huge and bewildering — every one has a “legendary pedigree, three fabulous paces, and a temperament to die for”. And it is so easy to buy semen. Look him up on the internet, place your order and the semen is delivered. All you have to do is pay the bills. Indeed few people now actually see the stallion they are using. In the “old days” before AI, it was usual to visit the stud, see the stallion run up and check out his movement and conformation with the aim of offsetting the mare’s conformational flaws with the stallion’s strengths.

    Seeing a stallion in the flesh is the best way to ascertain his qualities — and weaknesses. So be picky. Make an appointment to see the stallions you think will do the best for your mare.

    Of course this might limit you to those in the UK, but so be it. There are many good graded stallions of all breeds and types standing here that don’t get enough mares. A good stud will help mare owners select the right stallion to produce the desired result.

    Ultimately, whatever you are hoping to breed, it must be suitable for the future job you have in mind. It is imperative that we all breed with our heads, not our hearts.

    Ref Horse & Hound; 12 January 2017

    Stallions at Stud