Breeding “for the heck of it” may result in a cute, cuddly foal — but where will that foal be in two, five or 10 years down the road? Karlie Mitchell raises some interesting questions.
Oh foals, who doesn’t want foals? Everyone loves foals, but there is concern about breeding within the horse industry — or, rather, breeding that is outside of the “industry.” I see horse classifieds sites full of horses. There are a lot of quality horses ready to work, but there seems to be an abundance of untrained horses floating around. Where are these horses coming from?
The first unstarted 2-year-old I purchased came from a large ranch. It was the kind of breeding operation from which horses are often started and sold, or you can pick them up at earlier stages as they get listed. If I never purchased that colt I’m sure he would have gone on to be started and then sold easily.
Another weanling I purchased came from a backyard breeder who did it for fun. He had good quality Quarter Horses but let them run free and pasture breed, selling the weanling as unhandled. If these weanlings weren’t purchased by September they ended up at the local auction. (The local auction isn’t the best place for a horse to end up in my area.)
The difference in these two young horses — although both well-bred and registered — is that the first came from a breeding ranch and the second from a hobby breeder who doesn’t train, just breeds for the heck of it. If I hadn’t purchased either, one probably would have still gone on to another happy, healthy home whereas the other’s chances weren’t as good.
I believe that a lot of these unstarted young horses floating around are coming from hobby breeders who create these foals and hope they sell before needing training. Some of these breeders are clueless; others are just careless. Example: the pasture full of horses that no one ever touches, with a stud and five mares whose yearly crop of weanlings get moved to the back pasture to run “wild” there. Wormy, underweight in winter, untrimmed hooves, sitting in a pasture nothing to do… are these horses really living a good quality of life? Why are you breeding if you are not taking care of them?
A breeding facility with a training program in place can always train and market these horses again if selling as an unstarted horse does not happen. Don’t get me wrong: You do not have to be a huge facility to be entitled to breed horses, but before breeding you should be committed to ensuring that your responsibility goes beyond just creating a foal. Being a responsible breeder means providing this foal with what it needs to end up in a proper home. With a surplus of young horses for sale, often the preferred choices will go first while the others sometimes end up in places they shouldn’t — like sitting around uncared-for in pastures or, worse, in auctions where they are selling for meat price.
What do you say, Horse Nation? Should there be any restrictions or rules to control breeding?