One From the Archives

Hank Wiescamp discusses the difference between a mare and a broodmare.

Editor’s Note: The late Hank Wiescamp is a member of the American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame who was famous for his Skipper W-bred horses. But despite his connection to that famous stallion, Hank actually put more emphasis on his broodmare band. Here, in his own words, are details on what he looked for: Many people refer to all mares and use the single term of “mares” without thought as to whether they actually mean mares or “broodmares.”

To me, there is as much difference between these two terms as there is between my Model A and one of those new Cadillacs, if you referred to both of them as “cars.” In selecting a broodmare, the first thing I look for and require is conformation; the next is type, breeding ability and speed. The first requirement in all breeds of livestock, whether it be horses, mules, cows or sheep is: Do they look like what you want in the first place? If you are a cow breeder, do you want Hereford or Angus; a sheep raiser, Corriedale or some other breed? In other words, do you think you see what you are looking for? This can be compared to the Army policy of preliminary screening, when they try to determine whether a person is best suited for the Navy, Air Corps or Marines; clerk, officer or private. Type is hard to control, hard to get, hard to keep and, most of all, hard to set. Without type, regardless of what the quality, breeding or ability might be, you must ask yourself the all-important question: Will this animal fit in my program of trying to raise better animals in my line?

In AQHA’s FREE Mare Care report, Dr. Racquel Rodeheaver explains the process of preparing your mare, targeting a breeding date, ordering semen, inducing a follicle to ovulate, receiving and evaluating semen and much more.

In selecting a mare, I want first a big feminine head, and intelligent and alert eye, for without these, I would look no further. However, if these points are satisfactory, I would look for that clean throatlatch, a little length in the neck, and, above all, a set of withers, depth of heart girth and a well-sprung rib, depth of flank, short back with strength in the loin and all the length I can get from the hip back. I like my mares muscled well to the hock, but yet clean in the hock, with a good flat bone and a small foot, with four good legs sitting firmly underneath with plenty of muscle in the front as well as the rear. After this, I want to know the answer to the all-important question, what about her folks? Did she get all of this honestly or is she a freak? Did her father and mother have what she possesses, and did they inherit theirs honestly by having outstanding folks? I believe that the word “breeding” is too often misunderstood. Horses are like other kinds of livestock; they all had folks, but were they the right kind of folks? To some people, the pedigree means only a collection of names, while others study these pedigrees to see who they were. Remember that the bad as well as the good is bound to come out in any breed. Many people think that all you need to raise better horses is a good sire and a good dam. I believe you must have both to go along with your type and breeding. Any mare that I would be interested in should be broken and used, for I am also sure that they can produce no ability unless they themselves have some. For my purposes, a filly should have intelligence, “way of going,” “cow sense,” a good disposition and refinement. After we have satisfied ourselves on these points, then the most difficult problem presents itself. Will she produce the kind of colts that she is or better? Will she have and raise a colt every year under ordinary conditions? Will she give milk, or are we going to have to resort to the practices of some of the foremost beef breeders of today and provide nurse mares? Regardless of how good she might be in type, conformation, breeding or ability, she is not a broodmare until she proves that she can produce one like herself. I also believe a mare must be given a chance along the line of getting “nicked” with the blood, for all studs are not good sires, and a good mare could easily be culled out by missing her chances of being “nicked” (or paired) right.

The Mare Care FREE report is a perfect resource for beginning breeders.

I do not believe that any man can take a band of 30 mares, representing 30 different families of breeding, and be fortunate enough to have them all “nick” right with one sire. We have all heard the saying “when a man reaches his goal, he is going backward.” Well, there is no danger of this for the horse breeder, for even among the wisest (wherever he may be) there is not enough experience in the span of seven lives to reach perfection. In this business, knowledge, judgment, perseverance and determination play too large a part for success to be called “luck.”