Breeding

Where a Horse Can Be a Horse: Part 3

In breeding, sometimes Mother Nature knows best.

This is the last of a three-part series. Need to review Part 1 or Part 2? Lindsey Beving of Wellsburg, Iowa, uses pasture breeding in his production program. Lindsey owns three stallions and 40 mares, raising 32-35 foals each year. His breeding program of more than 20 years continues the bloodlines of Blackburn, Pretty Buck, Roan Wolf and Bueno Chex. He runs three pastures from May until September, when foals are weaned, loaded into a trailer and hauled to the Hermanson-Kist Horse Sale in Mandan, North Dakota, where they are sold as performance and ranch horse prospects. Lindsey has some repeat customers each year for his foals, as well as new customers.

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As an insurance agent, Lindsey finds that pasture breeding is the best option for his production program, not having a full-time commitment to his horse operation. He finds reduced expense and convenience rank high on the list of benefits that pasture breeding offers over hand breeding and artificial insemination. “The convenience is a big advantage,” Lindsey says. “It’s easier to let the stallion do the work. It’s also less labor-intensive on my side, so there’s less overhead to my business, and the time factor involved. “A good stallion will do his job. He will tease a mare, he’ll know when she’s ready to breed, and he may only breed her once or twice to get the job done,” Lindsey explains. Lindsey typically turns his mares and foals out into his pastures the first of May. Once they’ve been out for a week or so, he introduces the stallion to the pasture. Lindsey only breeds his own mares, choosing not to stand his stallions to the public.

The main disadvantage Lindsey cited for pasture breeding is not knowing the exact breeding date, so you don’t always have an accurate foaling date. The stallion isn’t keeping a little black book of his dates, so you work with a “guesstimate” and prepare accordingly for the spring foaling. There’s also a chance for injury to the stallion that gets kicked by a mare or for injury to a mare in a pasture-breeding environment. And there’s always the chance that “he’s just not that into her” when a certain mare just doesn’t interest a stallion and he refuses to breed her. Pasture breeding and maintenance also benefits the mares and foals. Anyone who has managed a barn full of broodmares and foals in stalls can attest to the work and expense involved, such as cleaning stalls, bedding and feed expense and turnout time for mother and baby. Out in the pasture, foals learn socialization skills, just like children at school. They learn to navigate terrain, respect for their elders and how to be a horse, something that show horses sometimes miss out on by living in a stalled environment their whole lives. The mares begin weaning foals on their own and the foals become more independent, reducing the stress a little when they finally are separated. Lindsey creep-feeds the foals grain along with their mothers. “It’s the most natural way to raise a colt,” Lindsey says. “Running with mares, other foals and the stallion is the way Mother Nature intended it to be, and she seems to take care of them that way.”

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