Intelligent, integrity-based decisions for breeding horses.
By Summer Best for The American Quarter Horse Journal | January 1, 0001
Breeding can be expensive, time-consuming, dangerous and depressing. But for many mare owners, nothing is more rewarding than being involved in the life of a new colt or filly. “I love the springtime,” says Ann Myers, owner and breeder of record-breaking world champion western pleasure stallion Zips Chocolate Chip, as well as top performers Chips Hot Chocolate and Rich N Chocolatey. “I set up the camera in the stalls so I can watch the mare from the house, and there’s nothing like it.”
Ann has a checklist of questions when a mare owner calls her to chat about breeding. “I ask the mare owner, ‘Do you love your mare?’ and if they say ‘Yes,’ then I say, ‘Good.’ I tell them to hope for a baby that is just like their mare,” she says. “And the icing on the cake would be for the stud to enhance their foal to make it even better.” The difficulty, of course, is the owner who brings in a subpar mare and expects a stallion to “fix” all her flaws.
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“I will never tell someone they cannot breed to one of my stallions,” Ann says. “But I don’t want people to think that they should breed a horse that has a lot of problems. They might get a foal that’s exactly like their mare – and then they’ll dislike the baby, too!” Ann acknowledges some conformation faults can be improved upon with any breeding decision, but she wishes for mare owners not to depend upon that. “The deal is, they need to be happy with their mare in the first place and not expect a stallion to do all the work,” she says. “Many people feel that mares throw 70 percent of themselves into the equation.” Breeding decisions are a mix of science, instinct and plain ol’ luck. For every hard and fast rule, there’s a huge exception.
Meet Carol Rose, AQHA's all-time leading breeder of performance horses like Diamonds Sparkle and Shining Spark. “As much as I plan and research and make educated choices, there’s sometimes a surprise when the foal is born,” Ann says. “It’s breeding bingo! You make your best guess, but you might get a surprise package.” So before breeding your mare this spring, consider these questions:
- Why are you breeding your mare? (To get a foal just like your mare? To get a marketable foal to sell for potential profit? To get a world champion?)
- What will be the foal’s purpose? What are your expectations?
- Give your mare a good, hard look. Assess her conformation, movement, disposition and pedigree.
- Consider your stallion choices. Which stallion will help you meet the goal outlined above?
- Choose a few stallions, and ask each stallion owner/manager how the stallion typically crosses with a mare such as yours.
To be responsible stewards of the American Quarter Horse, we must make far-sighted decisions about the welfare of our breed and its future genetic makeup. As a breeder, you are responsible for your impact on America’s Horse. Assess your goals, expectations and your mare before breeding this season.
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