Horse Breeding How-To: Making Them Marketable

For these breeders, choosing the right sire is essential to raising sellable foals.

From The American Quarter Horse Journal

When starting a breeding operation, you’ve got to start with a good mare. Journal photo.

One of the oldest jokes in the industry goes something like: “What’s the quickest way to make a million dollars in the horse business?” Answer: “Start with $2 million.”

There is no get-rich-quick scheme when it comes to raising horses. However, thoughtful planning and business acumen, plus a good deal of hard work and passion can certainly help breeders see great success.

In this day and age, how do you breed and raise a horse that appeals to buyers? To find out, we picked the brains from three breeding programs: small-time breeder Colton Reid, Cindy McCraw of Riverside Ranch and Brian Egan of Pennsylvania State University’s equine program.

The Stallion Search

For mare owners, it all starts with finding Mr. Right.

After you’ve bred your mare to a nominated stallion, nominate your foal to the AQHA Incentive Fund!

Pennsylvania State University is an AQHA 50-year breeder whose herd usually features 12 to 20 broodmares and three to five stallions. The university’s current stallion lineup includes All American Quarter Horse Congress top-10 finisher and producer PSU Dynamic Krymsun (by One Hot Krymsun), plus Willie Be Nimble (by The Jac Be Nimble), PSU He Rox The Nite (by Gunners Special Nite) and Time To Score (by Time To Touch), but outside stallions are considered every year, as well.

Brian Egan, Penn State equine science instructor and horse farm coordinator, says the program utilizes several tactics when selecting outside stallions.

“We primarily research a stallion’s show success and offspring success,” says Brian, noting that advice is solicited from professionals who know both the stallions and the university’s program. “There is also a lot of personal contact involved with the stallion owners to try to select the best horses for our situation.”

For Colton Reid of Sumrall, Mississippi, it all starts with the stallion’s bloodlines.

“I look for a stallion that comes from a great maternal line because you have to give credit where credit is due, and that’s the dam,” he says.

Twenty-four-year-old Colton was 18 when he got started in the breeding business. Colton only breeds one mare a year, so he has to make his decisions count. And the choices he’s making are working out. His first registered foal, Just So You Notice, earned the 2014 AQHA amateur international halter high-point title in amateur 3-year-old geldings with owner Jana Richter of Germany.

He adds, “In addition to his bloodline, I also like to see a stallion that can compete out of his junior years. This shows me he has a good mind and legs to match.”

Cindy McCraw operates on both sides of the equation as both a stallion and mare owner. The longtime AQHA breeder started in the breeding business with the late Dynamic Deluxe, then with the late My Final Notice. Cindy now stands Machine Made, owned by Cory Seebach and Candice Hall, at Riverside Ranch in Sultan, Washington, which she owns with her husband, Donnie.

“I look for a stallion that just screams ‘I am special.’ He must have that movie-star appeal that is very apparent and easy to take your breath away,” Cindy says. “Then we can all go down the list of must-haves, but keep in mind that not any horse is perfect.

“A great-minded animal is very important to me, as well as good conformation. Then the movement is next in line. I look for a natural mover with the ability to carry himself the way AQHA wants to see a horse perform in the show ring, and by breeding for this, you make training much easier for the resulting foal.”

Adding Appeal

To pare down the list of possible stallions even further, Colton says he always personally contacts the stallion owner.

“I like to hear what they say about their stallion. I want to breed my mare to a stallion whose owner is 110 percent committed in their guy and his offspring.”

And the stallion has to be nominated to the AQHA Incentive Fund for Colton to consider him.

“I want a foal that is marketable to all, and in this day in time, money can be tight at times. If you are an open or amateur rider, each point represents a little bit of return on your showing endeavors at the end of the year. Horse showing is primarily a hobby for all competitors, but getting that check at the end of the year feels pretty good.”

Penn State has nominated its stallions and enrolled its foals in the Incentive Fund since the program’s inception in 1984. Brian says for the university’s stallions and foals, nomination to the Incentive Fund is not as imperative as it once was.

“However, as a university, we continue to nominate our stallions and their offspring as a service to our clients. By nominating our stallions and their offspring, our clients who do show their Penn State horse are then eligible to earn Incentive Fund money.”

But for Cindy’s breeding program at Riverside Ranch, the Incentive Fund has proved essential to her horses’ success.

“Selling a horse that is not in the Incentive Fund is like slashing the value of the horse in half if the horse is going to go on to a show career,” she says. “It is a helpful reward at the end of the season to receive a check for the people who spend their hard-earned dollars to enter the show ring all year.”

The AQHA Incentive Fund is a great way to put money back in your pocket, just for showing your horse! Find out if your stallion is eligible today!

Back to Basics

Enrollment in the AQHA Incentive Fund, National Reining Breeders Classic, National Cutting Horse Association Super Stakes, World Conformation Horse Association Breeder’s Championship Futurity – the list goes on – does make a foal attractive to buyers.

But like Colton and Cindy mentioned, great minds are key, as are conformation, athleticism and trainability.

As Brian reminds us, raising a marketable foal is about the whole package.

“For our program at Penn State, it is imperative that we have a desirable product for our students to promote. We strive to produce the best all-around Quarter Horses possible.”

And there’s always a market for horses like that.

About the AQHA Incentive Fund

The AQHA Incentive Fund is a multimillion-dollar program involving stallion and foal nominations with paybacks to the stallion nominators, foal nominators and owners of the competing horses.

To find a directory of stallions nominated to the Incentive Fund, or to learn more about program, visit