Sunday, October 30, 2011

Backyard Horse Breeders: A Craigslist Example

We're back to Backyard Horse Breeders again. I browse Craigslist every morning over my breakfast cereal, and while it's nice to window-shop, it also sucks to run across people who just shouldn't be breeding horses.

First of all, I think there's nothing wrong with breeding to get one or two foals for yourself. Someday, I might even breed my mare Annie, despite her conformational flaws, because she is so special to me that I'd love to raise, train and keep a foal from her. As long as you're in a position to provide a good, life-long home for any foal you bring into the world, and you are dedicated to doing so, go right ahead! (Provided, of course, that you're not deluding yourself about your actual ability to afford to keep, raise and train said foal.)

However, don't create a foal believing you'll make a profit.
The true cost of stud fee + proper vet care for a pregnant mare + raising the foal right means that, unless you are producing a truly well-conformed, registered horse from a popular breed or bloodline, you might possibly break even when you sell the foal-- but I doubt it.

Don't create a foal just to have CUTE BABY, or because you want your kids to witness "the miracle of birth." It's wrong to bring another life into the world just for the dubious educational benefit (especially since we the internet and educational videos for that), or because you want a cute toy.

Here's the ad I ran into this morning:

As Craigslist ads go, this one is actually pretty decent; she's got all her spelling right, the information is clearly written and she's even got photographs. These sweet foals look super cute and well-fed too. Here's the problem:

This woman has a "breeding stock paint" stallion that she's obviously breeding to anything with a uterus. A POA, a throughbred and a QH mare? What was she trying to do, play genetic roulette and see which foal came out the best?

It's not responsible breeding to combine random breeds for no good reason, especially since the results can be very unpredictable, and there are literally thousands of horses for sale out there that have any characteristics you might be looking for.

Okay, so then we deal with the fact that maybe one of these three colts could be registered-- the paint/QH. I'm not a horse snob by any means-- I don't even show. However, when a horse is registered in a breed association like AQHA, that horse has a greater chance of finding and keeping a home, and retaining value-- and thus, less likely to end up at the slaughter plant. By the way, the fact that this woman has listed ancient ancestors of the sire is stupid; a great-great-great grandson of Secretariat is just as likely to wind up on a dinner plate as a grade horse, if there are no actual papers. Ancient ancestry doesn't prove anything about the actual horse either; it doesn't increase value any more than a human is more desireable job candidate because his great great grand-daddy climbed Everest and was CEO of Sears & Robuck. Sire and dam, and grand sire and grand dam, most influence a horse's conformation and temperament.

Next, there's the environment in the pictures. It looks like a junk-filled forest. That appaloosa colt-- is he standing under a tree stand? A wooden playground set? Is little Whiskers enjoying his ramble around all the junk strewn on the ground? This is unsafe, and makes me wonder where the horses are really being kept. In a clean, junk-free facility with safe fencing? Or someone's barb-wire strewn front yard filled with downed tree limbs and junked cars?

Finally, we have the price. For just $200, you can take any of these little foals home for Christmas! Awww. But what does this cheap price say about the true value of these foals? To me, it screams, "Must sell!! Cheap cheap cheap!!" These foals are basically Walmart foals: low quality, low prices. And if that's what you're looking for, save yourself some money: head to your nearest horse auction and pick up a yearling or a two year old for the same price. That will mean one or two less years you have to feed, vet, trim and handle your new bargain bin foal before you can break it to ride. Or better yet, shell out a couple hundred more and buy a fully-grown, fully-trained grade trail horse! You'll be spending that money raising the unrideable foal, anyway.

There's just no reason to breed foals like this. Not when there are thousands of other horses just like them already in existence that are headed to slaughter plants because no one wants them.

If you want a positive example, here's one:

This little colt on the right has great conformation; even as a baby, you can see he's got a nice shoulder, a super hip and compact frame. He's over at the knee, but so are most foals- they straighten out. He's standing next to mommy in a gorgeous, safely-fenced green pasture. The website for these breeders clearly states that they believe in raising, handling and training their foals to grow up to be athletes in multiple disciplines. They actually put that into practice, too; their website details the trail rides, camping trips and competitions their horses have participated in. The breeders also describe, in detail, their breeding program, they're life-time members of AQHA and register all their stock, and they list the complete pedigrees of their horses. Now THAT'S "value."

1 comment:

  1. This made me laugh (and weep a bit for mankind, obviously) because I recently bought a great grandson of Secretariat headed straight for the slaughterhouse. Proof in the pudding!

    Anyway, I love your blog and your posts really ring true and make me think. Thanks!