I am going to breed my mare: Really? Sit down, please. Let us talk about this Awhile

Baby Horses. Nothing cuter, right?


I have to admit, I lack the infatuation with foals that many people who love horses seem to carry.


As the founder of an equine rescue, I have simply witnessed too much. Too much bad year after year. Wait, though. I do not want to give you folks a “whoa is me tale,” though. The fact is, I chose to do rescue work, after all. I believe it is valuable beyond measure. That said, I recognize because of this effort that too many horses are being brought into the world with sub-par breeding and unskilled handling from birth. Far too many. I realize the true cost of raising a foal till he is under saddle. I also know everyone feels they are the exception.

We’ve received belligerent horses that were produced casually over and over again.

Heart of Phoenix collectively has spent years giving time, sweat, tears and sometimes blood paired with donors dollars repairing the damage done by the “I just wanted a baby horse” folks. Often well intended folks, but the road to Hell (as it were) is paved with good intentions, isn’t it?

I have sat in the bleachers at auction too many times during auctions and watched the young yearlings, two and three years old barely (if even) halter broke sell for $10 and $20 each. . .or worse. . .no sale meaning instead of having a long ride to Mexico, they get to go home and starve or be tied out to some unsuspecting person’s trailer and abandoned there at the stock yard.

These young, unstarted horses have no real value, and they help feed the slaughter market.

With limited funding, most rescues cannot even afford to concentrate on these types of horses, either. A rescue will have $5,000 in each of these horses before they are rehabbed, trained and ready to be adopted into the average adopter’s home. That is not sustainable in any rescue. The money and time isn’t there, and further, while a rescue holds 25 of those horses for 2-3 years, others that just need food because, while they have the training they needed, they are starving tied up to a post in someone’s backyard.

From a buyer’s standpoint, when a person can purchase a started, lovely horse for under $2,000 all day long, why would anyone buy one for $200 on craiglist? From a breeders standpoint, and More importantly, WHY on earth would we endeavor to breed a mare unproven in any manner to a stallion of no particular merit, creating the problem to begin with?

A person’s actions when they breed have consequences. Free will goes so far, and unless that foal will be trained, started and live his life out with the breeder, they are impacting a nationwide industry with what seems to be a personal choice. It isn’t only a personal decision now. Too many goodhearted donors and rescues are cleaning up the messes being made.

The cost to raise a foal, then properly start and finish a young horse is significantly higher than the cost to purchase a started horse. The skill set needed is also far greater.

There are many horses already out there for sale beyond the scope of what the average person can produce with their mare, and yet, over and over again, it happens. There are exceptional animals able to do anything we would like to do already alive and waiting for a home.

If we (as the equine world) are not sure we can create an animal superior to what is out there, what we are breeding for, anyway?

Breeding has little discrimination, anymore.

Foals with parents who have inferior conformation, aptitude and skill set are being born year after year. Born to people who do not even have a desire to learn what quality means. Folks who haven’t bothered to learn how to handle, train and produce amazing equine partners. Foals with dams and sires that will never change the face of their breed (if either are even registered or of determinable parentage). These are Foals destined to end up in the cycle of poorly educated horse owners or on the back of a semi headed to Mexico.

Forgive me if I’ve seen it too often to be anything less than harsh.

So I will ask we pause before we breed a mare, and do the same before we opt to not geld a stallion.

The United States has over 100,000 horses heading over the borders yearly. Yet, we have far more in the backyards of unqualified owners without the skill set or income to give decent care. These horses suffer for years and pass from person to person learning nothing of value, and eventually, they die from neglect or head over to Mexico / Canada.

The single most important bit of education to pass on as an ethical rescue or horse owner is that WE must start to talk about how many horses the horse community is producing each year.

If each of us decide to have this conversation frequently each year, we may see significant change in a very short period of time. Right now, breeding just to produce a foal for no real reason is received with “Congrats,” “How Lovely” and “Can I come over and pet the baby” replies on facebook. Instead, if you have a mare or a recently gelded colt, let’s change the conversation. Let us talk about how we’ve opted to stay out of the horse breeding business unless we are really making the breed better. Let us explain why. Let us see those posts receive the “congrats” that are in order.

12 thoughts on “I am going to breed my mare: Really? Sit down, please. Let us talk about this Awhile

  1. Amen! I see this over and over, why the praise for bringing another horse into the world of already flooded horse market with so many going to Mexico. Everyone thinks they’re the exception.. love that, so true.

  2. I see this time and time again practically in my own backyard in the Ocala, Florida area. I just can’t understand it. These people seem to be blind to what they are doing. I’ve even known of people who “rescue” horses breed them. There ought to be laws preventing such but how would they be enforced. The has got to be public education. about it.

  3. having been engaged to a professional breeder of horses, dogs cats and rabbits etc. showed me the importance of indiscriminate breeding. having good stock and knowing the background ( genetics is possible, breeding cycles, age much more) can almost guarantee a healthy offspring. no matter the type of animal you desire in your life, remember it is just as important a having a child. all must be taken care of in the same manner. if you can’t afford at least nominal care anything less is ( criminal) neglect. all my pets fortunately have been healthy. ALL . I had to give up riding due to back injuries( not by my horses ) which led my to having to make a choice beneficial to their care. still love em and still go to rodeos, AQHA and APHA functions. my other pets have been cared for and bred in the highest breeding lines to guarantee genetically strong offspring. make good choices don’t just be part of a problem, be the answer to great health. LOVE EM SPOIL THEM. THEY are just like your kids.

  4. I understand the value of the well trained horse. And while I applaud the work of many well intentioned people, I grew up with many good horse traders. I really see no difference between the rescue groups of today and the horse traders of yesterday, except the rescue groups are better at advertising in this mass market system we have today.
    The horse traders I grew up with went to auction, bought what they felt they could “save” from the “killers” retrained and sold them to the public (just reword it as adoption fee here) but they gave a 30 day guarrentee on the horse . The rescues I see give no guarrentee. As my friend always told his customer “you don’t like him, you don’t own him”.
    That covered lameness disease death or any other complaint for 30 days, no ” oh he had a bad life” excuse.
    Now I’ve seen and heard slot of these rescue groups “adopt” horses out. The prices are outrageous, the conditions are ridiculous. If you go to sell the animal you have to sell back to them, you have to report back to them, you have to give them a history of where the horse is . Once I purchase the horse, it is mine. Not someone else’s. I’m not fostering it for another person.
    All this said, I guess rescue groups are doing fine. We’ve all rescued horses at times, myself included. My biggest complaint with rescue groups is that they seem to think horses will live forever. “This horse is 35 years old and in great health!” Well that is the exception, not the rule. Horses are mortal. Horses are going to die. Rescue groups still do not give the general public the answer to the question “what do you do with a dead horse”. Not all people can bury one in the back yard. Not everyone has that much land. Owning and loving a large animal also means disposing of a large dead body in a sanitary manner. And glossing it over by saying “if you can’t do it…” yes we can. If people will quit freaking out, because animals die.

    1. It sounds like you’ve dealt with some very odd, disreputable rescues. I know many excellent organizations, and of course, HOP works in this way:

      Horses are rehabbed. Full vetted. UTD on everything.
      Fees are very low. Horses can be returned at anytime, and many, like us, refund a portion or all of the fee.

      Some allow horses to be rehomed, which we do not. We lease horses for small fees that are up to date on everything, many come freshly out of a trainer’s program. They aren’t revenue producers, so making sure the placement is good and the horse is protected in the long term is where good rescues focus.

      Leases are common in the horse world, so that a rescue uses them to protect the horse makes a lot of sense. All do not, but it is the only way to be sure a horse that has suffered doesn’t have as high a chance of it happening again. Further, the adopter isn’t losing a thing, as the horse can stay with them as long as they wish and the horse has a safe place to go if the adopter cannot keep him.

      When one buys a horse, the answer we give the public is, you need to plan to what happens when the horse needs put down for any reason. If you cannot afford what is offered in your area, you aren’t truly able to be a responsible owner.

      We speak often about euthanasia and understanding there are many horrible things that happen to horses, and being “gone” isn’t one of them, as well.

  5. I don’t know how to get this problem under control. Maybe everyone who wants to breed their horse should be required to go to a kill buyer auction and see how the horses are treated. Then see how they are loaded into trailers. Then have to follow the trailer into Mexico to see what happens to the horses there. If they are required to do this then maybe they will be more motivated to adopt one of these horses than breed their own. Of course this is a problem with backyard breeders of dogs and cats too.

  6. Excellent article! You all do a fabulous job of education, which is every bit as important to rescue work as the actual rescue work. Thanks so much for all you do!

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