Thursday, February 23, 2012

To Breed or Not to Breed?

Since I can't do much of anything with Chemistry until my appointment with friend/tutor/future-male-Abbey-Sciuto later tonight (believe me, I've tried it... it's not clicking... because it's chemistry, and apparently my brain is not as mathematical as I thought, call me conceited... thankfully I will only need basic chemistry for conservation biology, even at UT) I will type this up because I have been going on and off on typing this up and on the whole breeding thing in general, and I need some honest opinions. Don't rip me apart, I do have feelings afterall, but please be honest.

To breed or not to breed? That is the question. Am I in my right mind to even think about breeding Miss Golightly? I am not thinking about this just because she has a uterus. Believe me, I've met plenty of horses who happened to have a uterus, and I am not stupid enough to think that said organ automatically makes for breeding material. So why do I love my girlie so much that I feel the need to make sure half of her chromosomes get passed on and hang around in this world for a little while longer?
  1. First and foremost, this is one of the smartest, most caring, bravest, energetic, pleasing, tries-her-heart out horse I have ever met, and I would like to think I've met enough after twelve years (though I'm no expert). It's like she has all the good qualities of mares times 10. She has never offered to bite at, kick at, charge at, or any other way act dangerous or extremely aggressive towards any person, under saddle or on the ground int he three years I've had her. To other horses in the pasture maybe, but once that lead rope is clipped on, it's YES MA'AM. About the worst she has done is get into my space on isolated accounts and do that naughty I'm-feeling-great jump the other day that I blogged about, and even that was moving away from me. She has an opinion, but tries her damnedest to figure out what you ask. But she's smart enough to take over if she absolutely needs to. She's a good boss mare if she needs to be. There have been several times on the trail we would've both ended up hurt if she hadn't have stepped in. She's complicated, but there are more good personality traits to her than bad, far more. I don't know if personality is for sure genetic, but if it is, then this is one personality I would like to keep.
  2. She's a piece of heart horse. I feel like I really want to have a bit of her when she goes, even if that won't be for a long time. Enough said there.
  3. She's quite hardy. She kept on trucking with a suspensory strain with minimal "off-ness", and it could've been much worse at the rate I was working her while she had it (unbeknownst to my silly self... don't think I don't still feel stupid about that). When the vet did x-rays on her legs, she was surprised at the very minimal amount of arthritis she had for a 14-going-on-15 y/o horse who had done quite a bit of activity in her lifetime (from dressage, to jumping, to almost a year of polo and ranchwork, and who-know-what-else before I got her).
  4. She has awesome feet. She was able to keep on working the day her shoes were pulled, no transition time needed. And she has yet to have a hoof-related lameness *knock on wood*. The looks on people's faces when they would see us galloping on a rocky road without a hitch.
  5. She has good breeding. None of her siblings (that I know of) have shown any major health or lameness issues, and her sire is still a Grand Prix schoolmaster at age 23 in regular work. Bothersome, but I do not know anything about her dam beyond her registered name, who owned her dam at the time of the breeding , and the dam's breeding. But her grandsire, an Appendix QH named Azure Request, has had many offspring very successful in the racing world and who are sound enough to race for many years and then transition into other intensive sports like eventing. Not bad.
  6. She has an awesome walk and canter. Always at least a 7, usually an 8, the few times we have shown or ridden in front of judges and clinicians, and she scored high on them on her inspection papers. I will admit her trot is nothing spectacular, but it can become nice with some elbow grease, and she shows the same ability when she's feeling really special out in the pasture. Can she trot like Ravel? No. And I'm glad because I couldn't sit that. But she can get some nice loft and elevation and suspension and impulsion in it.
  7. She's got a great shoulder and a pretty decent build. She has some conformational issues as far as her back legs go, and that did contribute somewhat to her suspensory strain, so that is something that worries me as far passing on.
And here are my conflicts with the whole thing:
  1. There are so many horses out there. Granted, not all of them are nice, and certainly not all of them are what I am looking for (which, deep down inside, I realize is another Greta haha) and they are certainly not in my budget nor ever will be unless I get a very well-paying job (and who knows whether or not I will).
  2. If I breed her relatively soon after I graduate, then I should have enough money to cover stud fees and basic vet fees. This will also leave me enough time to have enough money to put a solid under-saddle start on the baby once it is 3 or 4, if all goes well. But here's the big what if: what if all doesn't go well? Pregnancy or labor complications (I would never forgive myself if I lost Greta or the baby or both) at the very least would throw the whole budget thing out the window. If the baby ends up with a defect, it would be my complete responsibility for the rest of it's life, and once again, if that defect(s) entails maintenance medical expenses, then the whole budget thing is once again thrown out the window. Not to mention personal things: what if the economy takes another lovely spin and I lose my job or can't find one? What if something happens to me and I cannot put basic work on a yearling? What if I hit a major unseen financial expense that I will not easily recover from? Those among so many other problems have always kind of scared me away from the whole pregnancy thing (and not just for horses) and I know it's all one big what-if no matter how you spin, but how many risks would I be willing to take? By the time I am old enough and in stable enough work, Greta might be too old to be bred.
  3. Finally, is Greta really nice enough to breed? Or am I just so endeared by her that I am perhaps a bit conceited?
Opinions? Be honest. I will get professional opinions, but seeing as it is a big plan, I like to get as many opinions as possible.

EDIT: Another reason for breeding is the ability to be able to start from scratch. Having worked with so many rescue and owner-to-owner horses, it begins to wear on you having to fix all these problems, some of which you just have to live with, and could have been totally preventable if people knew how to raise a horse! The good thing is that I can also do that with any super young prospect, and they're usually cheaper that way than buying them after they're trained. Still the same amount of risks as far as injury at a young age, etc. goes, but I don't risk the chance of anything happening to Greta.

AND I won't be doing ANYTHING as far as breeding until I'm at least fresh out of college. People tell me that now is time since I won't have a whole bunch of time for 4 years so the baby can grow, BUT... who has money like that in college? I don't and I'd rather my parents be funding education than a baby. Decisions, decisions!


  1. She DOES have decent enough conformation to be bred, in my opinion. Her legs aren't the BEST- but I'm assuming you would match her with a stallion that could possibly improve her weaknesses.
    However, I usually try to discourage people from breeding... it's a long, hard and risky idea- not to mention frightfully expensive. And at the end of that- what if the foal isn't what you wanted it to be?

    I do think she's nice enough to be bred- but it's more about if YOU can handle the financial difficulties and months of stress and worry.

    1. She is more straight in the stifles than what one would like to see yes, and as for the thicker underside, this was from when I was still retraining her to use the TOP muscles of her neck haha (polo days gave her a killer underside of her neck from holding her head up and being so hollow!) But her neck and throatlatch could definitely be more defined.

  2. Really, it's up to you. I think one reason people decide to breed their own mares is because they want a piece of this mare to keep and also they can't afford the quality of horse that they could produce. All the horses I seem to like are $10,000+ so I know I couldn't ever get one of those! Personally, I don't think there's any conformational flaws in Greta that should stop you. In the first photo she looks rather straight through the stifle, which I don't like, but she looks fine in the second photo, so I think she's just set up a little awkwardly. The only thing I might change is for her to have a trimmer neck as its a bit heavy on the underside, but other than that it looks like she has a nice shoulder, strong back and loin, good legs, etc. Of course as you pointed out, you would need to be prepared for the chance that you may lose Greta and/or her foal. Not saying it *will* happen, but it's a possibility. She's getting a bit older for having a first(?) foal, so if you want to breed, now would be the time. And of course you need to breed for the kind of horse you'll want to keep forever - you might not get a grand prix horse, but it should be something that you will enjoy riding. Ultimately you and your vet should decide!

  3. Girl you just opened the can of worms. The responses I got when I asked if I should breed my mare hurt so bad they made me nearly stop blogging altogether. A total stranger who don't know you or the horse can give you an outsider's opinion, but that's ALL that it is - an outsider's opinion. Take it with a grain of salt, and put your tough skin on.

    1. Y'know, I was just thinking about that after I posted this. Oh well, oops. What can I say? The horse world has many opinions and none of them ever match up or make anybody but their holder happy ;)

    2. Yup..... ask your friends, ask your vet, ask professionals you respect.... don't ask the nameless idiotic faces on the internet. People can be so horrible and mean from behind a computer screen.

    3. BTW Andrea: I do value your opinion, so what do YOU think?

    4. I think you've thought it well through in terms of looking at both sides of things. You understand that the baby might come out crooked and warped and be completely useless for 30+ years. You understand that baby and mare might die in the process. You understand that Greta's conformational issues and subsequent soundness issues might be passed onto baby. You understand that you are bringing a life into this world, and you are responsible for it and whatever genetic issues/pain it might have as a result of your choosing. You understand that that baby might hit the ground from moment one and have something wrong with it that costs you $25k in vet bills before it is a month old. You also understand that ANY horse you buy could potentially have ANY of these same issues and scenarios happen. You understand this mare's weaknesses, and therefore are prepared for what baby's future might hold. You understand that, unlike buying a horse, you will have total control over exactly what that baby eats and how it grows up from day 1, and therefore can maximize its potential and give it the best start.

      I chose not to breed Gogo because she didn't ever heal from her hind end injury. As far as anyone could tell, it wasn't related in any way to conformation, just eternally bad luck. But how could I take that chance? I miss her every day, and I hurt all over wishing that I could have a foal from her here with me now, but I know in my heart that I could never, ever have had a precious little gem of a foal from her, raised it up, gotten to the same point that I got to with Gogo, and then had it break down too. It was bad luck, for sure, but maybe it was genetics too. I would have never forgiven myself if that scenario would have played out. She's gone now, and I 'd give anything to have a bit of her to carry on with now... but I know somewhere deep in the rational part of my brain that that would have been the wrong thing to do.

      Everything starts with the mare... anything the stallion adds is just gravy on top. Lots to think about, and you have a sme time to consider. Just remember that older maiden mares are notoriously difficult to get (and keep) in foal, and labors are harder the older you get.

  4. honestly. can I be honest? I dont want to upset you...

    1. Go nuts, Monica. And if I don't like, well, I'm sure I've had worse things said to me. Don't let the pink blog fool you.

  5. Depends what you want. Do you want a piece of her to have forever? Make a horse hair bracelet.
    Do you feel she would make a filly or colt that could be something and you can assure it will have a forever home, whether with you or someone else? Then think about it. What you have to also think about is the what ifs. What if the baby is injured as a yearling, 2 or 3 year old and is rendered useless. Will you be happy supporting a horse you can't ride for 20+ years?

    There really are SO many horses out there. So many, everywhere. Nice ones. I think if you have a farm, have the room and can do it financially then you are better off, then if you are in a boarding situation or worried about finances.

    1. YES to the horse hair bracelet thing. People are very rarely like their parents, but we somehow expect animals to produce offspring just like themselves. Greta is very pretty and talented, and I'm sure you'd choose a great sire for her, but there's no guarantee the baby won't come out ugly, mean, or defective.

  6. I'm not sure if you read or follow this blog:

    But she bred her pretty mare to Gatsby last year and up until a month or so, everything was going swimmingly. The situation is still a bit touch and go, but after following along since way before she ever decided to breed her mare and seeing how much she was prepared for all aspects, it was quite tragic to see how the end of the pregnancy and the delivery unfolded. Obviously, you understand the risks etc, but seeing how many happy healthy foals are born each year makes you sometimes forget that even horses in the best of care can have trouble with breeding.

    I hope you don't find it odd that I would send you to read this doom and gloom story... I just thought you might appreciate the journey this young girl took with her beloved mare (who has a very, very special history) and her new foal.

    ps. My two cents? I think you'd have a blast with a youngster -- you're a great rider!

  7. Your mare is lovely, for sure, and I understand wanting to have a piece of her -- that was one of my reasons for breeding. But, I recently bred a very lovely mare myself, and I ended up with a filly who was very nice but not exactly what I wanted. I also spent twice as much as I would have if I had just gone out and bought a beautiful yearling that had everything I was looking for (I paid for stud fees three times to get the mare pregnant, even though she never had a problem taking before, paid to clear up a uterine infection, paid for board and vet care for the mare, paid for board for mare and foal for 6 months, paid for board and vet care for the perfectly healthy filly for a year, and it added up to about $25,000). My point is that no matter what you budget for, you'll end up spending more. I'd have to say that experience has taught me to leave breeding up to the experts, who have years and years of breeding experience and know what will produce a really spectacular horse. My advice, for what it's worth, is to save your pennies and buy a yearling that's already on the ground. If you want to have a link to Greta, search out a youngster from the same lines as her. That way you still get to start from scratch, but you know what you're getting and all the big unknows of bringing a foal into the world are behind you. Of course, I also LOVE babies and will thoroughly enjoy following along if you choose to throw caution to the wind and breed her. :)

  8. If you were going to breed Greta, who would you send her to? Research the HELL out of the stallion! Contact people who own his offspring, because lets face it, not every stallion owner is going to give you the complete truth: "Well, he does pass on his aggression and rearing at every stimulus, but we don't talk about that!" Ask around!
    Greta is in great shape, has a sound body and mind, and is your schnoogywoogins.
    That being said, go for it. She isn't getting any younger, if you decide to breed, do it soon. That foal would be adorable. But then, what foal ISN'T?

  9. Honestly? Don't breed... for all the reasons you listed. She is a great horse that you care a lot about. Breeding, birthing, and raising a foal are hard on a mare and can end in death for her or the foal in SO many ways. There are SO many mares already in foal (with quality foals)whose owners don't plan on keeping the babies. If you want a foal, I'd find one of those and lease her until the baby is weaned. You can also buy in-utero foals, which ends up being cheaper than doing the breeding yourself. I'm not even getting into the 'too many horses' argument because I don't think that nobody should ever breed... but having worked in the breeding industry and having seen the heart ache when something doesn't go as planned, I would NOT wish it on anyone who loves their mare. I'm not knocking you or your mare, but I'd hate to see you go through what I've seen some fellow bloggers go through recently. (Do you watch A Process of Learning? She nearly lost her mare AND foal this month, and she had a plan every step of the way and DEFINITELY loves her horse.)


Comments are greatly appreciated and, most importantly, Greta loves you for commenting ♥

Thanks guys!