Horse Breeding, Stallions and Raising Foals

by grokHorses on November 1, 2011

Horse Rescue Mare and Foal

Image Credit: After the Finish Line Racehorse Rescue

November is traditionally the month when horse lovers get serious about choosing a stallion for their mares or finding mares to promote stallions.

As the time of year has arrived when people start planning matings for their horses, I feel compelled to write about why I no longer breed horses.


From 1978 through about 2000 I bred Thoroughbred horses.  Although I kept the last three best fillies from my last foal crop, today they are eleven going on twelve and have never been bred.

The outcome of breeding horses is simply too sad.

Few outside the horse industry and most inside it do not realize how many hundreds or thousands of horses that are completely sound and healthy are sent to untimely deaths each year because there are simply too many of them and few who can afford to take them in.

It is NOT true that only unsound, old horses are sent to killer plants. Young, healthy registered horses and pregnant mares are routinely auctioned off to killer buyers.

Last year 137,984 horses were exported from the U.S.
to killer plants in Mexico and Canada in 2010.

According to the USDA in 2006, 92% of American horses
being slaughtered at US plants were in good health.
Rarely are these horses are sick or injured.

Tom Pogacnik, director of the BLM‘s $16-million-a-year
Wild Horse and Burro Program
, conceded that
about 90% of the horses rounded up go to slaughter.

John Hettinger, owner of Fasig Tipton (the second largest Thoroughbred Auction House),
Chairman of the Grayson Jockey Club Foundation, member of the Board of Directors of
The Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation and NY Racing Association Trustee states that
between 7,000 to 9,000 Thoroughbred
racehorses are slaughtered every year.
[I consider that estimate very low as it probably does not include
Thoroughbreds sent home or sold and then later killed or
Quarter Horses, Arabians or paints that also race.]

Thanks to the severe drought in Texas, last month horse prices fell to a low that surprised even me.  At a local sale, horses were selling for less than $20 each – not even enough to pay for the cost of selling them. People are actually having to pay to send their horses to almost certain death.

Of the 300+ horses sold through just that one Texas sale each month
almost all of them are shipped to Mexico for slaughter.

Many of the rest may be purchased by horse traders, but if they don’t sell them privately they will end up back at the sale and shipping to Mexico, too.

I know there is nothing like foaling and raising your own special foal out of your favorite mare and I am not suggesting no one should ever breed a horse again. What I do hope people realize is that the perceived value of horses is not what most people believe it is.

Most horses cost more to raise than they are worth
if they were sold at every stage of their lives.

Raising horses to sell them as a business
is not financially viable for most breeders.

Knowing this could cause many people to re-evaluate how many mares they breed and others to consider buying (or even adopting) horses that are already alive today.

The horses that sell for large amounts do so because they are campaigned – and campaigning almost always costs more money than the increase in the value of the horse. So while it may seem impressive when a horse sells for $30,000 that may represent $60,000+ in entry fees, day rates, transportation costs and time invested so there really is no profit in MOST horse sales.

If you are going to breed, think quality instead of quantity. Consider focusing on one excellent foal that you can invest all your time and money in instead of many foals that might be great, but will spread you and your finances too thin. For many reasons, the cost of hay and grains are going to keep going up.


There is a HUGE surplus of horses that need homes and no practical solutions to where they can all go – and that does not even consider the impact of recent droughts and economic hardships that will result in many people who have been able to afford to feed horses being unable to today or tomorrow.

The truth is we need to greatly reduce the number of horses bred.

Horses can live 25-30+ years, so think about their future and only breed as many horses as you know will have good homes indefinitely. Anyone who breeds horses they only use for a year or two needs to work with someone who retrains them for another purpose instead of dropping them into an auction.

One very interesting trend in the horse business is for people to pay more to rescue a horse through a non-profit than the same horse would ever sell for in a normal sale. For those who can afford to care for them, horses have never been less expensive in my lifetime so now would be a good time to act on your long held dream of horse ownership – but only if you feel you will be able to afford one if feed and hay continue to become more expensive.

If you have horses you need homes for or would like to buy or adopt a horse feel free to leave related links and information in the comments of this post. New homes are one of the very best alternatives to horse slaughter.




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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

ray November 2, 2011 at 12:56 pm

horse breeding really is a problem that needs to be nipped early on…these are living creatures whom surely have the misfortune to feel the pain us humans levy upon them…..


edmond0925 November 7, 2011 at 10:38 pm

Great post! I’ve recently bought a pair of Hanoverian horses. I’m glad I was able to save them from this plants!


Alex November 11, 2011 at 3:07 am

Twitter: @jiksaw213

I am planning to breed my 9 year old mare this spring. (either may or june) This is my first time being in charge of everything that has to be done in order to achieve this, and I’m not completely sure of everything I have to do. If someone experienced could give me a checklist of things I need to get done between now and when I want to have her bred, that would be great!. Let me know if you need any additional info. Thank you so much!. . . Also, does anyone have some good home remedies (or cheap ones) for horse supplements? I have never had trouble keeping weight on my mare before, (actually I have had the opposite problem) but this winter she has been losing a lot of weight. I am currently feeding her about 4 cups of sweet feed, 2 cups of pellets, and about 1 1/2 flakes of hay twice a day. She has about 2 acres of pasture, but of course the grass doesn’t hold much nutrition right now.. Again, any help will be greatly appreciated!. Thanks you guys!. God Bless. She is very laid-back, and I am planning to take her to my uncle’s facility, which is about 15 minutes from my house. . Thanks for all of the answers so far, and thanks in advance for any others!.


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