As the foal crop of 2020 emerges into the world, breeders are left in a difficult position with many questions on their minds about the future. Breeders are asking themselves ‘Can I afford to run on my animals that make up my breeding herd until demand picks up? How many mares should I put in foal while the future market is uncertain?’
Regardless of whether your business plan is to sell all your stock as foals, or run them on till they are under saddle, the affects of an economic downturn will be felt across all sectors of the breeding industry. Of more immediate impact is the availability of semen, access to veterinary services and the ability to transport mares. At present semen coming in as freight from mainland Europe is unaffected, and many large studs and stallion centres in the UK are also able to have in place the protocols needed to continue to collect and ship. These centres may also able to take in mares for foaling, to scan and inseminate.
The terrible situation the world finds itself in should also be a time for all breeders, large or small, to look at their reasons for breeding. It costs just as much money to breed a bad horse as a good one, and it is hoped we don’t see inexperienced breeders choosing to put a mare in foal as they have no other job for her, when the mare is not a good candidate.
If you are wanting to breed for dressage, as a basis you are looking for an athlete with powerful yet elastic movement and sufficient correctness to ensure they can stay sound to do the job. Then limbs are the foundation of the horse so they are important too. The same can be said for the jumpers, replacing the elastic movement with scope and jumping technique. And eventers cannot loose the bravery and ability to cover the ground. For all of these disciplines soundness combined with ability and a trainable temperament are fundamental aims of any breeder.
If the mare is a good enough candidate then the job of choosing the right stallion begins. Stallion grading is a benchmark for young unproven stallions to help mare owners make decisions over suitability. An older stallion that is proven in sport has shown he can cope with the stresses of travel, training and of course competing. Hopefully he will also stock on the ground so the mare owner can assess his merit as a producer. A mare or stallion with a bad temperament should never be used for breeding.
There is little advantage to be gained by using a cheaper, ungraded stallion when the stud fee is only a small part of the cost of getting a healthy foal on the floor. Even if a breeder wishes to only produce a single foal for their own use and enjoyment, the future uncertainty we all face from the global pandemic means every breeding needs to be a measured and thoughtful decision. Every foal born must be bred with soundness, ridability and ability in mind, so there is a market for that foal in a worse case scenario.
We wish all breeders the best and look forward to hearing about both this year’s and future foal crops.