Some of you know I breed my own show horses to bring along for my own personal use. I recently bred one of my mares and thought I would chronicle the journey with you. I know there are lots of horses out there that need to be adopted. In a younger day, I’ve been there, done that, got the wardrobe and skills to prove it. I am beyond that point in my life right now. I decided if I wanted something competitive that didn’t have a ton of baggage, require re-mortgaging the farm or a physical train wreck that I would just breed my own horses and start them from the ground up.
Not everyone is ready to have a foal. If you have never been around foals, or ridden a barely broke three-year-old off-track Thoroughbred, I highly recommend some hands on mileage. Not raising a foal correctly creates a disastrous situation. This often ends up with a rank 1200 lb. three-year-old getting dumped at an auction because it was cute when he’d rear as a foal, but now he won’t stop and strikes out. This never ends well for the horse, and it’s not the horse’s fault. This is not education you can get from reading books; it is necessary to be hands on to observe and understand how foals think and interact as well as to know the limit to their attention span.
This sweet, sweet girl came to me the first week of May 2014 from some very good friends. She wasn’t quite going to make it to the big equitation before her junior rider aged out. I love mares, and had been hearing about her quirks for a while. Sight unseen, I just felt I had a connection with her. Several conversations transpired and one morning I met them half way and brought her home. She’s a beautiful bay Oldenburg mare, with a kind eye, a sharp brain and loyal temperament. Standing about 15.2, to ride her feels like you’re on a 17 hand horse. Huge powerful stride.
Secret is the name she came with, and she has many. I tried to find other names that suited her, but Secret really does suit her. She had several owners in a very short period of time, several nasty old scars along the upper insides of her back legs and across her stomach. She was super quirky about narrow doorways and getting off horse trailers, you couldn’t get near her left ear, and she had major trust issues.
My attempt to locate the incident surrounding the scars was fruitless. Most of her prior owners either wouldn’t talk to me or shrugged it off, saying “She didn’t have that when she was with me.” A few were very nice, but most had moved on and couldn’t be bothered, which I found a bit disappointing.
Riding on the flat in the arena she can be tough: a little spooky but not awful, lacks confidence in herself and has a very hard mouth. Once you start adding jumps the quirks really come out. She never says no, but obviously has some issues. Mind you, this only happens in the riding ring. I discovered she enjoys fox hunting. loves to trot or gallop the jumps, brave and perfectly happy to stand quietly at the check when hounds are re cast. Just something about being jumped in a ring seems to set her off. At the show grounds, walking her to the schooling ring, she breaks out into a cold sweat and crippling anxiety takes over.
She’s a lovely mover with a fabulous jump, I tried for about 18 months in the hunters with her mostly just hack classes, a few divisions toward the end. I am not big on lunging to death, I don’t medicate, and in the end I took a step back and just re-evaluated the situation and decided I was trying to wedge a round peg into a square hole. A lot of people would have dumped her on to someone else. But I made a commitment after seeing how many owners she had in her short life that this was the last stop for her. It took me well over a year for me to gain her trust and I simply couldn’t abandon her on someone else.
So, I gave her a few months off for the winter, and started taking her to hunter paces the following spring, that fall we did our first fox hunt. She LOVES being out of the ring. She rides out alone or in company and nothing bothers her, hounds run under foot, deer & turkey shoot out across the trail. Nothing bothers her … well except the pigs at The Biltmore House — I’m with her on that one.
You may ask yourself why on EARTH would I want to breed this quirky mare. I’ll tell you why, her issues under saddle are ALL man made. Seven owners in four years with training in four different disciplines left her fried. It happens, it’s not any one persons fault there are times when I’m tempted to call an animal communicator to see where I can find common ground, maybe someday I will. But for now, she can just be a horse.
I chose the Hanoverian stallion Don Principe for Secret for a few reasons. He’s got an uphill build to complement her slightly downhill build. He is a bit taller, to hopefully add to her height. His foals are correct, move well and are very kind. Prince has a lovely sensible brain that he passes on to his foals. Although he is mostly well known as a dressage sire, he also has some successful hunters on the ground as well.
Another big reason I chose Prince is that I know him personally. In addition to all the talk about considering athleticism, movement and conformation when breeding, a huge one for me is temperament. You can have a 10 jumping, freak moving, national winning horse, but if it’s temperament is a 0, or it can’t take an amateur mistake, I don’t want it. Prince is kind, his eye is thoughtful and inquisitive, and he is sensible. these are all traits I like to see in stallion that I am considering using to create an amateur friendly foal.
To me he is the whole package, and I believe crossed with Secret is going to create an athletic, competitive, loyal and kind partner.
I got lucky this year and she settled on the first cycle, we are currently 60 days in, and she is a bit confused as to why she is just hanging out with my two seniors — but not enough to complain about it!
I think the first 60 days after breeding are the most nerve wracking, so much can happen between ultra sounds. Once you pass the 60 day mark, I like to think you can breathe a little bit easier.
Our ultra sound from last week, the baby was on it’s side which didn’t result in a great image worth posting. But hopefully next month we can get a good shot of the embryo that I can share with you.