An H&C viewer wrote to us with a question on breeding from her mare:
"I have two horses who can’t be sold on due to various factors such as temperament, age and lack of market. I've recently had twins and bought ponies to break for them, but I’m only just getting back onto the horse scene. I can’t show either of my two horses as one has proud flesh to the heel and the other is mediocre and old. I’d like a really nice foal out of my own mare (a full Thoroughbred with fantastic paces who was jumping 4'3 before being injured) so it will be ready for the ring by the time the kids are off the lead-rein. I have been told to get an Irish Draught stallion, but the cross just doesn’t seem 'quality enough' for what I seek. It has to be the best I can produce since it will be my only horse. If it’s a colt, I'd like to keep him entire too. I’m looking at Dutch warmbloods and Thoroughbreds, but I have no idea with all the breeding side, I’m so confused. The warmblood gradings and papers have me cross-eyed, I have no idea what to look for in conformation, and my brain simply shut down when I saw all these reports of genetic predispositions to ailments and diseases like navicular. Please help, I have no idea what I’m doing!"
Jan Rogers, Head of Equine Development at the BEF, replies:
Thank you for your question about breeding an eventer and a horse for your children to ride from your Thoroughbred mare. There is a lot to be said for responsible breeding, so it is a good thing that you are asking for more information first. If we keep to three key points, this might help you to fine tune your decision.
Have an expert (not a friend) assess her conformation and point out her strong points and the points that could be improved on. Is her temperament good enough? Can you catch, lead, tie, clip, ride and travel her? If you can’t, you will have a lot of problems teaching her foal! If she has a pedigree which contains relatives who have achieved sporting success - great, if you don’t know her pedigree, take great care. If your mare has a performance record in her own right and/or has passed a mare grading, all the better. If you type “mare grading” into a search engine, you will find a lot of information that is well written and easy to understand.
It is possible to get a mare in foal “cheaply” but why would you wish to do that? If you select stallions on the basis of a “cheap” stud fee, the chances are that your choice of sire may not be graded (licensed) for breeding.
Although there may be some good stallions that are not graded, it is safe to say that most of the top producers of sport horse offspring, and those who have the potential to improve on the mare, will have been graded or have a performance record themselves, probably both.
If you want a pedigree passport for your foal (and again, why would you want to breed a foal without a pedigree?), you will need to use a sire who is licensed for breeding in order to obtain a covering certificate for your mare which will make the foal eligible for registration/passporting with that studbook. You are limiting the potential and value of any foal you breed if it isn’t able to obtain a passport with pedigree. Visit the websites of studbooks which are licensed by Defra to improve the breeding of event horses, you will find a lot of information to help you.
Look at the progeny they have produced from mares like your own - know and understand your own mare’s pedigree inside out - and take your time choosing, half of the fun is in the research! British Breeding/BEF Futurity assesses nearly 900 young horses every year and the scores for those horses, including rankings for the stallions that sired them is easy to view at www.britishbreeding.org. Event horse sire rankings are also at British Eventing so spend lots of evenings reading – it will pay off!
There are other options to consider. Could it be better to buy a well-bred, well produced young horse from a reputable breeder, which can be a more cost effective way to achieve your goal in the long run?
There is such a lot to think about, please take your time and don’t assume that because you have a mare, you have to breed.