When you think of peace, what do you picture? For me (and maybe for you, too!), it is a field of mares and foals, grazing in the fading light. Dewy muzzles, swishing tails, and long, gangly legs splayed out in the grass. Living in the heart of the Kentucky Bluegrass, I see this idyllic scene almost every day in the spring and summer while driving to and from work.
Or, at least, it sure seems peaceful from the outside. Having ventured into the breeding side of the industry myself within
the last few years, I can tell you that it’s not all tiny baby hooves and roses. Having those little bundles of joy around is a big emotional roller coaster, with some very high highs and some very low lows. Breeding is one of the most fulfilling and enjoyable, yet stressful and disappointing, parts of the horse industry I’ve experienced. There is nothing quite like the pride of having your first foal grow up and become successful in their new home—or, on the flip side, the horror of your mare aborting their foal early (or worse). I’ve actually been pretty lucky: in three years, I have had two healthy foals (one colt, one filly) and one that my mare absorbed within the first 60 days. That last was disappointing, for sure, especially because it was too late in the season to rebreed her that year, but at least there was no harm done to my mare. I’ve seen much worse happen to others. Still, those little fuzzy ears and high-pitched whinnies sure seem worth it!
My discipline of choice is reining, and the breeding is a crucial part of that industry. My mare is a granddaughter of both Hollywood Dun It and Smart Chic Olena, two excellent sires in Western performance horses. Her first foal, a filly, is by Reeboks Kid, a foundation-bred stallion. Her second, a colt, is by Guns R For Shootin, an earner of over $100,000 and son of the great Gunner. Both are wonderful little horses in their own right, and I feel like a proud mother bird watching them be successful in their own ways.
The filly, Chloe, was actually sold when she was only two days old. Some very cute pictures posted on social media elicited an “Is this one for sale?” comment, and, just like that, we no longer owned her. Honestly, I wish it were so easy to sell all horses! She is now a two-year-old and is in a great program out in California starting her career as a reiner for the futurities next year. The new owner is great about sending pictures and videos, and I love keeping track of her progress!
The colt, Loki, posed a bit more of a problem for me. While the first breeding was really a test breeding, to see how my mare would produce with a good (but inexpensive) stallion, I spent months pondering the second breeding. I pored over pedigrees, talked with other breeders about their experiences, and eventually settled on Guns R For Shootin. I told myself that this one would be for sale, too, because for goodness sake I can’t afford to keep them all. And then … he was born a colt. A dun colt. With splash. And I fell in love. Then I made the mistake of naming him after my favorite comic-book character.
Loki is pretty much everything I could have hoped for when I decided to venture into the breeding business. He’s correct, handsome, charismatic, and so very friendly! This is a colt that would meet me at the pasture gate in the morning and forsake his mother to follow me around. He is smart and curious, bold and fearless. A yearling now, he pretty much spends his days hanging out in the pasture and roughhousing with the other colts. He’s shaggy from the winter and doesn’t look very special right now, but every time I see him, I can’t help but picture what he could become one day—what I hope he will become one day.
After all, if there’s one thing breeders trade in, it’s dreams. The dream of producing that precious foal; of having him grow up correct and make it into a good program; of him becoming a successful show horse or just a useful equine citizen for the rest of his life. Despite all the trials and tribulations, the sweat and the tears, it is that dream that keeps me—and the industry—moving forward.
Lexie Stovel, a reining athlete and horse breeder, is a US Equestrian customer care representative at our Lexington, Ky., headquarters.
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