It’s spring—that exciting time of year when riders begin checking their show schedules to map out a plan for the season, a season full of goals and dreams they hope they’ll accomplish this year.
And for breeders, it’s the time of year when they’re eagerly anticipating the arrival of the foals they hope will fulfill their own dreams and breeding goals.
Riders can easily determine if they’ve met their goals or achieved their dreams at the end of every season, but breeders usually can’t do that every year. For them, the end of the year may only bring more questions:
“What are my dreams?” “What kind of goals should I have?”
Right now, the people who breed horses are thinking about which stallions to pick for their mares (as they seek to find that magic formula), and all are chock full of excited anticipation as their foals begin to hit the ground. Their curiosity to see if their projections from last year came true is almost overwhelming.
But breeding horses is full of its unexpected downfalls, like the disappointment (and expense) that comes with stillborn foals, crooked legs, contracted tendons or infections. The breeders’ road is an extremely emotional one: You get the highs; you get the lows. It’s a very, very long process in producing foals and becoming a breeder.
We hear it over and over again—how expensive it is to be a breeder with all of the hardships and all of the emotional upheavals. Many times breeders go through this and get disappointed. Sometimes these setbacks even cause them to give up on breeding.
That’s why we must recognize how difficult and emotional a task it is to be a horse breeder. The undertaking brings the utmost of highs, when you see this new life coming into the world. You are so proud, you become such a believer, and there’s nothing that exceeds that for a real horse breeder. But there are few disappointments deeper than the ones I mentioned a few paragraphs ago.
Those of us who are amateur riders often use horses as a means of escape, as a cherished break from work, a place where we can mentally release ourselves from all kinds of stress and enjoy our relationship with our horses. Horses have the power to pull us back from whatever may be causing our stress.
Professional riders, though, primarily look at horses in terms of the success they can have with them, in a competition ring or in the various other ways horses can promote or represent themselves or their skills.
And the means to accomplish all of these different feelings and motives comes from a single place—the horse that the breeder has created. Without the breeder, all of us who cherish these horses would be lost—we would be left without memories, we couldn’t set or meet our goals, and stress could be controlling us.
That’s why we need to give the people who breed our horses the credit they deserve for producing the memories we cherish, the goals we set, the opportunities we have.
When we look back at all of our years as riders, we remember the feelings we had for our horses, the com-
petitions or rides we had with them, and the relationships with other people we developed through riding horses. Think of it—without horse breeders, none of this would be possible. Still, the incredibly significant role the breeder plays is so often all but overlooked.
It’s so very obvious that without horse breeders we wouldn’t have any horses at all, and that’s why I believe that this is the time of year when we should take a moment and think back on all of the horses we have had, and the memories and successes they’ve given us, and thank those breeders.
For those of us who have horses with registration papers, we can look on the papers to find out who the breeder is. And that makes it pretty easy to contact the breeder by phone, e-mail or good old “snail mail” and tell them how much your horse means to you and the accomplishments you’ve enjoyed with the horse.
I’m a horse breeder, and I can’t even express what it would mean to me to receive such a note or such a call. Most breeders completely lose contact with their horses, and I can promise you that almost all of them would love to hear from the owners or riders of the horses they’ve bred. They’d be ecstatic to suddenly receive in the mail a note about the history of a horse they bred five, eight, 10 or 15 years ago, to hear about the joy and contentment their horse brought to one or more owners.
Since spring is here and the new foals have started galloping around their fields, it’s the perfect time of year to recognize breeders all over the country for their efforts, because it’s an emotional roller coaster they ride, careening between the peaks and the valleys.
We riders must always keep in mind, even if in only a small way, our appreciation of how much the horses they’ve created have meant to us. Breeders and riders are complementary elements of the entire sport, and we each depend on each other.