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Etiquette for Asking for an Education?

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  • Etiquette for Asking for an Education?

    I'm very tentatively considering breeding my mare, with the goal of producing a riding horse for myself. If the baby comes out even half as great of a horse as I consider my mare to be, I'll be thrilled. I am, however, inexperienced, and I don't want to have a foal born and be totally clueless. I'm doing a lot of reading, but I understand that by-the-book isn't always how nature works. I'd love to ask a farm near me, if I can find one, if they need an extra set of hands during foaling season, knowing that I'm seasoned with horses but NOT with foaling.

    Is this a 'you'd be hugely in the way and it'd be a big ask of any farm' sort of thing? Should I offer to pay for the education, and if so, what would be a reasonable amount to offer? The Equine Reproduction Center in VA is not too far from me, but their mare management course seems to be centered around the "before the foal is born" stuff (which, while definitely valuable, I think is not the weakest point in my education) ( Has anyone done that and had any opinions on it?

    Any/all recommendations/tips/etc are welcome - I'm not going to breed her THEN figure out how to deal with it, but she's on the older side so I'd definitely like to learn sooner rather than later. Also, any farms near Hagerstown, MD who want a newbie who's great at following directions around while they're in foaling season?

  • #2
    Volunteer to be a working student? offer to do grunt work in return for supervised handling of young stock?

    Now what is it you really want to know? The prenatal care is pretty straightforward, your vet can set you up with checkups you will need, and you mostly want to feed the mare enough.

    With the actual foaling, if you don't have a very seasoned mentor on hand, why not send the mare to a breeding farm to foal out? I bet you could pay to do this at any breeding farm in your area, a lower-end tb race stable or a pony farm or anything. I don't think you need to get self-sufficient in foaling out and trouble shooting for just one mare. Also mares usually foal out easily enough but right when no one is looking (like 3 am).

    What you really will need long term is how to halter break and handle a youngster. You want to find a good foal person, probably connected with a breeding barn, and shadow them. But you will only have a foal for say 9 months. Then you will have a coming yearling, then you will have a 2 year old, etc. Your best bet is to send the mare away to foal, then have a good mentor/trainer on call with you to handle and train the baby.

    Honestly I think that if someone is good with horses generally and good with green adult horses or young adult horses, then handling a foal is not *that* hard to figure out. You do less, you do it for shorter, you want to avoid setting up bad manners, you want to keep it somewhere it can run around with a herd but you can also catch it to play with it often (finding that right setup could be a challenge if you don't have your own farm).

    These are things I have thought about, and perhaps finally thought better of


    • #3
      Thank you! Definitely good ideas.

      Originally posted by Scribbler View Post
      Now what is it you really want to know?
      I'd love to get into breeding as a real "thing" - have my business be a boarding/breeding facility and breed for my own sales. Probably just a pipe dream, but I'd love to get the experience of my own if it's a possibility.


      • #4
        Originally posted by redbirdfarm View Post
        Thank you! Definitely good ideas.

        I'd love to get into breeding as a real "thing" - have my business be a boarding/breeding facility and breed for my own sales. Probably just a pipe dream, but I'd love to get the experience of my own if it's a possibility.
        Well, I'd start with just one foal. See how that goes.

        Also, the biggest thing in starting a breeding business isn't skill in foaling out. You can hire someone to take care of that if you don't have the technical skills. The biggest thing is going to be market research.

        Is there a market for your breed of choice? Do you have nice enough mares and can you afford the stud fees for a good stallion? Who do you think will buy your horses? How much can you sell them for, and will this business just be a money loser year after year?

        There are no end of nice enough horses from backyard breeders that fall through the cracks and end up going cheap as unbroken adult horses. There are no end of nice enough horses going to meat auction from professional breeders who purposely overbreed and dump (a problem in QH world). and no end of very nice horses ending up in terrible hoarding situations from niche breeders who couldn't quite keep the plot together (specifically Arabs and Andalusians, for whatever reason). And there are no end of nice enough horses coming off the OTTB and STTB racetracks in need of rehoming. A TB race trainer once told me that it cost $35,000 to get to the point of seeing whether that 2 year old could run, and then of course if it can't, that's a freebie picked up by a jumper trainer with a good eye. In other words, there are so many surplus horses out there that your breeding program needs to really have a niche, either something still rare like Icelandics or Fjords, or super high end Grand Prix warmbloods, something that people want and will pay for.

        So do the business model and pick your breed first.

        And you probably need to be "inside" the breed or sport you are breeding for too.


        • #5
          Our vet hires people to do foal watch at night. Everyone starts somewhere in learning - people aren't born experts in birthing and raising foals! Good luck.


          • #6
            Are you anywhere near Hilltop Farm? Maybe offer to volunteer. Or they might know a farm.
            I LOVE my Chickens!


            • #7
              If you're not far from ERC you're not far from me. I do 1-2 foals a year - none for 2020 but I have a suckling and a yearling on the farm and the mare. I'd be happy to have you do some working student stuff over here and I can walk you through everything from plannng to breeding to the waiting time to talking about birthing (though everyone's right - there are foaling centers including here (and including of course ERC.) And we can go thru first day, first week, first month etc. and do some real hands on stuff that will get you up to speed.
              20 years ago when I started the breeding odyssey, I did just the same as you - asked everybody I know, helped out, read, studied, watched, assisted, then .... 20-some foals later, I've got the basics down!
              * -- Virginia hunt country's best Bed-and-Breakfast-and-Barn.