Small-Scale Success: Responsible Boutique Horse Breeders

Owners and veterinarians involved with two small-scale horse breeding operations share their secrets to success.

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Small-Scale Success: Responsible Boutique Horse Breeders
Some small-scale breeders are raising foals for their own performance program because breeding a mare and raising her foal offers an opportunity to replicate a prized competitive partner's traits. | Photo: iStock

Boutique breeders who are leading by example

The phrase “backyard breeder” often carries a negative connotation. Horsemen originally coined the expression to describe the informal breeding practices that were standard decades ago. One horse owner had a mare, and maybe the neighbor had a stallion. They bred the two and produced a foal with no set plan or purpose for that horse.

Over time, the phrase evolved to inaccurately encompass small-scale breeders that only breed a handful of mares each year. In actuality, many of these breeders have some of the most sophisticated programs because they focus on quality over quantity. Their breedings are planned events, with the resulting foals meeting an industry need.

RELATED CONTENT: So, You Want to Breed Your Mare! (Podcast)

Today’s economic conditions make horse ownership more difficult than it once was, curbing some of the lax breeding practices of the past. San Antonio, Texas-based equine reproduction specialist Benjamin Espy, DVM, Dipl. ACT, estimates that it costs between $15,000 and $20,000 to breed and raise a foal to performance age. That includes breeding fees and veterinarian, farrier, feed, and training expenses. When individuals new to breeding ask for his guidance, he encourages them to consider whether the resulting foal will be worth their investment

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Written by:

Katie Navarra has worked as a freelance writer since 2001. A lifelong horse lover, she owns and enjoys competing a dun Quarter Horse mare.

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