What is a Breeder
Being a breeder is no joke, not for the faint of heart, not an ego trip, not a way to make a living and not an endeavor to be taken lightly. A breeder that has fully digested (think broadly) their responsibility to the horse and the breed, should exhibit the behavioral characteristics they wish others to emulate by demonstrating the utmost integrity, ethics and respect to the horse, as well as the future of the breed on the whole (which includes the arabian community - buyers, sellers, owners, trainers, newcomers, youngsters, etc.) - they should plan to follow the guidelines set forth in the Articles of Incorporation of the AHA. This means that in all of our dealings with others in the community, we live up to our word, we take respnsibility for our actions, i.e. if one buys a horse on a term contract, then one MUST pay for the horse as agreed; if one sells a horse on a term contract, then one MUST sell the horse as agreed; if one leases a horse on a contract, then one MUST fulfill the lease obligations as agreed; if one agrees to takes a sales horse to a vet check, it MUST be the actual horse being considered by the buyer for purchase from the seller as agreed. Appropriately defining the terms and conditions in detail in the contract is critical, but even when it seems perfect, problems can arise if the character or motives of either party is questionable. The breeder MUST step up to the plate when they make mistakes and one of their horses falls into the wrong hands even if it is years into the future. That means if they know a horse they've sold is being neglected or abused by someone (even if it is a stallion), they will take whatever actions are necessary to get that horse out of that situation and into a better one as soon as possible. Here is a personal story from a friend who unknowingly sold a pregnant mare into a home that showed at the Nationals and Scottsdale every year. She was writing on a public forum because people on that forum were recommending some rescue horses go to a gal in Minnesota that no one had ever visited (sadly just 2 years later those rescue horses had to be rescued from her!):
The question is, how do WE know these homes are good homes (with all the good stewardship characteristics outlined in the above posts)?
References are often given as proof a home is a good home. But checking on those references in light of the fact you don't know the person giving the reference, is not, by any stretch of the imagination, enough. How credible is a reference from a stranger - how much weight do you put in their words? Do they see the care of the horses on a regular basis, or only during the bountiful summer months were ample pasture is provided or during annual vet visits? Are all horses doing well, or are there a couple that are not thriving? There have beenposters (on this forum in other threads) posting in support of a person or persons who have been accused of starving or neglecting their horses, yet they themselves, starve and neglect their own. but do the readers of this forum know that? Have they ever visited these posters and their farm? For anyone to vouch for a person's ability or willingness to care for horses properly whom they met on the forum, or through email or phone conversations, to be a good home is misleading, at best. I speak from experience.
Of course the opposite is true too - I myself was accused as starving a mare I sold to another breeder. Here is my mare's story:
A while ago, I was visiting a long time (40+ years) breeding farm who have had show success with champions at Scottsdale, Regionals, Class A's, etc. whom I sold an older broodmare to (who had since passed on due to alleged heart failure) quite a few years earlier (after checking their references including their vet, and trainer - all of whom assured me this was a good home). And at the time, it may have been. But things change and sometimes they change very quickly. The mare was in excellent condition when she left my farm in late May or early June, due to foal in August. This particular mare lactated like a jersey, so needed preventive measures taken prior to foaling and earlier weaning (3 months max.) in order for her to maintain good condition. The mare left my farm with proper care instructions given her new owners, IN WRITING, with emphatic verbal cautions on how to feed properly and wean early attending to her special needs (because I loved my mare - truly loved her) with their emphatic promise in return to provide for her as I had instructed (I actually believed they meant it and would live up to it). My visit was in late winter and it was bone chilling cold. The conditions on the farm were a bit too crowded with a variety of horses/ages in each of the 6 or 7 paddocks. The juvenile horses were light on weight (50-75 pounds under) at the time. Each paddock had run-in shelter and all the horses were fed large round bales of grass hay and twice daily tub fed rations of grain within the paddocks. It was easy to see why the youngsters were a bit thin because the alpha horses were a bit too heavy. At first blush, I felt the horses could be managed better and their numbers should be reduced, but felt no one was in mortal danger. While we were walking around the farm looking at the horses, the owners told me their story about how they were trying to sell half of the herd, but hadn't had any "luck" (unreasonable prices for average stock usually won't meet "luck"). After our tour, we went inside watching videos of horses these breeders were wanting to breed to or buy. They began to show me photos of a mare that they "rescued" saying the photos were after they got her and she had actually put on weight since coming to their farm. I can only imagine they showed me the photos because I took an interest in themare's filly. What I saw in those photos was a rack of bones, a gentle face with little hope on it THAT WAS MY MARE!! My mare died of organ failure that was likely a direct result of her starvation within 9 months of leaving my care - they did not follow my feeding instructions, they did not wean early - she had a 7 month old foal at side when she died, they did not afford her the care she needed to survive in spite of references, in spite of promises. It serves no purpose to blame them. Utimately, it was my decision to put my mare in that home - I was her steward and I failed her. There are no words to describe how my heart pains for that decision to this day - if only I could go back. My beautiful, sweet mare needed special care that they could not/would not provide. Rest assured I had words for them, reminding them they bought "that mare" from me (how could they "forget" that?!!). they were reminded of photos of my mare on my website taken two days before she left my farm. Then came the excuses, i.e. I had to have my feet replaced, my husband had a heart transplant, they had to hire caregivers who didn't take care of her, there was not enough room to wean the foal from the mare, etc, - seeming to justify her death somehow Mind you, this was immediately following their "rescue" story! That's pretty convenient, isn't it? It is ALWAYS someone else's fault. During all of this I was ever mindful they had a filly there out of my mare who was now a three year old. In spite of the fact I wanted to slice and dice these longtime "breeders", it would not have helped them or their horses - so I held my tongue. I opted to lecture them about having too many horses, about being realistic on their sales prices, about NOT BREEDING for the future anything and everything I could think of to get them to cut back and find good homes for the horses remaining in their care. And I offered to help - I stayed in contact and managed to acquire the 3 (now 4) year old filly out of my mare in an effort to make right my wrongs as well as utlimately place another young mare through a 3rd party. Unfortunately, this breeder has bred quite a few mares for yet another foal crop. What I find incredibly distasteful and unbelievable is the fact that this longtime breeder has repeated her story of rescuing my mare from me to another breeder who happens to be a friend of mine, who has visited my farm repeatedly over the years during all seasons and at foaling time and who has visited the farm of this longtime breeder seeing for herself the conditions that she describes as far worse than when I had visited.
Think about this: this breeder spent roughly $15,000 on stallion services to Nationally recognized stallions, Breeders Sweepstakes, National Futurities Nominations, etc. with sure results of having even more mouths to feed and horseflesh to provide for. It would have been more cost effective to sell 5 of the horses for $3,000 each rather than holding out for $5,000 - $10,000 each and not selling a single horse whilespending an additional $15,000 to add more mouths. Sometimes, we can spend huge amounts of energy, emotions and funding "helping" breeders such as these to no avail. Our help actually perpetuates the cycle "enabling" the breeder (who is a gambler at heart) to continue their devastation of these poor souls. By my help in removing two of the horses in mid-winter, she saw the incentive she needed to breed two more mares, gambling that she will get the next National Champion in one of those foals and sell it for $2 Million. Gambling with horse breeding (living souls) and the chances of winning BIG has to be the equivalent of buying lottery tickets and winning BIG. Keep in mind, if we produce 10,000 foals per year only a handful per year can be the National Champ (class/age group, etc.) and very few are in the International spotlight garnering multi-million dollar partnerships.
An important point to remember in this tragic story is the majority of their horses "looked" like they were in good body condition. A few of these horses have actually been shown to championships, placed with Internationally recognized, top training barns (within the top five consistently winning) - all signs that supported the conclusion of a good home. They had good references, good intentions, acceptable facilities, made written agreements promising a level of care for the future, but this was the wrong home for my mare . Now, the smallest of details of the potential home are investigated for clues which had not been previously considered, such as an up-to-date website with up-to-date photos, conversations with other sellers that have sold horses to this person (did they pay on the contract as agreed? are you able to keep in touch?), a personal visit to the facility whenever possible (in bad weather to see how the horses are cared for under those conditions too), some type of assessment as to their horsemen's skills, investigation into how many horses they have on the property and of those, how many they actually own, are they registering their foals and if not, why not and what their goals are for the future (how many more horses are you going to add, what is your plan for the horse's future, foals, training, trainers, etc.). If a breeder can't afford to register the foals, they can't afford to breed. If a breeder can't register the foals because they can't pay the contract on the parents, they can't afford to breed. If a breeder relies on the money they'll "make" from the foals to pay for the parents, they can't afford to breed. Non-trainer breeders are not breeding to make money. breeders are breeding for the future, hopefully with preservation of quality in mind. Maybe I've become a bit too cautious, a bit too protective . . . sadly, that seems to turn some buyers off as does my honesty about my horses limitations, faults, disposition or production, but by being honest and investigating the potential home to the smallest detail, I hope the horse will have a home that not only knows exactly what they are getting, but that will care for them with an outpouring of love for the restof their lives. The alternative is, the horse will make their home with me."
Imagine what the arabian community would be like if everyone conducted themselves in such a fashion! Win/Win is the motto, fraud and greed are non-existent and breeders would actively support one another for the good of the whole! Before long, other breed organizations might begin to adopt these practices, emulate this behavior . . . imaginations runs wild, but surely everyone can envision a world where all horses are safe.
There are many breeders, buyers and sellers that are stellar in their dealings, following through on contracts, living up to their word and even some going beyond what is expected, but a few of the many characteristics of a breeder that are objectionable is for the breeder to accumulate a large number (10+) of horses "on terms" from a variety of sellers (another broad definition here) then breed those horses with no plan for the future of those foals other than to "sell" them to pay for the horses they've purchased on terms. Of course, these foals cannot be registered if the buyer defaults on the payment terms of the contract, perhaps not paying the contract in full EVER - these foals get lost in the world and somehow this should be guarded against this. We need to FIND a way and put an end to thinking it's not a big deal if the horse has to pay for our mistakes. Breeders need to register their foals whether you own the mare, are selling the mare or are an agent (lessee) for the mare by ensuring a proper provision for same is in the contract (payments must be up to date, foal must be registered within xx days/months/weeks, Stallion Certificates must be signed, etc.). Every foal is entitled to their identity and ensuring their registration should be mandatory for breeders. Newcomer buyers don't realize the chaos that lies behind the scenes just waiting for an opportunity to express itself (sometimes years later when their term purchase contract has been fulfilled and the "much older foal" continues to be unregisterable). Nearly as bad, is when an owner leases, boards or sells their horse that they love more than life itself on terms, yet doesn't make a serious effort to investigate the farm their horse is going to be living at. Asking questions on the phone, in emails, of references or on a public chat forum is NOT sufficient investigation to put a horse you love more than life itself in harm's way. This is a recipe for disaster. Being a breeder is serious business as these trusting souls we bring into the world depend on us to provide them a secure future. The majority of (non-trainer) breeders are not in this business to make money, and if they are, they'll be out of this business soon (sometimes becoming "desperate" sellers). Additionally, a breeder should fully familiarize themselves with "form tofunction" knowledge, know what it is you are looking at from a skeletal perspective and why a horse is what it is - strive to improve with every breeding decision.
A good measure for anyone to use with a breeder to determine their knowledge is to ask specific conformation questions that you know the answer to to see if the breeder's knowledge is similar to your own. If a breeder reports a straight shouldered mare to be a laid back shouldered mare, then you know that breeder is someone whose judgement in conformation is poor. If they have poor judgement when it comes to evaluating horse flesh and they are actively breeding, how successful can they be at breeding a truly good horse? For wealthy breeders, it is a matter of evaluating the quality of their stock from the ground up. Easy to do upon in the flesh evaluation at any horse show they take their horses to or an in person farm visit. Take the time to do that before you book a breeding to their stallions because too many of those alleged "international quality" horses, have legs and feet that should not be bred forward. It is that simple.
Breeding tools and references are also something we should undertake in study as well as the techniques demonstrated by other successful breeders of good character - accumulating a reference library that is in a constant state of growth is preferable. Admitting to oneself that you will never know it all, because the minute you think you do, you quit learning which is not a symbol for intelligence. Because we can never really know too much and we can never really know it all. Authors to accumulate include Dr. Deb Bennett, Federico Tesio, Alan Porter, Armand Goubaux, Gustav Barrier, Gladys Brown Edwards, Carol Mulder and General William H. Carter who manage to stay focused on the subject rather than criticizing other breeders or authors - these are inherently more objective in the material they purport to represent with sufficient confidence in the student to learn well/think well for themselves and therefore are better mentors for learning, and developing your own sets of skills. Again, the good character being demonstrated for others to emulate. Indeed it is convenient to have the Judith Forbis Blue and Gold Books, Dr. Nagel's books and Asil Araber; however, these should come AFTER all the others because they can often fill a head with romance, dreams and fantasy rather than school the student in what actually is good horse flesh. There is a place for romance, dreams and fantasy . . . but it is not in the breeding shed.
A breeder in simplistic terms, puts the needs of the horse first, the welfare of the breed second and their desire to make money in a career!
The literal definition of "Breeder" by AHA is: the mare owner who breeds their mare to a stallion for a foal is the "breeder" of that foal unless the mare owner profers a "Breeding Designation" form to another who then becomes the breeder. But, the word "breeder" conjures up many prefix adjectives and definitions, it's impossible to define the word with any brevity that might accurately describe all that being a "breeder" entails. It depends, right? We have fad breeders, long-time breeders, short-time breeders (sometimes referred to as "flash-in-the-pan breeders" who start out knowing everything, so refuse to learn, thus go broke and out of business quickly), race horse breeders, preservation breeders, performance horse breeders, halter horse breeders, hands-on breeders, hands-off breeders, responsible breeders, irresponsible breeders, successful breeders, good breeders, etc. all of whom likely consider themselves serious breeders. There are quite a few clear indicators and characteristics of what a serious breeder really is that we will explain in this article. Whether a person is a breeder, an owner, a horse trader, a trainer or a boarding facility, it is incumbent upon that entity to provide for proper care, health and well-being of the animal. No excuses. Does that mean a breeder MUST call a vet everytime their horse hiccups? No. But the breeder had better have a good handle on the normal activities of that horse to know if it is indeed a hiccup or something more serious which they should be prepared to cope with to the best of their ability and experience. For instance, breeding a horse for aesthetics only can often result in a horse that becomes crippled before age 15. Generally speaking, no breeder should breed for a horse with crippling structural deficits, or metabolic incapacities because they try to get a longer neck or a prettier head. Remember, that horse will be in pain for the rest of its life when it's crippled or having chronic colic episodes which is the result of poor breeding decisions. How would you like it if you had to walk on these legs (halter-bred mare crippled by age 12 and used for breeding) for the rest of your life?:
No breeder should want a horse they created to suffer for it's lifetime or a prolonged period of time or feeling like they have to shoot the horse so the horse doesn't suffer or so the breeder wouldn't have to face their own mistakes and poor choices. Generally speaking, no breeder should breed for a horse simply for preservation purposes only, or perserving ancestry over the whole horse. If breeding a horse that is known to produce foals born to suffer with seizures, LFS, CA or a wry nose and then be shot because treatment or surgery is deemed too expensive for the breeder, then that horse should not be bred forward.
It is a relatively simple concept to grasp. Because of those breeders who do breed without regard to these things, prefer to keep their dirty little secrets within their closets and prefer to paint this type of article or honest discussion as "negative" and too unpleasant for conversation, new rules have been established by AHA in their Code of Ethics. These new rules make it mandatory to disclose certain genetic diseases - isn't it a tragedy that we needed these new rules? Wouldn't it be a brave new world if everyone were honest and disclosed the truth about the horses they breed, i.e. you could buy a horse or breed to a stallion with a statement of full disclosure that you could bank on? Surely if there were a test for seizures or wry nose, there would be mandatory disclosure to prevent breeders from passing off genetically predisposed horses as sound and valuable breeding stock. We note too that many breeders are refusing to test their breeding stock for some of these genetic issues (where tests are available) which helps them avoid mandatory disclosure, relieving them of the ethical duty to disclose. Integrity in breeding should be made mandatory! Breeders without integrity should be exposed and avoided. As it stands right now, it is a happy coincidence that testing is not yet mandatory so they might have an opportunity to purge their affected stock and not go broke before doing so. One might think breeders not testing have had affected foals, a fact which is perhaps being kept under wraps by virtue of NOT testing. If one cannot openly disclose and discuss issues such as these, one should not dare to compare themselves to being a serious breeder, admit that they are simply not in that league and it would be best for everyone if they voluntarily returned to the drawing board or playing SIMS games where they cannot make mistakes that innocent horses have to pay the price for.
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