Horsemanship / Neu Perspectives

A Very “Marey” Christmas

I love selecting stallions, breeding mares and raising foals. It’s funny how that affects my Christmas shopping.

Here we are again! ‘Tis the season to shop. I’m making a list. I’m checking it twice. (More than twice). Trying to decide which stud’s value and cow-sense is nice. Breeding time is rolling around. 

I guess it’s only sensible that most of the early breeding fee discounts happen right around Christmas. What better gift to find under the tree than the hopes of an athletic, well bred filly that boasts Metallic Cat AND the black gene in her DNA? Beats the heck out of socks. And with all the recent performance incentives being thrown around, it’s hard not to get excited about my mare lineup and what they are bringing me with their bowl-full-of-jelly bellies come spring. 

I know I’ve written about it before, but I really do love raising horses and ponies. I love genetics. I love potential. I love the value we can instill into an animal with the proper situation, nutrition, handling and training. My mares are not extraordinary, and I’m realistic about what to expect every year. It takes time, money, dedication, research, knowledge and flexibility to crank out baby colts. I fully understand the appeal for many to bypass “growing their own” and buying horses already on the ground, out of top-of-the-line stock with confirmed straight legs and talent. Not everyone desires to raise foals, nor do I encourage that they should. But there’s something appealing to me about the pursuit of the “magic cross” (and the hopes to make more money, the finals, or someone’s dreams come true) that fires me up every year and gets me brainstorming about who should be paired with who. 

Somehow, raising horses and celebrating Christmas go hand-in-hand. Photo by Luke Neubert

The magic of modern science is astounding. With a couple of quick trips and some long plastic gloves, a foal is created by a vet, from a stallion who often doesn’t live in the zip code, state, or even continent. Recipient mares can successfully raise genetically superior babies without ever knowing they aren’t their own, and studs that are long gone and dead can live on through own sons and daughters for years to come. My program is small, humble and hopeful. My favorite cross on paper last year turned out to be a bit of a heavy-footed disappointment, and another mare I have that I didn’t expect much out of just may have given me the best filly I’ve ever raised by far. Needless to say, one cross has been repeated, and the other has not. 

It makes for curious talk with the non-horse world. I try to keep my strange hobbies stifled around holiday family time, though it’s hard to contain. Words that seem normal to me and my stallion crazy 5-year-old daughter make some of my relatives blush. My iPhone understands me—predicting correctly that the typed words semen, HERDA and Regumate are real vernacular I use and not typos. (Although it’s still fully convinced that a mare is a “mayor” and changes it every time). 

By any means, I have thought and re-thought my breeding lineup extensively and I’m guessing it will continue to morph throughout the winter and into spring. There are no guarantees, but done right, I aim for my little ol’ brand to grace the hips of better and better horses as the years go on. 

And as for this holiday season? Let’s just say there’s a very good chance I’m getting myself—er, my family—a 2023 High Brow Cat out of a roan Aristocrat mare for Christmas this year. And even with all those generous discounts, by the time I’m done paying for all these mares to check successfully in foal, I’m guessing that the rest of the folks on my list will be getting … well, socks.

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