There’s been a little “meme” type thing going around all the breeder’s groups and pages on facebook for the past few weeks…
Sure, it’s funny. But also it’s… alarmingly accurate. And it doesn’t even include the upfront cost of buying a nice broodmare, which, newsflash, are definitely NOT free. Or the lab equipment, if you choose to ultrasound your mares at home to save trips to the clinic. Or the breeders courses that taught you how to use said equipment. Or the vet bills if the mare or foal encounter any complications. This could go on for a while, really.
I think a lot of times breeders get the short end of the stick. ALL THE TIME I see people complaining about how it’s ridiculous for a foal to cost 12k, 15k, 20k, or whatever. Sure, if you’re buying a backyard foal out of a random mare by a random stallion that will grow up with the potential for… who knows… then that’s too much. But if you’re buying from a breeder who purchased excellent mares, spent years honing their eye and their skill to make the best match possible, and devoted endless amounts of time and money into care to a produce a top-class sporthorse prospect, you’re getting a pretty great deal. Most likely the breeder isn’t actually making much off of that sale, if anything.
For every foal they successfully get on the ground and sell, there’s another mare back in the barn who cost thousands of dollars to fix a uterine infection, or another who did not ever get pregnant despite many expensive attempts, or another who aborted her foal mid-pregnancy. They will sit for the year, still receiving the best of care, and the breeder will try again next year.
I’m in the unique position where I am the average rider/owner, but I also have worked for breeders and have a lot of breeder friends. I can see both sides of this. Sure, everyone wants a super fancy foal for 5k, who doesn’t love a bargain, but at those prices someone is losing money. That someone is probably the breeder. And if they lose money on every single foal, they’re going to stop breeding. At least the ones that do it RIGHT will, because they can’t afford those kinds of losses. The ones that really do invest a lot of money in the best mares, and really DO spend a hell of a lot of time learning the ins and outs of bloodlines, conformation, nicks, etc. It certainly isn’t as simple as crossing a nice mare to a nice stallion. Being a good breeder takes knowledge. A lot of it. That’s a learned skill, and skill takes time and money to accrue.
So by saying that their foals and young horses are overpriced or too expensive, we’re effectively cutting the best breeders off at the knees. If we want to have good horses, these are the people we should be supporting, or at least understanding. They’re just like anyone else in any other job… trying to get by. Their expertise, and their investment, is certainly worth something.
Buying nice young horses isn’t for everyone. For many people it’s not practical, or they can’t afford it, or they don’t want a baby. All totally legitimate and fair reasons. But even if you’re not part of that buyer’s market, next time you see the price tag on a really nice foal, instead of raising your eyebrows or muttering something negative, take a minute to think about what it really took for someone to produce that horse. The blood, the sweat, the tears, the hours… all of it. Breeders really are, at least in my opinion, the unsung heroes of the sporthorse world. If we want to keep them, we at least have to appreciate and understand their endeavor.