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boxer 06-18-2010 08:41 PM

What do you consider to be an adequate level of knowledge
Hi everyone,

I am just wondering what you all think would be an adequate level of knowledge/experience to have before breeding a horse or before buying a young horse (say under 2 years old). What are the things someone needs to know.

disclaimer: I'm not planning to breed my mare or buy a young horse but might think about it in the future and want to know what kinds of things I should know in order to get more ready to raise a young horse if I want to.

Nita 06-18-2010 10:49 PM

Well... I had a half hour invested into a reply, and then my power cut out... Grr. So I apologize if I miss some points in this one.

I think that people would need to understand just how much time, money, and resources go into young horses/breeding. And how much is circumstantial. You can prepare, prepare, prepare, and things may still go wrong. It just happens. You have to know that if you breed, there is the possibility of the mare and/or foal dying.

I am glad that you are taking the time to ask. It seems that you want to be prepared and well-informed before attempting to do either of your above named things, and for that, I applaud you. It just frosts me, to say the least, when people are... backyard breeders or uninformed and then they get on here and complain, or ask for advice too late. Thank you for being a responsible horse owner.

That being said, make absolutely certain you are financially and otherwise prepared before breeding or buying a young horse. People often think they are ready, but realize too late that they're not. That will hurt both you and your horse. Not advisable.

I don't know the exact costs of breeding. There are definitely other members on here who can outline that for you. I know at one point, in some post, it was outlined, I'll see if I can find it...

As for buying a young horse, there's the inital cost. Then, there's your time. People underestimate the time that young horses need. Most of them, anyway, I have had a few exceptions, but generally, that's the rule. You can't expect them to be anything like any horse you've ever handled before, because frankly, they're not. And they don't know people and how they act, usually. So not only are you training them, you're teaching them about people, and their impressions of you will last their lifetime. Horses have memories that would put an elephant to shame. You have to be calm, but yet assertive enough that they won't threaten you. It's a tough balance, and it helps to have someone who can help you out with your first young horse. Young horses need consistency. Once you do something one way, that's how you have to do it. Until they get it completely, you can't really change it. That is so confusing to them. You can get away with that on an older horse, occasionally, but a young one won't forget. That's impressed upon them because it's the first time they've been asked. It's easier to create a habit than to fix one, so create good ones. Young horses will push your limits. It's always helped me to have them in a herd environment, just because the herd teaches lessons that you would have had to otherwise.

You have to think of what you want this horse to be. Will you really be able to keep it forever? What if you lose your job?, or if you go off to college? Sometimes things happen, and you have to be prepared for that. If you had to sell this horse, would you be able to? Bloodlines, performance records, temperment... these are a few of the things that should be considered in the sire and dam. You want a proven horse. The market is bad enough right now that you better put considerable thought into those. What kind of horse are you looking for? Eventing, reining, jumping, whatever it is, you want to get the best that you can. Also, if your horse would be registered, the breed registeries charge an arm and a leg these days. Every little change that you want to make, they'll make you pay for it. Vaccinations, vets, and anything that might go wrong... You'll be paying for those.

Young horses are EXTREMELY accident prone. Seriously. If they can hurt themselves, they will. They're like small children. Haha. You also have to have the facilities. Can you put your mare and foal indoors if the weather gets bad? Can you watch them on a camera, or will you be running out to the barn to check them every 10 mins? There's just a lot to it. And I'm sure there's things I haven't even considered.

And, sometimes things just go wrong. For example. I bought a pretty little coming 3 year old. Sweetest filly, but never been handled. At all. 5 months of MY time and money into her, as well as my trainer's, she goes lame in her front feet. The kind of lameness she might never recover from. X-rays, expensive special feed, 4 months of recovery time (NO RIDING or training at all) and special shoes later, she's good. But now, every time I shoe her, she has to have those shoes, and unless she makes a miraculous recovery, I'll have to pay for these supplements for probably the rest of her life. Not cheap. Plus, I have to watch her diet, not too much grass since she's prone to laminitis, there's some surfaces I can't ride her on, and there's a limit to the training/showing she can take, and there's more. And this horse is now 4. But that's just the risk you take.

I know I've missed some, my train of thought was lost with my first post, but other members will help me out. And sorry it was so random... Ugh, I just hate it when I lose a good post like that! Messes me all up. I hope I helped... Sorry if it was confusing in such random order like that.


boxer 06-18-2010 11:46 PM

Thanks so much Shelby, I had considered some of those things before, like right now there is definately no way I have enough time for a young horse. I don't have enough money right now either but will be saving up over the next few years for a float and a younger horse when I'm ready (probably in 2-3 years). How much time per day (on average) would you say you should spend on a young horse, I know you should only train them for short periods of time but often rather than one long training session. I will most likely wait until I have a place of my own rather than having to agist.

Another question: how old do you think would be too old for a maiden mare. I don't know if my mare has had a foal before, would a vet be able to tell if she has had a foal before?

Nita 06-19-2010 12:07 AM

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Nita 06-19-2010 12:17 AM

Well... Every horse is different in the amount of time they require. Sorry if I have mistakes, I'm on my itouch...

I guess you would just have to decide when you thought the horse understood the concept you were tryingto teach them. But longer sessions aren't usually good. Young horses don't have very long attention spans, much like young kids. With mine, I tend to work with them for15 mins to a half hour, give them a break to think, then I might come back to time later. On the other hand, if they're working good for me, and i think they have learned enough, I might just put them away. That's why it helps to have someone experienced around, because it can be hard to get a feel for some of those things by yourself. Yeah, it's probably easier to have a place of your own.

As for the mare question, I honestly don't know. Again. Depends on the horse. I would say that 12 would be pushing it, but I don't breed so I could be wrong. I think that your vet would be able to tell if your mare had foaled before, yes. You might want to see what he has to say about breeding your mare, every horse is different.

Gah I hate typing on this thing. So many typos ha.

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Silvera 06-19-2010 01:09 AM

Personally I would suggest buying a young horse before trying to breed. If you get them around 6mths - 1yr then they are still young enough to mold to your liking but you don't have to worry about all of the really hard baby stuff. Once you have one youngster trained and under your belt then look into breeding.

If you do decide to breed instead of buy then the best thing for you is to do a lot of decensitizing work before they stand for the first time if at all possible. Get them used to you as much as possible in that first 10min period. Once they are up and about then you want to spend as much time with them in their paddock as possible. Take a chair and read for a few hours. When the foal comes over to you and touches you pet them and when they walk away go back to reading. This is the best time to build a great relationship with them.

Either way, if you buy or breed, the first thing you want to do is build a good solid relationship. Spend lots of time with them. Pet them, scratch them, and get them to follow you as much as possible.

When you are working with a young horse to do any "training" (and by young I mean up to a year or younger) then keep it simple and short. If you are teaching them to lead then start by following the mom (if you bred) for 5min then let them go and sociallize with them again. It's the same with teaching them to tie, start by being with mom and tied for a couple of mins then let them go. As you work with them more then they will be able to handle longer periods of time.

I know I've said this one a couple of times but the biggest thing is to make sure you just hang out with them. Get them people as soon as possible and used to as many people as possible. This will totally help in the long run because they will trust humans and will let vets, farriers, and strangers handle them with little to no fuss.

Oh I almost forgot, your vet can tell no problem if your mare has foaled in the past or not. The best thing for you to check is to look at her teets, if they are small and look like they have never been filled before then she probably hasn't been breed. If they look large and hang a farther from her body then she probably has had a foal. But again your vet will be able to check and give you a pretty deffinit answer.

Hope that helps a little.

boxer 06-19-2010 02:07 AM

Thanks again for the replies. are you able to post any pictures of the difference in the udder for a maiden horse and non-maiden horse, my mare's seem pretty small so I would guess she hasn't been bred.

I will most likely buy a young horse as my next horse once I have accomplished lots more things on my current horse and feel ready to move onto a new challenge and have the time, space and facilities to train. I think I will buy because I really really want a buckskin to show. I could get a buckskin from my mare if I bred to a double dilute but could also get a palomino which are lovely but I really want a buckskin. I would also want one with a lighter build than my mare or if I happen to have kids in the next few years I would love to get a buckskin welsh pony :D

MacabreMikolaj 06-19-2010 12:04 PM


I think you'd be very wise to buy first. I didn't have what I would consider an adequete level of knowledge when I trained Zierra - I had assisted in training young horses, and I had worked with problem horses but I was only 14 when she was born. I thank my lucky stars she was born so human friendly, because the first three years of her life, her "training" was me working with her once or twice a MONTH! When I got my license and was able to drive to my grandpa's every weekend, I was able to start really working with her.

It's been 11 years, and I love her to death but I definitely made some mistakes I now have to live with and work to train out of her. I got lucky in that she never deviated from the norm - when I asked her to do something, she eventually did it and I never had to find an "alternative".

To me, that is the BIGGEST issue in training. Every single person on this forum could pick up a 6 month old colt and train it using common sense. I'm sure every single person on this forum could find a veritible measure of success in training a youngster. The problems occur when that person doesn't have the experience to understand what to do if nothing else will work. This is where people get hurt and horses get scared. You have to have logged at least a measurable degree of work with a variety of different horses and be confident that when put in a situation where your sweet youngster is suddenly acting dangerous and refusing to listen, you know how to diffuse the situation from a variety of methods and experience you've picked up.

I cannot COUNT how many books I have on training and problem horses. And do you know what? Of the dozens, if not hundreds, of times I have gone to those books looking for help, I could probably count on one hand how many times the suggestions have actually worked. I'm not saying the books are wrong, I'm saying a horse does not come with a manual. If you think you've figured out a way to stop a certain behavior, he'll find a way to learn a new one that you won't even FIND in a book. You MUST rely on a hearty combination of common sense, book smarts, learned education and flat out experience.

It is impossible to measure who is "ready" to train a horse. I certainly wasn't, but I was blessed with an amazing horse who chose to work with me instead of against me in all my ignorance. The 3 year old Paint I'm training now? I would have been SLAUGHTERED trying to work with her when I was 14 in the state of spoiled nasty manners she had when I bought her a year ago! I've been bucked off, reared on, kicked, bitten, head bunted, struck at, squashed, sat on, and a whole other slew of nasty little tricks horses learn in the 25 years I've been around them. Only EXPERIENCE will teach you to be quick on your feet, read that body language and avoid getting hurt or allowing bad manners and even the PROS still get it often enough to make you cringe!

My absolute best advice would be to ensure you have a proper network system. Make sure you have support and professional advice when training your first horse. In a perfect world, see if you can apprentice for a trainer. In a not so perfect world, see if you don't have a friend or relative you hold in high esteem for their good work with horses and make sure they're on hand to help out. Don't do it by yourself, not the first time. It can be frustrating and patience trying, and you NEED to be confident asking for help.

It's also a great feeling of accomplishment and responsibility and I think everyone should have the chance to do it at least once in their lifetime. :-)

boxer 06-19-2010 08:34 PM

Thanks so much MacabreMikolaj, My riding instructor has taught me quite a bit about training horses (but not enough yet). She has taken on a few OTTBs and trained them and also bred and broke in her own welsh pony and now the Welsh pony mare is back in foal and due in November so I will be able to see it all from the beginning. The filly she had was already 2 years old when I first met her so had already been used to being handled and taught to lead, rug, groom, feet trimmed etc etc etc. This time I can watch and learn right from the start. I've learnt heaps just from needing to learn to sort out my own horses issues and watching other people sort out issues. I also attend clinics and workshops, read books, watch dvds, trawl this forum etc etc so I can learn as much as possible before I take on a youngster. Hopefully in a couple of years when I want a youngster my instructor will still be close by, if not I will definatelt find someone to help out.

Poco1220 06-21-2010 11:05 AM


You need to know how to handle and care for a mare that is pregnant and the signs of labor as well as signs of a problem. You also should have a good relationship with an excellent vet whom you can trust to come out and at least entertain any ideas you may have of there being problems with the birth.

You should know your mare well enough to be able to handle the foal upon birth. What will you do if she won't let you near the foal? What if she won't accept the foal? What if there's a problem with the foal? These are all major problems you need to be prepared for.

You should be well versed in how to handle a foal and understand that you can't expect them to be those friendly babies you see on tv and in pictures, they will push their limits, they will bite and kick and treat you like another horse until you show them that it's unacceptable. You need to know how to handle these things, how to halter break, how to teach the baby to lead/pick up feet/load into a trailer/clip/etc.

You need to have a reasonable set up to handle the weaning process that is at least mildly comforting on both ends. You also have to figure where the stallion will be through all of this if you own him and whether the foaling will take place at your farm or at the studs.

You need to be willing to do lots and lots of ground work and training since you will have this foal for years before you can even consider riding, this is the part I've seen take major tolls on people as they just lose interest in a horse that they can't ride.

You also need to be well aware of vaccinations, first aid, diseases, how to handle registrations, farriers, and so much more.

I worked on a breeding farm for nearly 10 years. I've helped with births, handled newborns, bottle fed babies that weren't accepted, halter broke, and weaned foals on my own. I've been through the gelding process, handled the stallions, and dealt with moody pregnant mares. I've studied breeding methods, bloodlines, and conformation as well as trained and shown. After YEARS of all of these things I have just now finally decided that I'm ready to breed one of my own. I have the set up, I have the horses, I have the experience, and most importantly I have the time.

Good luck in your future adventures, raising foals is hard work and requires tons of time and patience but it is so worth it in the end :) my best advice is to find a nearby breeding farm, even a small one, and get some hands on experience with the entire operation.

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