On being a breeder: Broodmares

_DSC9829Being a breeder of horses is a strange and dangerous thing: highly addictive, enormously damaging to one’s bank balance and sanity, and incredibly hard work… breeders are, in a nutshell, odd. Where other equestrians get to enjoy their horses (horses, I hasten to add, that breeders bred, often involving a not insignificant amount of personal sacrifice) and – gasp – actually ride them, breeders spend most of their time staring at their mares’ bellies and feeding said bellies. Other equestrians go to dressage or show jumping competitions, we drag our mares, foal at foot, around a triangle of poles in front of an audience of highly critical experts. Other equestrians may obsess about their horses’ training or learning their next test, breeders obsess about the size of their mares’ follicles and the reliability of overnight courier services from the Continent on a bank holiday weekend (because, and more about this in a future blog, mares worth their nelly invariably ovulate on a bank holiday).

It is therefore perhaps not very surprising that we breeders feel those normal people out there don’t quite understand us. Which brings me to the purpose of a new series of blog entries I am planning over this breeding season: to bring the wonderful and maddening world of breeding to a wider audience…

We begin with: An Attempt at a Typology of Broodmares (1)…

Broodmares come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, as well as temperaments and dispositions. This is why this will subject will take up more than one blog entry (watch out for entries 2, 3, and 4…).

Some mares cost as much as a sports car, others were a freebie, BOGOF or part exchange. Some are the result of months and years of intensive search, others come to us by sheer coincidence or accident. Without them, there would be no breeding, and no breeders. So it seems fitting, dear readers, to start where it starts for us: With our broodmares!

  1. The Good Egg – A permanent smile on her face, this mare spends her time day dreaming and having fertile thoughts. She always gets pregnant, and always first time. Her manners are impeccable, and she can be handled safely by small children, your grandmother, and even – astonishingly – your husband.  She invariably sports a pleasantly rounded tummy, a wonderful shine on her coat, a kind eye, and an impressive topline despite not having been ridden in years. She always eats her feed, and is never messy with it, delicately chewing on a little whisp of hay as she sighs contentedly and looks out into the night sky. In the field, she is a pleasure to behold, never pushy, never rude, quiet to turn out and obliging at bringing in time. It is therefore a matter of great sadness that Good Eggs invariably give birth to what can only be described as Little Demons. “Children will be children”, she seems to say, with an indulgent smile and a shrug of her shoulders, as her little darling is whizzing around at breakneck speed, dismantling the fencing, or taking a chunk out of one of his ‘friends’ (aka partners in crime). The Good Egg usually has a lovely owner who appears to be a close human version. Easily spotted as bearer of cups of tea and baker of lovely cakes.
  2. The Aristocrat – The Aristocrat is very easy to identify in any list of show entries because she has the sort of unpronounceable name that will push Mike Tucker into an early grave. She usually comes in two versions, Dutch or German. If Dutch, her name simply must contain the words ‘van’ ‘het’ and ‘hof’ and at least one ‘ch’ (pronounced like the warning noise made by cross cats before they engage in close combat). For example: Katrinneken van het Goghenhof or Lieschen van het Hertogenhof, or feel free to arrange any improbable range of letters in any even more improbable order. If German, we may encounter fewer words, but not necessarily fewer letters. Usually full of Umlaute, and ‘W’s that are pronounced like ‘V’s. Something like: ‘Weiheschneiderprinzessin’ and ‘Fürstenbürstenschräubchen’. In fact, in dressage breeding every horse worth its nelly will have the word ‘Fürst’ in it somewhere, it’s the law. It is the Aristocrat’s owner’s greatest pleasure to show off their ability at pronouncing the Aristocrat’s name correctly, as well as reciting a family tree that goes back to the Crusades, if not to Caesar’s invasion of Gaul. Aristocrats do, accordingly, possess a rather intimidating air of superiority, and one feels one ought to adopt a hushed and reverend tone in their illustrious presence. Which is not a bad policy, for Aristocrats by and large also possess a rather delicate constitution and have been known to jump 6 feet in the air if one as much as sneezes next to them. Nobody sulks quite like an Aristocrat, refusing feed unless it is hand gathered by virgins at a full moon and invariably feeling either far too hot or far too cold (often within the space of 5 minutes). Owners of Aristocrats go to extraordinary lengths to make them happy. They have been known to learn Dutch or German to make their darlings feel more at home and engage the services of a Cordonbleu Chef and a private orchestra to provide delicious meals in a cultured, yet joyful, atmosphere. As a result, said owners families are living on beans on toast and tap water, but of course it is worth it!
  3. The Earth Mother – If the Earth Mother were human, she would enjoy weaving and playing the Tibetan nose flute. Earth Mothers are in tune with the sun, the moon, and the stars. They sport udders that would give your average Friesian cow a jealousy complex. Their absent minded smile makes them easy to confuse with a ‘good egg’, but the crucial difference is that Earth Mothers resent all humans and their intervention when it comes to breeding. They will invariably give birth when the aforementioned moons and starts are in perfect alignment and the vibrations of the earth are calling, and certainly not when common sense would tell us. And of course moons, stars and earth vibrations are obscured by stable walls and possibly jumbled by wifi equipment and surveillance cameras, which is why it is imperative to an earth mother that birth must be given in a field. And not just any field. The field furthest away from human civilisation. And in that field, in the most inaccessible and awkward corner, of course. Similarly, their cycles follow the path of ancient mystery and are as unpredictable to modern science as impenetrable to modern pharmaceutical intervention. When trying to get an Earth Mother to ovulate, I recommend playing the harp and humming, it will be just as effective as anything else…
  4. The Leg-At-Each-Corner. This used to be one of the most popular types of mares to breed from. Quite possibly because trying to ride one would give you a groin injury. On the plus side, these mare are very roomy, to the extend that foals can probably dance a half decent polka inside without feeling too hemmed in. And these mares live on thin air, and seem to grow podgy on the tiniest plot of grass. A ‘sensible’ type, not much discombobulates the ‘Leg-At-Each-Corner’. On the downside, she will be equally unmoved by plastic bags on the end of lunge whips, or rattly boxes of pebbles, nor will one be able to discern any reaction from shouting, waving of arms, or frustrated jumping up and down on the spot. The Leg-At-Each-Corner doesn’t flap, neither does she bend to human will in any shape of form (or, in fact, bend at all, coming to think of it, mentally OR physically). Known for producing ‘sound’ horses – possibly because they never move, and are hence less likely to insure themselves. Or possibly because they are, in fact, tougher than any other material, man-made or natural, as is demonstrated by their ability to get through any kind of fencing, or walling, known to man…

I hope you enjoyed this beginning of a typology of broodmares. Of course there are many more types (I am happy to take suggestions, just use the comment facility on this blog).

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2 Thoughts

  1. Wonderful read over my morning coffee, after having spent the whole time I was mucking out checking my mares undercarriage!
    I think she’s a good egg but I am going to start praying she doesn’t produce a little devil!!!

    Charlotte x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am keeping my fingers crossed for you, Charlotte, and look forward to hearing all about the sprog when he/she arrives! Keep your eyes peeled for future blog entries on the subject of breeding, I hope to raise the odd smile during this rather stressful (yet exhilarating) time of the breeding year…

      Like

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