Dream foals and breeding nightmares

Baby pictures are popping up on everyone’s news feed, and we’re all enjoying an overload of cuteness, writes CAROLYN HENDERSON.

Naturally, we’re talking foals. The human kind are adorable if they belong to you or someone in your family, but are not universally irresistible. Foals, however, are guaranteed to capture your heart.

If you have a nice mare, it’s tempting to imagine what her offspring would be like even if imagination is as far as it can go. Hopefully, horror stories about unwanted, dumped youngstock and advice about responsible breeding from welfare organisations have hit home.

But what do you do if you can tick all the boxes that make you a responsible breeder – and it all goes wrong? What do you do if you put your 15.2hh eventing mare to a 16.1hh eventing stallion and get not a potential 4* horse, but a 14hh pony? Or you breed a foal with glaring conformation faults?

Both scenarios can happen. A friend who found herself in the first situation put it down to the fact that her mare was out of a 14hh show hunter pony mare, and genetics decided to go back a generation. Instead of the foal being her future ride, it became her daughter’s.

The second was highlighted in a discussion group by an owner who posted a picture of her three-year-old homebred. The filly was back at the knee, a fault which puts tendons under extra strain, and had weak hindquarters and straight shoulders. Yet both the dam and the sire had correct conformation and had competed at top level.

There are lots of horses with bad conformation giving lots of pleasure to their owners. But while you can buy what you choose, you can’t choose what you breed. You can only do your research and hope for the best, which is why they say that fools breed horses for wise men to ride.

There is no such thing as a perfect horse and there are plenty of badly conformed ones giving pleasure and even success to their riders. Unfortunately, they are less likely to stay sound and more likely to cause heartbreak.

The owner of the three-year-old above said that before she put her mare in foal, she told herself that whatever she bred, she would do the best for it. She intends to back and educate the filly and find her a loan home with a light workload; she won’t sell her, because she wants to make sure she’s safe.

Image credit to World Horse Welfare.

What a brilliant owner, and what a lucky filly. Compare her with the poor colt foal (pictured) who was dumped and left to die, just days old, in a Norfolk forest. If he hadn’t been spotted by a local farmer, he would have had no hope. As it is, he has a long way to go despite being taken in and given round the clock care by staff at World Horse Welfare.

So, enjoy the foal pictures and videos – we’d love to see them. If you’re making plans for the patter of tiny hooves, good luck.

Every newborn foal represents a dream. I hope yours come true, but please plan for every eventuality.