Although Grande Dame doesn’t agree with some of the options I outlined in my weekend post regarding the present problems in breeding and selling Thoroughbreds, this is exactly the kind of response I hoped for. It is reasoned, constructive, and critical.
We breeders of racehorses cannot hope to move forward financially or practically without thoughtful and critical evaluation of the methods and goals. The alternative has put us into the position we presently occupy.
Therefore, I decided to repost this response as a stand-alone piece so that more people would have a chance to see it. Please think, evaluate, and make your own opinions known. Good luck to us all!
I think the idea for breeders to drop a third of their broodmares is the wrong approach. First of all, KY breeders have already culled an enormous amount of mares in the past three years. I agree with Cynthia McGinnes that oversupply is no longer the real problem and what is really needed are more end users and fewer pinhookers buying our horses. We need to get back to our roots as a sport and not focus as much on the “industry.” Something is very wrong when it seems that the only way a breeder can get a horse sold is by allowing the many “middle men” along the way to reap most of the profits, despite the breeder spending the majority of the money and taking the lion’s share of the risk. The sport needs to reach out through better marketing efforts in order to bring in more end users. The market for luxury items is back on the rise as the wealthy begin to spend again. So why isn’t the market coming back for Thoroughbreds?
Secondly, if breeders drop a third of their broodmare band, invariably the majority of them will cull the less “commercial” ones. Which will exacerbate the problem of the breed being flooded with “market” horses. Culling even more of the less popular mares would most likely mean an even greater loss of diversity in our bloodlines, further polarizing our American Thoroughbred. Personally, I am trying to maintain a balanced broodmare band that includes more than a few mares considered by the market to be non-commercial, but that trace back to important two-turn bloodlines and have impeccable conformation. I think more breeders should do the same in the hopes that we improve our breed’s phenotype and soundness. This should eventually equate to more success on the racetrack and then in the sales ring. I believe the current commercial market is too focused on short-term success for quick monetary gain, encouraging breeding for mostly early-maturing sprinter-type dirt horses without regard for soundness or good conformation as those can be managed with veterinarian intervention. This is not helping our American Thoroughbred compete on or be marketable to the international stage and in America it is destroying a breed that was bred for centuries to run at classic distances. Breeding Thoroughbred racehorses is a long-term proposition and as stewards of the breed we are failing miserably due to market pressures.
Thirdly, what happens to all of those broodmares that are culled out of production? Do their breeders have a plan for them? Are they just retired for a few years and then brought back into production? If so, then most KY stallion stations won’t want to breed to them after a long lull in their produce record. Nor will the sales companies allow them through their rings if three or more years have lapsed. And if they are not ever bred again, then what becomes of those mares? Most that are culled are likely to be older and therefore less likely to be retrained as riding horses. Are we to just cast aside these broodmares who have served us as valiantly as the racehorses do on the tracks? Where are the rescue groups for broodmares? I know of only one that focuses exclusively on mares and they only have room for a few at a time. Unless there is a quality support network for retired broodmares in place, I believe it would be irresponsible for KY breeders to just dump even more mares.
I do like your suggestion of putting together a breeders’ cooperative to get the horses that don’t sell to the racetrack. This is an idea that should be embraced by KY breeders and would enable more breeders to breed their horses for the right reasons rather than just for short-term financial gain. Where can I sign up?
Let’s start right here. Send me your names and emails. And keep thinking and offering suggestions as we get this coop up and running.