The True Costs of Breeding

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.

exhibit A: this particular giant money pit that we all know and love

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 many hours sitting in planes and on bleachers. So many.

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.

11 thoughts on “The True Costs of Breeding

  1. I’m out at least $20k from 2017 for my 2 mares and no foals on the ground this year for breeding specific fees. That’s monetary costs, not emotional or coordination costs. Winter was spent trying to figure out why (with the even more expensive tests to tell me they should be pregnant… thanks), diagnosising a mares (the best one of course that I can’t replace) lameness (omg she’s going to be euthed along with my dreams of teying to breed an fei baby, wait no, let’s try other shoes). Wheeee . At this point i feel like im so far down the rabbit hole it seems easier or something to press on. #insanity #justbuyahorseomg #iwishidrank

    Here’s to breeding season 2018!


  2. Yep. There’s no way I would’ve been able to afford Joey had a breeder had him for sale, I just had to go through the process and hope for the best. I’m not a true breeder in that I have a fairly random mare with unremarkable bloodlines who takes very good care of me and I won a stud fee to a horse bred and colored like I like, so the fact that I ended up with my dream baby is quite honestly miraculous. Apparently I’m willing to test fate twice though because she’s scheduled to be bred back in May. Goodbye moneyyyy!


  3. This this this! It bothers me to see people breeding just to breed, uneducated breeding, etc. Quite honestly, I will likely never ever ride at the level where I will need a fancy horse, but it grinds my gears when people on FaceBook comment on breeder’s posts selling their babies and thinking they’re overpriced. Ugh.


  4. Yup. I can’t afford to buy what I wanted, so in Cinna’s case, I bred it. I bought the barely halterboke mare I saw potential in, paid for professional training, paid to send her to a national show to prove her worth against other horses of her breed, spent hours agonizing over stallions and picking the brains of top breeders about the nick, paid more to breed her, waited and worried through the pregnancy, spent untold dollars raising the foal until she was ready to train, and infinity loop. For me it was much easier to spread the $$ out over the course of multiple years rather than dropping $10-15k at once (which is what most of Cinna’s siblings have been priced at). I’m happy with my results, but I also have the option to raise my own because of my property and also having other horses to ride while I wait for babies to grow (and training babies doesn’t scare me). I get why it’s not necessarily ideal for the average adult ammy, but it does rub me the wrong way when people have a laundry list of demands but want to spend like, $1k.


  5. I totally agree. I think that if people want to change the quality of what is out there, you have to start with really quality babies. People always want “a deal” but in the long run, that isn’t what maintains the level of horse we probably want to be seeing.


  6. I think I spent ~10-12k bringing my homebred into the world. So, I broke even? I definitely could have purchased something on the ground already by the same stallion from the breeder at roughly the same price, but I’m a crazy person and like my mare better than anything the breeder had already on the ground. Maggie is 3yo coming 4 in August, and honestly, I’d say she’s pretty priceless to me. Her sire improved upon her dam quite a bit, but personality wise – she’s so her mother’s daughter!

    That being said, the only way I was able to pull this off was that I only had to pay board when the mare was at the breeders (took a few cycles to knock her up) & the month she was at the vet’s before foaling out. Without being able to keep the horses on family property, I never could have pulled breeding a homebred off!


  7. I completely understand all your points…and don’t begrudge any of them. I’ve got a nice mare now and the thought of breeding has briefly…very briefly…crossed my mind. I can’t afford to breed my own decent baby, let alone by a quality baby, so….

    That said, how does the market economy play into it? Goods have to be priced at what the market will bear, so they have to be produced at something less than that. That includes foals. we wouldn’t expect other types of businesses to price their goods higher than their particular market and then expect customers to pay the costs just because the business spent $$$ producing their widget. Breeders really have to know their market and if they can’t produce a foal for less than their market will bear, the either make the decision to not produce their foals or continue on a hobby basis, most likely losing money.


    1. Yes, of course… that’s a totally separate issue, in my mind. If the horse is worth the asking price, someone will buy it, if not, they won’t. What I’m referring to are the people that feel the need to comment on any foal priced over X amount, or go on a rant about how ridiculous it is. I don’t think those people realize what it really takes to produce a top quality prospect.


      1. I think they are related. The people that comment on the price are not the market. They are the same people that think the been there done that packer should cost $3500 or some such.

        I think many industries suffer from the same lack of knowledge. The remember having similar conversations regarding the professional photographers.


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