Adventures of a First-time Breeder

By Gayle Carline

     My rea­sons for breed­ing my 6-year old quar­ter horse mare, Frostie, were mar­gin­ally ratio­nal. Horse friends had con­vinced me that if I bred her and sold the baby, that it counted as a busi­ness and I could write my mare off on my taxes. And my trainer, Tina Duree, thought that moth­er­hood might be good for my mare’s often jit­tery tem­pera­ment. So as 2002 came to a close, my jour­ney began.

     First, I had to choose a stud. I wanted to stay in the breed, so I got a copy of the Decem­ber Quar­ter Horse Jour­nal (QHJ) and began pour­ing over pho­tos of stal­lions. I elim­i­nated horses that share Frostie’s blood­lines, and horses that weren’t bred for the same events. She is short, so I looked for a taller stud. And since she is an excitable gal, I wanted a quiet dis­po­si­tion. Armed with my check­list, I looked for Mr. Right.

     Then my friend bought a brood mare that was in foal to a stal­lion named Art­ful Invest­ment. I looked him up in the QHJ and saw a beau­ti­ful, 16.2 hand bay that does eng­lish and west­ern events, has been five-time World Cham­pion, two-time Reserve Super­horse, and could prob­a­bly bring world peace if he just had oppos­able thumbs. Peo­ple who knew him con­firmed that he was also a gen­tle­man. In Decem­ber, I requested a form, wrote a check and sent every­thing off to Aubrey, Texas.

     Now there was noth­ing to do but wait for Frostie to be in the mood for love. I’d like to say that the whole expe­ri­ence was just that roman­tic, but if I’d been asked to con­ceive a child like this, I wouldn’t have had my son.

Frostie is dressed as the Vir­gin Mary for the ranch’s Hol­i­day Parade.

     In the quar­ter horse world, a lot of breed­ing is done by arti­fi­cial insem­i­na­tion (AI) so I spent some time at the United Air­line counter in Ontario, pick­ing up cooled semen. It took four pack­ages and three months, mostly because the air­line lost the first two ship­ments. The odd­est expe­ri­ence was stand­ing at the counter while they searched for my first lost can­is­ter. I looked over at a ten-year old boy who was wait­ing for his grandmother.

     “Wait­ing for horse sperm?” he asked casually.

     Appar­ently it’s not the spe­cialty item I thought it was.

     By Memo­r­ial Day, Frostie was finally preg­nant, and I had two grainy pic­tures show­ing a large black cir­cle sur­rounded by grey sta­tic. At the top of the cir­cle was a small white dot. They looked just like my son’s first ultra­sound. I put one on the refrig­er­a­tor door and took one in my purse to show everyone.

     It took a long time for Frostie to show her preg­nancy phys­i­cally, but men­tally, she became a dif­fer­ent horse instantly. My spooky mare who jumped at trash cans was now barely rais­ing her eye­brows. Although I had owned Frostie for three years, it was dur­ing this time that we finally bonded. Hav­ing her less jumpy made me trust her more, and gain­ing my trust made her trust me. As she grew rounder, I spent time rid­ing her bare­back around the arena with a lit­tle snaf­fle bit, some­thing I never did before.

     At other times I put her in the turnout to stretch. She would drop with a groan into the soft dirt and roll, then wob­ble to her feet.  After­ward, she would stand by me at the fence.  I’d stroke her neck while she held my shirt in her mouth; it was a feel­ing of com­plete con­tent­ment in the moment for me.

     I knew that horses typ­i­cally foal in the mid­dle of the night with no one around, so I thought I would miss the blessed event. I was wrong. On Wednes­day evening, April 28, 2004, I was watch­ing Frostie pace around her stall. Tina joined me, say­ing that Frostie looked ready to pop. I asked if a horse’s water breaks and Tina said yes, that it looks like they’re pee­ing, but it doesn’t look like pee. As if on cue, Frostie’s water broke.

     Horses’ births are so quick (within thirty min­utes) that a vet isn’t usu­ally called, unless there’s a prob­lem. So Tina and I just waited and watched.

     One dark hoof appeared quickly, fol­lowed by a few min­utes of Frostie stand­ing up, turn­ing around and lying down again. She seemed to push with no notice­able results, so Tina went into the stall to see if she could feel the other hoof.

     “Oh, yes, it’s right behind the first one,” she said, wig­gling it out.

Proud mama with baby Snoopy

     Frostie pushed the front legs out to the knees, then got stuck on the head and shoul­ders. Although she didn’t look dis­tressed enough to call for the vet, Tina decided that it was time to help. Hold­ing both legs, she pulled each time Frostie pushed. The baby was big, so Tina told me to help, too.

     Both excited and clue­less, I grabbed a large, wet leg and fol­lowed Tina’s lead. When she pulled, I pulled. I was sur­prised that there was no “rest” period in between pushes. My mare con­tracted and pushed at a quick, rhyth­mic rate. Less than five min­utes later, the head and shoul­ders appeared. The baby’s eyes were closed and its tongue hung limply out of its mouth. I was a lit­tle freaked out that it looked dead, but Tina wasn’t alarmed, so I trusted her. The rest of the baby slid out and around Frostie’s tucked feet. Sud­denly, the head jerked into move­ment and began to wave about unsteadily.

     Amaz­ingly, my focus went from mak­ing sure Frostie was okay to mak­ing sure the baby was alright. He was more than alright, he was beau­ti­ful. Within 30 min­utes, she had given me a big dark colt with large gen­tle eyes. We rubbed him down, took pic­tures, called peo­ple, and finally stood back and just watched them together, mother and son.

Baby Snoopy explores his first time in the turnout.

     The plan to sell him dis­ap­peared after that. I now have a year­ling geld­ing named Snoopy who is learn­ing his ground man­ners and will be started next year. His mother and I have con­tin­ued our bond and are improv­ing with every ride.

     Although I’m glad that moth­er­hood has calmed my mare, I’ve real­ized that babies are not my busi­ness. In the end, the only good rea­son to breed Frostie was if I knew I’d be happy to get a horse that’s as good as she is. And I think I may have.

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