Taking a Chance: A Maiden Mare and First Time Breeder

Cor de Fe (Fey) during her birthday photoshoot last September. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld Cor de Fe (Fey) during her birthday photoshoot last September. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld

I’m not sure exactly when I decided I wanted to breed event horses, but it was somewhere around the age of 12.

My first horse, Breezy, was a penny-colored Thoroughbred/Saddlebred mare with snappy knees. I boarded her and took lessons at a large farm that bred Thoroughbreds for eventing. Many of those horses went on to be owned by students on the farm, myself included. They were/are wonderful animals.

And so it was my dream to breed Breezy. I had a whole formula worked out where I would end up with the perfect combination of brains, endurance, jumping ability and movement. I would call the resulting foal Mystic Gypsy (Wispy for short) and I would train it myself and be the youngest person to ever win Badminton.

Go ahead and laugh. It’s all true.

Besides the fact that the numbers simply wouldn’t work out — I couldn’t take a 5-year-old to Badminton — plenty of other factors stood in my way, being 12 years old not the least of them. I never really let go of the idea, though.

Cor de Fe (Cor Magnifique x Leap of Faith, Malthus)

Cor de Fe (Cor Magnifique x Leap of Faith, Malthus)

Fifteen years have passed since that acorn was planted, and now I’m making plans to breed my 5-year-old Thoroughbred/Holsteiner mare, Cor de Fe, who is a product of the same lines produced at that farm of my youth.

Fey was bred by Elisa Wallace in Jasper, Georgia and was by all accounts a miracle baby. A pasture injury in her 3-year-old year would prevent her from being a competitive sport horse, but her bloodlines bode her the opportunity of a second career option.

I brought her home after Bromont last June and gave her the year to continue to grow and mature. She has blossomed into a truly beautiful mare. I just love looking at her.

I really like hanging out with her too. She loves people. She runs to me in the field. She can be pretty demanding about being the center of attention. She likes to be groomed and go on walks … I joke that she’s basically my dog.

For months I’ve been poring over stallions, thinking about finances, vets and other particulars and asking as many questions as I can of people who know a lot more than I do about breeding horses. Many of them have asked why on earth I would want to breed horses. They have also told me many times, “breeding is not for the faint of heart.”

When I was 12, I only knew the healthy foals romping next to their healthy mothers in the fields. I don’t remember any pregnancies gone wrong. As an adult, I’ve heard some truly horrifying stories about illness, injury and death during pregnancy and birth. It makes me wonder if it’s even fair to ask a mare to carry a foal. And for what? For me to one day ride?

My girls, Willow and Fey. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

My girls, Willow and Fey. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

But if you always expect the worse case scenario, you’ll never take a chance on the best possible outcome. I’ll freely admit it’s really scary and it might not work out … but what if it does? What if it turns out perfect? I’ll tell you one thing, I’ve already started thinking about names.

Right now, “Baby” Fey likes to snuggle and search my pockets for treats. She’s a bossy pants. She has a very loud, distinctive neigh when she wants something or someone. But I tell her that when she’s old and she’s had lots of babies and we’re both sprouting “sparkles” in our hair, we’ll still snuggle and go on walks, but I’ll call her Babushka instead of Baby.

The process to breed Fey this spring — this month even — has begun. I’m so excited to get to bring you along on this journey. I’ll be chronicling everything from the preparation to the breeding to the vet exams to, hopefully, a successful birth in 2016. Get ready!