Buying a Broodmare
Many choices abound,
pays to do your homework
by Dana Halvorson
ne of the truest adages in the horse business is:
It costs just as much to feed a bad horse as a good horse. This is
never truer then when buying a broodmare. Whereas, when buying a yearling or
two-year-old, you will find out fairly quickly whether or not youve made
a good buy, it could take three, four or five foals to find your fate with a
broodmare. That makes it imperative to make an informative decision when
shopping for a mare. Hopefully, this article will provide you with some general
ideas and guidelines to make the selection process a little easier. After all,
there is nothing quite like breeding and raising a foal and seeing it get to
the races. Its just like watching one of your children compete.
The first item influencing your decision to buy a
broodmare is whether her offspring are to be sold or whether you plan to keep
and race them yourself. While these options and how you view a mares
pedigree, etc. arent mutually exclusive, if you want the option of
selling her progeny, whether as a weanling, yearling or two-year-old, you have
to be a little more careful.
Breeding to Sell or the Importance of
Black-type Close Up
Firstly, something has to
be happening in the first dam. The mare has to have been a legitimate stakes
horse or be a sister or half-sister to a substantial stakes runner. You need to
remember that the mares resultant foal will drop down on the catalog page
a notch. (See examples.) Your mares first dam will be the foals
second dam, and so on, as your mares family moves down the
generations on the page. Consequently, if you have to go to the third dam, or
further, to find stakes horses, you probably wont be going to any of the
selected sales with your foal, based on pedigree.
The other part of the equation is, of course, the sire
of the foal. The better the stallion; i.e., race record, pedigree line, stud
fee, etc.; the better the chance you will have a marketable offspring.
Breeding to Race Gives You a Few More Options
Another option when buying a mare is to race
her foals yourself. In that case, you may choose your mares, your stallions and
their families a little bit differently. But it is important to keep in mind,
that if you do decide to sell an offspring of this mare, or maybe even the mare
herself, that she and her foals need to have some commercial and marketable
appeal (see above).
Try to buy a young mare
from a deep quality family. Many times, with top families, quality racehorses
can skip a generation, and while you might not get an immediate,
say first generation, return, the depth of family will still continue to be an
And remember; dont breed that filly
or mare just because shes a female! Many a person has made an
unprofitable and unsuccessful mistake of breeding a mare just because
shes handy and not because she, or her offspring, truly have
the chance to succeed as racehorses. It is always better not to count on any
miracles to appear.
How Important is the Covering Stallion?
The first thing to remember is to buy the mare
first. It is great to have her in foal to a good sire, but after that foal has
gone down the road, you are still left with the mare. What happens if she
aborts that promising foal or it is born with less than promising
conformation? You may have paid for a maximum stud fee and have
nothing but a cheap mare to show for it later.
Does the Age of the Mare Matter?
Most buyers want a young mare, so consequently they
cost more. There is an advantage to buying mares that only have a foal or two
especially if they are sired by good stallions or mares that are
carrying their first foal. For one thing, the seller really doesnt know
whether the mares foals can run or not, anymore than the buyer does. My
own personal sales barometer says that if a mare hasnt had a
runner of significance by the age of 10, you are in a state of
limbo with that particular mare. When a mare reaches 10 to 12 years
of age, she begins to depreciate significantly. By that point, she needs to be
a stakes producer in order to give you a better chance at success.
Older mares may cost less at a sale, and you might
occasionally get a good bang for your buck; i.e., better catalog page, more
proven offspring. The disadvantages include potential fertility problems and
limited production years remaining.
Is the Conformation of the Broodmare
Absolutely! Try to find a mare with
minor faults and who has the physical capacity to carry a foal to term. Older
mares sometimes show their age, but if I were seriously considering buying one
as long as they look healthy I would be more concerned with her
production record and how her foals sold at auction. Price of her foals,
especially compared to others by the same sire, will give you a pretty good
idea about how they looked physically.
Whats a Good Way to Get Started?
Get good advice! And I repeat, get good
advice! Use a professional, if possible, but always make sure to check his or
Just because favorite Uncle Joe
went to Longacres, or even Belmont Park, as a kid, doesnt make him
qualified to advise you in matters pertaining to bloodstock purchases. Honesty
and integrity are essential, and previous successful purchasing is paramount.
Do your homework!
Where Do You Look for a Mare?
One can buy a mare privately or at public auction. One
of the primary sources of breeding stock is the Keeneland November sale. Other
auctions which offer a wide range of broodmares include the Keeneland January
sale, the October or January Ocala Breeders Sales, Barretts October
venue, and, of course, the WTBA Winter Mixed Sale in December. The biggest
advantage to purchasing broodmares at the eastern auctions is the array of
When your new purchase drops her
foal in Washington, that foal automatically becomes a Washington-bred and is
therefore eligible for Washington-bred breeders awards if it wins at
Emerald Downs, whether you still own the foal or even the mare at that point.
This puts you in line to recoup some of your original investment. You then have
the opportunity to breed that nice young mare back to a nice local stallion of
Whether you have plans to be a market
breeder, or just have a few homebreds running in your own silks, the secret to
success in the breeding business is quality.
you have a product that somebody wants, all the pieces will fit in place and
you will be able to realize the enjoyment and satisfaction that comes with
being a part of the Thoroughbred breeding industry.
Until then, happy hunting!
This mare (Hip 1634) was
a $60,000 RNA at the 2006 Keeneland January Mixed Sale.
Her newly turned yearling
(Hip 1635) only sold for $3,000 at the same sale.
Dana Halvorson, longtime WTBA board member and
current sales committee chairman, has been involved in Thoroughbred sales since
1981. His Halvorson Bloodstock Services LLC has been responsible for bringing
many significant horses to the Pacific northwest, including broodmares,
stallions and future runners.
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