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Mon, 2012-03-26 13:26

Why FEH Works: From an Event Horse Breeder's Perspective

Authored By: Nina Gardner
Nina Gardner congratulating her horse, Cambalda, after his win at the 2011 Fork CIC3*. Emily Daily/USEA Photo.

The IDHSNA USEA Future Event Horse program can become the natural marketing mechanism for breeders of event horses. I believe it can serve to advertise both the animals and breeders. It can also help to educate the public about the advantages of buying a younger animal directly from the breeder. In this instance the investor is likely to receive a complete history of health and/or injuries. Investors who buy older horses which have been through several owners often get no such history.

Here are some of the lessons I have learned during the thirty plus years I’ve been breeding horses. The selection and matching of the mare with the stallion is the first step in breeding a successful upper level event horse. Further, since the mare supplies slightly more genetic material (through the cytoplasm of the egg) than the stallion does, mare choice is crucial. The mare also influences the foal’s development by her rearing techniques before weaning.

Likewise, early management of a young animal has an impact on its development. Besides preventative veterinary care, individualized nutrition and good parasite management, regular care by a farrier who is used to trimming young, rapidly growing foals is extremely important. If angular limb deformities occur they are generally best corrected early when the growth rate is fastest.

Frequent handling early on and exposing the young horse to as many experiences as possible make for well-mannered, friendly and confident horses.  The more you work with babies, the easier it is to train them later. Special horse-human partnerships so important to the top levels of eventing can be forged more easily early on. House Doctor, for example was a homebred we sent to Phillip Dutton when he was three. Phillip was the only person to compete Doc throughout his career, and at the age of eight they won team gold in Sydney. Two years later he was fifth in the World Equestrian Games.

In summary, though it takes longer, the eventual results are often better when you start with younger animals. The FEH program has the potential to become the best outlet for Event Horse Stars of the Future! Besides, young horses are so much fun.


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