Overbreeding and Irresponsible Breeding

February 14, 2010

Most Americans are well aware of the problem of overbreeding in dogs and cats. However, the majority are probably unaware that the same problem exists in horses. There are simply too many horses and not enough land. As a result, tens of thousands of them go to slaughter each year.

In the United States, 104,899 horses were slaughtered in 2006 alone. Another 50,242 were slaughtered in Canada that year. (The United States slaughterhouses were closed in 2007, but since then the number of horses exported to Canada and Mexico for slaughter has drastically increased.)

Contrary to popular belief, the vast majority of these horses were NOT old, lame or sick. They were young and healthy. Most of them were not, however, well-trained. Instead, they were the castoffs of planned breeding programs.

  • Many were bred to be racehorses, but they weren’t fast enough.
  • Many were bred to have a certain color or pattern, but they were born “normal” instead.
  • Many were breeds (often mixed breeds) for which there simply isn’t a market.
  • Many were industry by-products.
  • Many were bred by loving but ignorant owners who simply “wanted a baby,” but didn’t have the knowledge or resources to train a young horse and make it safe and useful.
  • Many were the offspring of unplanned matings, when owners neglected to geld their colts.
  • And a few, sadly, were bred to be sold by the pound at the slaughterhouse.

Practice Intelligent Breeding

Careful, intelligent breeding is essential to solving the unwanted horse problem. Before ANY horse is bred, these factors should be considered:

  • Does the horse have exceptional genetic qualities to pass on?
  • For what purpose will the foal be used?
  • Is there a market for the foal? (EVERY horse bred should be valuable, and not just to its current owner. It’s simply impossible to guarantee that any owner will be able to keep a horse throughout its entire 30+ year lifespan.)
  • How much would the foal be worth in the current market? (If the answer isn’t at least four digits, breeding is a bad idea.)
  • Does the owner have the ability or resources to train the foal properly? (If not, PLEASE do not breed. Lack of training is the number one reason horses go to slaughter.)
  • Could a foal of similar quality be affordably purchased elsewhere? (If so, there is not enough of a market to merit breeding another one.)
  • Even if you own the “perfect horse,” there’s NO guarantee that the resulting foal will be perfect.

In the vast majority of cases, it’s easier, cheaper and faster to buy an existing foal from an auction or breeder than to breed your own.