Letter Re: Horse Breeding Now, and in the Future

I wanted your opinion on something. I raise Quarter horses, mostly show prospects and have done this for a lifetime. I own the stallion, I do the breeding of my own mares and ship [straws of frozen] semen all over the country for others. I also train outside horses for a living. As you well know the horse economy like everything else is going down the tubes. I have been down sizing for the past three years as the Holy Spirit has prompted [my string] going [down] from 60 to 30. I did not breed any of my mares back this year and my focus is continuing to downsize. I know the job these horses were bred for is no longer going to be available. They will be needing a new job. My question to you is, do you think there would be a market through SurvivalBlog for any of my stock? I breed for good minds, great bones and of course movement (which I understand would not matter to a survivalist) disposition and beauty. These are hearty horses, I believe they could make great work horses, pack horses or just about anything you asked them to be. I think the catch for the horses I would have available would be the fact that some are untrained 2 and 3 year olds. I’m madly working on breaking this last big group, but I can only ride so many a day.
It is just a passing idea. This is my web site if you want to take a peek at what I have. Thanks for your time and honesty. God Bless, – Merry

JWR Replies: In the short term, it might be a good idea to reduce your breeding stock, but in the long term, your brood mares may make you wealthy. I’m sure that some SurvivalBlog readers will be contacting you, particularly looking for mares.

One of the biggest concerns for horse owners, at present, is the high price of feed. The global grain shortage has pushed up feed prices tremendously. Because grain prices will remain high, I expect hay prices to stay high, in sympathy. (Markets are all about supply and demand.) It didn’t help that last spring and summer were dry in the western US, and most hay growers only got one marketable cutting. This pushed hay prices up to insane prices. This prompted many cattlemen and horse breeders to thin their herds.

In the long term, however, high fuel prices and spot shortages will likely cause a resurgent interest in working horses. This is most likely in regions with lush pasture and plentiful hay. In the arid west, where hay is a product of circular irrigation, working horses probably won’t make quite so strong a comeback.

In a post-Peak Oil collapse, horse breeding stock–for both draft horses and saddle horses–would be like gold.

My advice: If you don’t have extensive pastures and own your own hay ground and hence buy a lot of hay each year, then thin your string of brood mares down to just your very best couple of dozen, for the next few years. However, maintain your ranch infrastructure, so that you can “ramp up” to larger production, if need be. Do not sell off any pasture ground, hay ground, stock panels, or haying equipment! Also, hang on to every saddle and piece of tack that you own. In fact, if you have the chance to buy more tack (as the horse market continues to crash), and you have a secure storage space that will keep it safe from mold and mice, then invest in more tack. Doing so will take advantage of the fire sale prices on tack that we will no doubt see for the next few years. To amplify on our previous exchange of e-mail: You can breed horses, but you can’t breed tack. In a few years, all those new horse buyers will be screaming for saddles and tack! Buy low and sell high.

One ironic situation we may see in the next decade: All over rural America, there are antique horse-drawn hay mowers that are now rusting away as yard ornaments. I predict that many of them will be oiled up and pressed into service. Hopefully, they won’t be too far gone.