Nick

The language and practice of horse breeding in the days of my youth were in many ways radically different from modern horse breeding. In those days, a mare was “horsin’“ when she went into her heat cycle. When she didn’t come back into heat after a breeding, it was presumed that she was bred or “settled“, so the breeding “stuck.“ If a combination of a certain stallion and mare consistently produced a good offspring that was considered a “nick”, as in “that mare really nicks with Poco Bueno!” Now, we more often ultrasound for a follicle, and inseminate when it approaches 40 mm in size. There was a story about a horse breeding somewhere in Eastern Europe where horses are still widely used for work. A mare was brought to a stallion for breeding. The breeding took place. The next day the whole village gathered around as the mare was brought to the stallion. She kicked him. There was a great murmur of approval and many smiles, for they all knew that meant she would have a foal next year. Hand breeding was more frequent than artificial insemination when I was a teenager. Two people would lead the prospective pair together. Great care was taken to assure that no injury would happen to either horse. But sometimes horse and human were at risk. Ranchers in those days still just turned out a band of mares with a stallion in a large pasture. We were always cautioned not to ride into such a pasture. If we did find ourselves in one, we were instructed to get off our horse, as the stallion would have no interest in us, but he would certainly fight our mount. I find it interesting that insurance companies who insure stallions, rate pasture breeding stallions in the lowest risk category. I guess it works out that if left alone, horses receive fewer injuries. Maybe they know more about this breeding business than we do!

Then there was the fellow sitting in the stands at the stock show who showed me a picture of his stallion. I asked what it cost to breed to him. His answer was classic “Well, now that depends. If you bring me just any old mare, it’s $1000. But if you bring me a mare that’s a worldbeatin’ producer, I might pay you!“

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