Horse Racing: Breeding by the Numbers

Broodmares

Broodmares suffer an equally unsettling fate. Highly valued mares who have prestigious pedigrees, have a proven track record and/or have produced champion foals in the past are repeatedly bred with top breeding stallions to maximize profits. What’s more, a mare doesn’t necessarily have to be raced. Sometimes the only requirement is desired bloodlines wherein she may unwittingly pass on unidentified weaknesses and unsoundness.

Given that the gestation period is 11 months and after giving birth they are in heat 7-10 days later these spent broodmares are immediately re-bred to ensure they produce another potential champion foal in 11 months. This chronic cycle pushes the mares to extreme biological limits and leaves them in a state of perpetual pregnancy.

To ensure maximum return on the mares, their ovulation cycles are systematically controlled by artificial light during the long winter months and prostaglandins are administered to activate their dormant systems. More powerful hormonal drugs are then used to stimulate ovulation at precisely the right time to ensure optimum conditions when the covering takes place. All of this is unnatural – upsetting the natural circadian rhythm during the winter months and exposing these mares to unnecessary and elevated levels of estrogen and other steroidal compounds.

In the racing industry the official “birthday” of Thoroughbreds is January 1st in the Northern Hemisphere and August 1st in the Southern Hemisphere. The tactics of artificial lights and premature stimulation of a mare’s reproductive system is a contrived strategy to producing foals as close to the “birthday” as possible since these artificial dates have been established to facilitate the standardization of races for horses in specific age groups.

The method of impregnation for the mares is sterile, methodical and unequivocally controlled by human intervention. Many mares, especially those who are bred for the first time, can be terrified of the stallion. Ultimately the process is nothing more than pre-arranged rape. With legs straddled, tied down and conceivably drugged, depending on the struggle, the stallion mounts her.

Mares in their twenties and closing in on their lifespan continue to be subjected to this ruthless cycle. Many older mares will suffer and die from health-related complications associated with countless pregnancies over many years. Others will simply be put out to auction, some carrying foals, where they will end up at the slaughterhouse along with other Thoroughbreds who have since lost their “value” to their owners. This “value” is strictly measured in dollars in the industry.

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