February 5, 2014
Responsible Horse Breeding
Know your responsibilities when breeding horses
The availability of horse slaughter has allowed irresponsible breeding to grow unchecked in the horse industry, with American horses suffering terribly as a result. Some unscrupulous horse breeders produce far more foals each year than they can realistically train or sell, choosing instead to cull their herds by dumping their "excess" horses at auction. These breeders know these horses will likely be purchased by middlemen for foreign owned slaughter plants.
In 2006, the last full year there were operational horse slaughter plants in the U.S., approximately 100,000 American horses were sent to slaughter. According to the most recent census data, the total U.S. horse population is more than 9.2 million horses. The 100,000 horses who met a brutal end at slaughter that year represented approximately one percent of the total horse population.
Almost every horse born in the U.S. is the result of a person's conscious decision to breed his horse or not to separate mares from stallions.
Breeders—and horse industry organizations that profit from their use of horses—must take an active role in ensuring the horses they've brought into the world are treated humanely.
Emphasize quality over quantity
All horse breeders should breed with quality in mind. The availability of slaughter has given unscrupulous breeders a per-pound-price market in which to dump their "excess" horses. Breeders should plan their breeding programs in a way that enables them to properly market and train each individual horse for a lifetime home.
Breeders should be willing to take back or re-home the horses they produce, at any time, for any reason.
Breed organizations have an obligation to help at-risk horses
Breed registries make their money from new foal registrations. While the registries for some breeds, like Thoroughbreds, require live cover (i.e., the mare and stallion must physically mate) for foals to qualify for registration, others, like that for the American Quarter Horse, allow artificial insemination, enabling one stallion to impregnate far more mares than he could if live cover were required.
The Thoroughbred industry has taken steps to help re-home race horses once their racing careers are over and is supportive of horse rescues that assist former race horses.
In contrast, the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) registers more foals than any other breed registry (more than one million foals in seven years), and far more Quarter Horses are sent to slaughter than are any other identifiable breed. The AQHA offers no significant assistance for at-risk Quarter Horses and has actively lobbied against stopping horse slaughter.
More tips and information can be found in our book The Humane Society of the United States' Complete Guide to Horse Care.