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Warmblood

By Scot Tolman

A

s a preface to what I’m about to write, let me just say that I’m not pro “everything European.” Their coffee

cups are too small, their drivers too crazy, and their cheese too good. OK. That being said, I am a fan of their systematic, efficient method of raising horses. Although exceptions exist to the following scenario, for the most part, this is the step-by-step process from conception to horse show. The stallion owner, or his or her son/daughter/cousin/

next-door-neighbor/employee, comes to your farm with the semen and inseminates your mare, or you bring your mare to the stallion owner. In either situation, you, the mare owner, pay a one-time fee for the basic breeding services for the season. That's right, season—not including any necessary drugs for her—but probably including coffee, pastries, and/or a shot of Jagermeister for you, both when you drop off the wanton equine hussy and when you pick up your hormonally-satiated mare, complete with her Grand-Prix-destined zygote. Assuming all goes well and the zygote is now an embryo, soon-to-be fetus, happily nestled in the non-scarred base of your equine-oven’s right horn, you and your mare spend the next 11 months blithely eating, moderately exercising, and not allowing the stress of “should I bang on my stall because it’s 5:10 am and where the hell is the grain cart or should I not bang on my stall” to get too intense. Your bouncing baby bronc is born. It, along side its dam, spends the next four or five months (minus the time you’re raising your shot glass of Jagermeister to toast the next zygote) cavorting and experimenting with natural collection, airs-above-the-ground, and the imaginary Grand Prix jumping course—all in plentiful, fetlock-deep grass fields. If this is one of the lucky foals from a top mareline, then he or she may also have a quick trip to a selection for one of the many elite foal auctions. Regardless, at some point between the fourth and sixth month mark, junior or juniorette says a whinny-full goodbye to mom, gets buddied up with a friend of the same sex, then finds him or herself in a large pen/barn as part of a group of weanlings. Yes, fellow North Americans, there are

numerous “horse-raiser” farmers in Europe. It is their occupation to take in dozens, even hundreds, of weaned foals and raise them for the next couple of years. These babies grow up in a herd environment, get their feet done and are dewormed regularly, and, most importantly, are allowed to be horses without too much human intervention. Ah. I can sense the puzzled, con- cerned expression on some of your faces now. Think of this as boarding school for your teenagers. You can visit. They’re not going to like you or talk to you anyways—why not let someone else deal with puberty through adolescence? I swear on my top mare’s next born colt, and I’m speaking as a public high school teacher and a parent, most girls go through a two- to three-year period during which they belong in a locked room with food, some DVDs, and a copy of Cosmo thrown in occasionally. For the boys, it starts a little later and manifests a little differently—they suddenly become calorie-burning machines and cannot be satiated. My 160(+/–)-pound son can consume his weight in food within three hours. My wife and I have often remarked that it’s probably more cost efficient to pay his boarding school tuition than the grocery bill if he were home. So, your young horse-away-from-home has now reached the winter of his or her coming three- year-old year. Guess what? Down the road from the farmers who raise the weanlings to three-year-olds, there’s a whole selection of “young horse starters.” Yes, for an amazingly reasonable fee, you can get your pony backed and started without

your having to go on a starvation diet because you can’t afford to buy

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