I'll admit I use to be an advocate of the "Pure Bred" horse. I owned, trained, and competed pure breds. I was raised to believe a Hienze 57 was inferior to the pure bred animal. But my pure bred champions came with their own unique inherent physical problems. What I came to realize was that all that purposeful selective breeding, was causing inbreeding issues with their health and conformation.
My gorgeous pure bred Quarter Horse, Bonitas Bar shoes, had tiny feet for her large body, that created strain and trauma to her hooves. Her awesome personality, calm relaxed nature and power for the sprint, allowed her to suffer through her conformational handicap. But was that fair? Her breed suffers a high incidence of Cushings Disorder, and this hereditary disease claimed her life at the young age of 17.
My equally gorgeous pure bred Appaloosa, Forbidden to Rock, had very thin weak hoof walls that crumbled away and had to be built up with fake hoof plaster and medication that cost me a fortune. His amazingly smooth jog and lope were like a dream come true, but he had to wear heavy pads on his feet to perform it. He suffered from severe allergies to plants in the pasture and could never be turned out for fear of shock and death. He died at the very young age of 8 from a fractured stifle bone that fractured his mental state as well.
When I began teaching I was offered the use of a little old "Grade Horse" of unknown parentage. Beetle was somewhere in his late 20's and I taught with him through his early 30's. He was sweet, kind, gentle, and smart and my students adored him. He suffered from a little arthritis and some bad teeth which I had extracted, but he was otherwise very healthy and robust for such an old horse. I eventually retired him to pasture.
Most recently I acquired two "Nurse Mare's Babies," grade horses that were unbroke 4 year olds. I did not think much of them and wanted to simply break, train and sell them. However, after working with them, I came to realize each one had her own individual talents, that they were smart, beautiful, and excelling in the sports I was gearing them toward. They have strong healthy feet, good confirmation, loving friendly personalities, and thus far at almost 8 years old, are very healthy. I have since become an advocate for the plight of nurse mare's babies. The only main issue they have is a desire to suckle on anything close to their lips! And go figure because...
Researching them I discovered this:
They come from "inferior" mares of mixed breeding that are made intentionally pregnant. When their mothers give birth they only nurse them for a week or two. At this time the mother is shipped off to nurse the baby of an expensive "pure bred" because the pure bred's mother has been shipped off to be re-bred by a "superior" stallion. This industry mainly is fueled by the Thoroughbred Racing Industry. So what happens to the little nurse mare's foal? Most are left to starve to death!!!! Others are sent to slaughter for their meat to the European market, their hides for shoes, and handbags, etc. Only a lucky few are rescued and find homes with loving horse owners.
I find this practice appalling, callus and greedy. An attitude like "class" and "status" that stigmafys an animal as inferior because they were not selectively INBRED, is purely snobbish. The Thoroughbred Racing Industry is a multi billion dollar industry with beautiful powerful horses bred to do one thing - run hard and fast, and at a very young age, which damages their young joints, muscles and bones. They are not bred for brains, sensible personalities, or longevity, etc., and the majority of them, after non-successful careers as race horses, eventually end up sold to the average horse enthusiast, who has no idea how to handle them. They are thin skinned and lack tolerance, suffer with ulcers, cribbing, stall walking and other nervous vices, and spook frequently and violently with that strong flight instinct they possess. I have worked with and around thoroughbreds enough to know this. They are not ideal average horse owner animals.
The saddest part of the whole story is the nurse mare industry would not need to exist if industries like the horse racing industry would approve of artificial insemination. The mares would not have to be shipped to the stallion's location and could stay with their own offspring to nurse them.
I understand our practice of selectively breeding horses to perform a specific job or sport that a group of individuals see as ideal. We breed for speed, or lack of it, smoothness of gait, specific color, beautiful looks or way of going, etc... I also understand breeding to remove unwanted traits, like bad unhealthy conformation and gaits, unattractive looks, etc... However, This type of selective breeding also creates the same problems as the pure bred population becomes further and further inbred.
So in conclusion, I feel that every horse, pure or mixed breed, should be treated with the same respect and decency as any other horse. Treating nurse mare's babies as disposable garbage is to me unconscionable. There are horses with amazing personalities, beautiful conformation, talents for the sports we wish to engage them in and health and vitality among these babies as much as within any purebred stock. They are considered inferior and low grade because of their non-selective breeding, I feel that is an unfair characterization. Each one is an individual, pure or grade, there are good ones in each population as well as those that do not possess the best attributes.
Pure bred or grade horse? Chose an individual horse based on their merits as an individual. If you plan to show and compete at recognized breed shows, then choose the best specimen you find of that breed. Some breed registries have understood the inbreeding issues and chose to out-breed to try to fix their populations. Look closer at one of these horses, like an appendix thoroughbred, or out crossed appaloosa, etc. If however your sport is open to any breed, then don't overlook the grade horse. Search for good conformation, health, personality, and a gait you desire.
Samara is climbing her way up in the dressage ring with her big ears and big heart, this buckskin pony has a lot of challenges and hurtles to overcome, but with her lovely graceful movement and willingness to try hard to achieve whatever I ask from her, I'm confident we will go far.
Cheros has made a splash in the gaming pen with her gorgeous flashy pinto looks, ability to learn quickly whats wanted of her, her desire to hunt the barrels and her speed. But most importantly, she has won my heart with her charms as a lesson horse for my students. She is quirky, funny, very tolerant and intelligent, not spooky, safe and trust worthy.
If you want to learn more about the nurse mare babies please visit:
Last Chance Corral rescue's web site.