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Breeding Strategies
It takes more than mating a stallion with a mare and waiting for the offspring to be a breeder. There are many around the world who have tried, at one time or another, to breed top horses but only a few have succeeded.

The best breeding grounds, it appears, are found in temperate climates with Britain, Ireland and the United States leading the way.

However, in recent years some of the best horses have come from Australia and New Zealand and even more recently countries like Germany, Argentina and South Africa have started making their marks on the world markets.

While Hong Kong does not have a breeding industry, it does have some very successful breeders, among them John Swain, Ronald Arculli and Jockey Club's CEO, Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges who has a huge operation back in Germany.

Ironically, while the sires quite often influence both the prices and the performances of horse, it's the mares whose characteristics make the difference between success and failure.

A stallion can serve up to 100 mares in a season but a mare can drop only one foal, and hence it is of the utmost importance to make sure that you first get a suitable mare (or filly) before deciding on whether or not you want to breed horses.

It is not necessary to have mare which has been racing, though this helps. More important is that the mare comes from a good family, is well confirmed and has no disability or bad habit of any kind.

The mare's own sire will often determine whether or not her foals develop into sprinters or stayers, though this is not 100 per cent certain. As with most other animals, the children don't always inherit the qualities of their parents.

So, supposing you have a mare, you must then look around for suitable stallion. This is often easier said than done, quite often, you will find that the services of top stallions are booked up well in advance.

Others, such as Danehill, cost a great deal and while the progeny of such a stallion can fetch a good price at auction, as was clearly the case at the recent Hong Kong International Sale, there are 24 months between a horse being born and before it can race and many foals of top sires have never made it to the racetrack.

So starting from scratch, where would-be breeder first needs to find a suitable place to set up his breaking-in and training grounds.

Then he needs to find a mare, bearing in mind that her parents will decide whether or not she is capable of throwing sprinters or stayers. Mares and fillies are found at horse sales and quite often cost even more that a colt from the same sire. This is especially the case with fillies of high profile stallions.

Then comes the search for a stallion who should have had a good racing career. Naturally, the more popular the sire the greater the service fee and breeders must take into consideration the fact that the foal may never race. If you want a stayer then it's best to look for a stallion who has succeeded in distance races. Makes sure that his progeny have raced with success over similar distances and, more important, whether or not they perform will on good to firm surfaces.

After a colt (or filly) has been weaned, it will be time to start his training, to get him used to having humans around without, as the same time, turning him into a pet. Pets are fine if you don't want to race the horse.

The first year is not much of a hassle but in a horse's second year he (or she) must be properly schooled. It is important to allow a young horse plenty of time to develop naturally. Pushing a horse to accomplish something as a two-year-old can quite often have a disastrous result in the long term.

Obviously, breeding horses is not something for the masses. It is expensive and carries the great risk of failure.

The most important thing is that you need plenty of patience, a great love for animals and the determination to succeed.