By Sherry Cervi
Springtime is one of my favorite times of the year. Everything starts fresh, and the grass is lush and green. Everywhere I go it seems there are new foals on the ground. This may be my favorite part of spring. Whether it’s one single foal beside a small home or a large horse operation with dozens of new babies playing in the pasture, I can’t help wondering about each of them. How are they bred? Which of them will be the next champion in their given sport?
There are many reasons to breed horses, and the possibilities are endless. You may have a mare that is very special to you and want to keep a part of her going, passing along her traits to the next generation. Whether you have a single mare or a full-blown breeding business, this season is a very exciting time.
Barrel racing competition is constantly getting tougher, due in part to the fact that many people are breeding specifically for barrel horses. Finding just the right cross is an adventure. You may look for a great broodmare that fits your budget or find just the right stallion. While it is true that genetics determine the horse’s potential, there is much more to determining success. The time spent trying to find just the right cross is very important, but so is the time you will spend getting a prospect ready for its first competition. I have seen grade horses make great barrel horses, and I have seen horses with the best papers never become successful. Genetics do not guarantee a champion. Turning potential into success involves everything that happens after the foal is born.
This is why raising babies is so exciting. You never know just what will happen. It will certainly be years before you see your new colt running around a barrel. Heartbreak is inevitable. Owning horses is hard; raising them is harder. You have to keep them safe, healthy and be diligent in their training. You push them toward a single goal. You gamble your time and money to see a dream to the end, and sometimes it comes true and sometimes it does not. Many horses just don’t turn out like we think they should. It can be frustrating at times. Days and months may go by without any success. Then, one day you may have a big breakthrough where the light comes on for that particular horse. As you continue with him, you realize more potential in the prospect. Finally, when that one-in-a-thousand chance comes true, it makes all the effort worth it in the end. You could buy a prospect that may be started under saddle and train it, but to me it’s not quite as fulfilling as seeing success in a foal you raised. You can’t put a price on that experience and the lessons raising foals will teach you. Your colts may never run down the alleyway at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, but they are still your champions. They are your accomplishments, and nobody can take that away from you.
When I started having success with “Stingray” (MP Meter My Hay), I thought about breeding her, so I collected a couple embryos out of her over a few years. Of course, she is very special to me, but it doesn’t matter what we have accomplished before. All those hopes and dreams start again when the foals are born. We raise many foals at the ranch, and I try very hard not to pick favorites too early, but it’s hard not to. I try to get my hands on them as quick as I can and learn their personalities. That doesn’t happen as much as I would like because I am gone so much. I can usually find the ones with talent, but I try very hard to give them all an equal shot. It’s easy to take only the colts I am confident in to the jackpot, but sometimes the late bloomer or the tougher horse to train ends up being the most talented.
As the babies are born every spring, stop and take some time to look at them. Appreciate the time and effort that is put into each one. Any of them could be the next world champion or the next gentle horse that gives a kid the confidence to become a great rider, and in turn makes barrel racing a part of their life forever.
Each horse has the possibility to do great things. The best part of raising horses is that there’s no telling where that new foal may take you.
Sherry Cervi is a four-time Women’s Professional Rodeo Association World Champion Barrel Racer. This article was originally published in Cervi’s monthly World Champion Reflections column in BHN throughout 2014 following Cervi’s 2013 world title. Email comments on this article to [email protected]