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Breed or buy?

I know that’s a loaded question here but there’s some backstory.

I just spent over 3 years searching for my next heart horse that I hoped to develop into a GP (jumper) contender. I found an incredible 3 yo mare by Emerald and after months (through no fault of her own) of PPE and logistics, I got her home. Two weeks ago she jumped out of her paddock and broke her neck. I’m devastated, obviously.

Now that the shock has worn off I’m considering what to do next. I knew nothing about Emerald before I found my mare but everything I saw in her and everything I learned about him since, I loved. I loved her brain, her movement, her jump, and her size. It looks like cloning is off the table for various reasons. I can reach back out to the breeder and see if they can make another one (although they’re getting out of breeding so that’s a long shot), try to find another somewhere…or breed Emerald to my older mare.

I’ve been thinking of breeding my mare (via IVF/recip mare, as she’s small) for years. I’ve owned her since she was a yearling and she’s my heart horse. I know nothing’s guaranteed yadda yadda yadda (I’m a young horse trainer and have been a repro vet tech, worked for breeders, etc. I know breeding is often a crap shoot), but my mare has the best brain, incredible work ethic, and everything I’d want in my next horse except size. Every trainer, vet, body worker, that has met her loves her (I’m not just biased!). She’s sound at 20, and just tries her heart out at everything I ask her to do. This baby would be mine forever and I really would prefer a mare (another check in the buy category…).

Do I try to breed her to Emerald next year, try for the same cross from the breeder of my 3yo, or scrap it all and start my search over?

Follow up: I know Emerald has a lot of babies on the ground but I haven’t been able to find a ton about what he adds. Most of the things I’ve found (on this forum) are that he adds size (height and width) but not necessarily length of leg, and his offspring have great brains.

Lastly, at the very very VERY bottom of the list, my mare is buckskin and wouldn’t it be cool if I got a buckskin or palomino Emerald baby. (No I’m not breeding for color and I know this would be highly unlikely but a girl can dream…)


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So, so sorry about your 3 yo. Horses…why do we do this!!! I lost a 4yo to EDM that I bought as a yearling, and he was the same dam line as my heart horse…so I understand what you’re going through on that level.

I did breed…and now I buy. But, I think the bottom line is do what will make you the most happy…because, as you well know, it’s easy for it to go bad no matter how much you plan for all the what ifs.

So if the idea of breeding your mare makes you excited…and you can afford the costs with IVF and all that…then do that. If your goals are different or more specific that you would be better off finding a youngster already on the ground, do that.

I tried to breed my own…for various reasons that didn’t work out most of the time. So I bought a riding age…that didn’t work. I then decided to buy several youngsters because the risk invested was less. Jury is out on that still! LOL One ended up with EDM…one broke his ribs, then got EPM…though he seems to be recovering and making a decent comeback…one is amazing and will probably end up being up one of my best horses ever…and one is a very cute yearling who hasn’t had to do anything yet.

But for me, the stress of breeding was too much…even though I adored the foals. Bringing up the youngsters has been hard because it takes time…but I’m enjoying that.

Long winded way of saying…if you are doing this for yourself, then do what you will get the most enjoyment from.


Horses are the worst. I’m not sure why we do it. A special breed of crazy I guess…

Thanks for your input, and I’m also sorry for your loss.

That’s an interesting question, what I’ll enjoy the most. I didn’t want to breed myself initially because of the time investment until riding age (I started casually shopping when my mare was 15, but clearly I was too casual). Now that my mare is retired from competition, I was hoping to get something that I could get on sooner, BUT I’ve been training foals through starting under saddle for most of my career and I love it. Even at just 3yo, my Emerald mare (Yana) had a few skeletons that we had to work on. I know that starting with a foal we won’t have that issue. I’ve considered leasing or lessoning on an upper level horse while the baby grows up so that’s an option. I feel like I’m in the same place you are - I thought buying would be more of a guarantee but it wasn’t, so why not do what I’ve always wanted to do and have a foal from my mare? Thankfully for DH money is less of an issue than it used to be although I try not to push my luck there.

Food for thought… Thanks again

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Another thought (which you have probably thought of) - what kind of a jumper is your mare and what are her bloodlines? Can she jump a 1.4 to 1.5 meter course or more importantly does she come from lines that produce that level of jumpers? Emerald is a fabulous stallion but if you really want to produce a GP contender the mare has to have those kind of genetics.

Now if you just want to breed a really nice horse for yourself that has a lot of your mare’s attributes and you don’t have as lofty goals then the percentages are higher that you could you could produce that. It is less risky to look at something already on the ground though. And if she is already 20 that ship might have sailed. I think his semen is pretty expensive these days and you might be pouring that $$$ in a black hole with nothing to show for it.


A valid point. She definitely isn’t jumper bred (she’s appendix and was bred to do the all around QH classes and the hunters). I believe training has a lot to do with a horse’s potential, but of course they need to have the physical capabilities, which is why I’m curious what Emerald adds to his offspring. Had I had more money and time when she was growing up she would have progressed more but unfortunately I was never able to realize her potential (which, admittedly may have been only the 1m or 1.10m).

At the end of the day, I want something that I’m going to enjoy the journey with, knowing that it’s a 10+ year journey to the GP (I bring mine along very slowly). If it doesn’t end up being a GP horse in 8 years then I can try again, and I won’t be terribly upset about that. Lots of things happen to horses with incredible genetic potential that limit their capability.

Understood regarding her age. Fwiw (and I take this with a grain of salt), her accupuncturist said she thought she absolutely could have a foal based on her disposition and reaction at her ovary points. It’s a little woo woo but it’s all I got. :rofl: I wouldn’t have her carry and would be ok if we tried once and it didn’t take. At least I could say I tried.

I think she has a halfway decent technique for a QH (I am biased about that)

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I’d look around for a weanling - 2yr old and if I didn’t find something special by spring, I’d breed your mare.

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Oh, jeez… i thought your 20 yr old mare was a well-bred Warmblood with jumper lines, the way you were laying all this out… the odds of you getting a legitimate GP horse out of an Appendix mare are astronomically low, no matter who you breed her to. Sorry, nothing against Appendixes (i produce “off-breed” crosses myself so i’m by no means elitist!) but you are claiming to be aiming for the top of the sport - for that, you need something bred for it, top and bottom. Especially when it comes to jumping.

Based on everything you’ve laid out, it’s a no-brainer to me. Buy. And to get the clean slate you’re looking for, buy a yearling or 2 yr old. Old enough to assess gaits and capability/temperament, young enough to mold and train the way you want, with no “holes”.

Sorry to hear about your mare… that is heartbreaking. :cold_sweat:


I’m really sorry to hear about your young mare.

Your buckskin mare is super cute. I would echo those that suggest you buy, not breed in this situation though. A 1.35-1.40m regional standard Grand Prix horse is not as rare a creature as a true 1.50m+ horse, but to breed one that is going to also be amateur friendly at that level, or at least friendly for a pro that I’m assuming might not have a lot of experience at that level themselves, on a reasonable timeline is going to be extremely unlikely with this particular cross. In general, whatever your goals, I also wouldn’t think Emerald would be the best cross with a stock type mare. He is a super stallion with wonderful offspring but in my opinion he is at his best with a lighter, leggier mare with more blood. If you add in the costs related to breeding a 21 year old mare (by next year) with frozen semen, I think in this case your money will be much better spent towards your goals in buying another young horse.

There are so many Emerald offpsring out there, even if you have your heart really set on another Emerald, I think you’ll find that there are plenty of options to purchase one that has a much higher likelihood of doing what you’d like it to do and it being an enjoyable process to get there for both you and the horse. The less naturally suited a horse is to doing something the harder the process will be and I think in this case you really are going to want something that it comes as easily as possible to, which means one that is very conformationally suited to the job with scope to spare. A horse at the end of its scope is (speaking generally, there are exceptions) going to require a much more accurate ride, probably not going to be as able to be as forgiving of mistakes (extra scope is usually needed to bail things out), and in my opinion will be less suited to someone who is not very experienced at that height, particularly while it is also less experienced at the level itself.

Producing a horse to the level you are hoping to get to is such a long journey with a lot of expense, not to mention all the risks and expenses with breeding. I’d really encourage you to look at buying in this scenario.

Again, so sorry to hear about your mare and best of luck! I hope you’ll keep us updated on your journey, whatever you decide to do.


I am so terribly sorry. If your lovely mare came from a certain Midwest breeder- maybe they have some embryos? I’m so sorry for your loss.

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I would recommend buying a foal vs breeding. So much can go wrong, plus the extra year or two of waiting. There are lots of Emerald offspring around, I’d look for something already on the ground. There’s also a really nice son of his that stands at Emeska in Quebec that might be worth a look for 2024 foals.


I would not breed your mare to any stallion for a potential Grand Prix horse. If you want to breed her find a stallion who is accomplished at what your mare excels at, whatever that may be. Or buy a horse that has a genetic opportunity to do Grand Prix and cross your fingers.

So sorry for your loss, that has to be devastating.


I appreciate everyone’s insight.

I’m not looking to make an ammy friendly horse and specifically want one with a lot of blood. My mare has a lot of blood and that’s what I enjoy riding. I have a lot of experience riding upper level horses, even if they haven’t been in my own training program, and have started close to 100 young horses over fences.

The problem with buying (as I’ve learned) is that what I’m looking for just isn’t out there. Most breeders keep their really good fillies so when I call someone up they show me what’s second rate. Maybe I need an agent that’s well known, but even then it took me 3 years of serious searching to find this 3yo. If there are unstarted fillies out there that are 8-10 movers, 9-10 jumpers, but most importantly with a good brain, I’d love to see them, but I just don’t think they’re out there in the numbers that people are saying they are.

All of that to say that I have a very specific set of requirements and I’d love to buy if the Right One is out there but I just don’t know that she is, hence my desire to take what I know (my older mare), improve it with a stallion I like and know, and hope it works out.

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Did you take this mare (the one you’re thinking of breeding) to the height? Not necessarily in competition, but did she prove to be suited for a course of it?

This might be tough to hear because I’m sure you love her and she’s adorable - but she’s got a lot of things that combined just make for a list of reasons to buy something instead. Age, proven ability, scope, jumping technique, stallion pairing of choice, etc. She does not appear to be a suitable prospect for GP, and the mare is significantly more influential than the stallion.

Do you want a foal out of this mare, or do you want a GP prospect? I think you need to choose one or the other. There are plenty of horses out there doing higher level stuff with off-brand bloodlines or backgrounds - but they are outliers. If you just want a foal out of this mare, go for it! Pick a stallion that suits her and see what happens. But if you’re dead serious about getting a GP prospect, go buy one.


I looked up Emerald on one of the semen broker’s pages. He is almost $1300 a STRAW. I don’t know how many straws of his semen makes up a dose because stallions are frozen in different concentrations and doses are not identical for different stallions. But I am assuming 4 straws per dose (which may be a low estimate) so you are paying around $5k for a breeding dose. And it might take a few doses to get a young fertile mare pregnant, much less a 20 year old maiden. I am too risk averse to even try that with a 20 year old maiden Ratina Z or a direct daughter of Quidam that jumped 1.6 meters. If you are shooting for the top both sides have to have the genetics. If you want to get a fun horse out of your mare - Emerald has quite a few stallion sons that have super genetics with lower semen costs. Considering her age you might want to find one with a LFG.

I played the breeding game once with a much younger maiden mare. I had to stop because I just didn’t have that kind of bucks. I also would get your mare a workup with a really good repro vet before I invested in a lot of pricey semen. I wouldn’t be using an acupuncturist to determine what her biopsy score is.


The problem with buying (as I’ve learned) is that what I’m looking for just isn’t out there.

I wonder why you even asked the question of Breed or Buy as it appears you mindset is already fixed on breeding the 20 year old maiden

Breeding an older maiden can be done however the success rate is low. Most breeders will not breed a maiden who has crossed the age of 16 years.

My thoughts are why would you want to endanger this beloved mare’s life?


I’m also in the buy camp. I agree finding one is hard and there are no guarantees with a young one but purpose bred and old enough to have an idea what they are going to grow in to stacks the deck in your favor. I’ve breed several starting with my junior hunter who was amazing at the job with a perfect mind. Of her four (ironically in this thread, all fillies) only one really wanted the job I bred for. All are lovely horses but not hunters, which is my passion. Breeders play a numbers game. Keep looking. There’s one out there. You may have better luck with an agent. I imported a filly this spring that (so far, fingers crossed) is a nicer horse than I could have ever bred unless my small numbers somehow hit the genetic jackpot.

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Love your older mare! Her jumping technique however is not something I would seek in a horse jumping the big sticks. While she is careful as she is able with her knees, (conformation wise not size. Look at Teddy O Conner). She jumps over her shoulder. Buy.


I agree that OP sounds to have her mind more made up than was originally portrayed.

She did mention that her hypothetical plans to breed this older mare would include a recipient mare. Not that the medical intervention to make that happen is completely risk-free, but not a likely risk to the mare’s life.


Would you be interested in a baby out of a pretty but not scopey appendix mare if you did not own the mare? You will most likely not get what you want out of your mare. Breeding for the Grand Prix level is not easy, if that is what you truly want, buy.

Where are you looking? There are plenty of breeders in the US breeding quality and proven mares.


With a GP jumper you are looking for the rotation and lift. Think back cracker style. And hocks cannot be trailing.

I’d look for a horse that lifts it’s shoulder up into it’s withers while rotating. And has the fold, high tuck, both front and back. Front end completely lifting up folding and rotating. Different than the hunter bascule, a smooth hunter ride vs a jump you out of the tack ride.