S P E C I A L R E P O R T
Researched and Written by JANE ALLIN
ONLY a small percentage of stallions (2%) who are valued for their performance on the track and “refined” gene pools are judged eligible for breeding.
In contrast about 52% of the mares go on to become broodmares. 
Modern Thoroughbred breeding can be likened to a production line that spews out an ever increasing number of inherently weakened horses as a result of the incessant inbreeding that has occurred over time.
Most stallions who go to stud these days are young and have only raced a scant number of races during their career.
Racing at the tender age of two when their bone structures have barely begun to mature they are prepped for races such as the prestigious 3YO Triple Crown where they are forced to extremes and where profits exceed the value of their structural maturity.
This merciless ritual places undue stress on immature statures which typically require 5 years of development to reach the adult stage. The underlying principle is simply a business proposition – retire an expensive yearling early, before they have the prospect of breakdown on the track as a consequence of inbreeding, drugs and the like.
In truth, breeding stallions are fundamentally robots - oppressed slaves of an industry whose only objective is unremitting manufacture of semen.
Decades ago the typical number of mares a stallion might cover per annum was in the range of 40 to 50; during the explosion in breeding numbers in the 80’ and 90’s this number escalated to 150 to 160 and in today’s realm of the breeding shed covering as many as 200 mares is not uncommon.
For instance, the 2 leading breeding stallions in NA - Giant’s Causeway and Medaglia d’Oro - each covered 194 mares during the 2009 breeding season while Encosta de Laco, a grandson of Northern Dancer, covered a record 240 mares in 2005. [2, 3]
During the peak of the breeding season, stallions may be required to cover three mares a day – a “sperm bank” in the truest sense of the word.
Apart from their forced and controlled encounters with the mares, stallions lead a life of isolation for up to as many as 20 years. For fear of injury they are not ridden and kept stabled or face solitary confinement in fenced areas away from other horses. The tedium of life for these poor creatures must be excruciating.
For stallions highly valued for their bloodlines, life can be chaotic.
It is common practice to ship stallions acknowledged for their genetic pedigree within and between the southern and northern hemispheres of the world to cover both breeding seasons and maximize short-term profits.
When travel distances are far reaching these horses are known as “shuttle stallions”. Stressful and disruptive for these horses, the practice also contributes to concentrated inbreeding and potential transfer of equine disease which can decimate a population of otherwise healthy equines. 
The sad recourse of this insidious breeding industry results in many stallions succumbing to premature death as a result of deprived life experience. Others end up at the slaughterhouse if their careers at stud are unsuccessful, regardless of their accolades on the track.
Ferdinand, the 1986 Kentucky Derby winner who went on to capture the following year's Horse of the Year title with a dramatic victory over 1987 Derby hero Alysheba in the Breeders' Cup Classic died sometime in 2002 in a slaughterhouse in Japan. Exceller, the only horse to ever defeat two Triple Crown winners (Affirmed and Seattle Slew), met his tragic fate in a Swedish slaughterhouse.
As much as the breeding stallions suffer, they are not alone in their misery.
Teaser stallions are uncastrated adult male horses used to gauge the receptiveness of the mares. The teaser and mare are introduced, typically separated by a fence; if the mare reciprocates, it is taken as a signal that it is “safe” to introduce her to the breeding stallion.
Teaser stallions are rarely, ever permitted to breed, subjecting them to a constant state of flux and despair and just like the stallions they are kept in an isolated environment without social contact to avert any misguided pregnancies or altercations with the breeding stallions.
Broodmares suffer an equally unsettling fate. Highly valued mares who have prestigious pedigrees, have a proven track record and/or have produced champion foals in the past are repeatedly bred with top breeding stallions to maximize profits. What’s more, a mare doesn’t necessarily have to be raced. Sometimes the only requirement is desired bloodlines wherein she may unwittingly pass on unidentified weaknesses and unsoundness.
Given that the gestation period is 11 months and after giving birth they are in heat 7-10 days later these spent broodmares are immediately re-bred to ensure they produce another potential champion foal in 11 months. This chronic cycle pushes the mares to extreme biological limits and leaves them in a state of perpetual pregnancy.
To ensure maximum return on the mares, their ovulation cycles are systematically controlled by artificial light during the long winter months and prostaglandins are administered to activate their dormant systems.
More powerful hormonal drugs are then used to stimulate ovulation at precisely the right time to ensure optimum conditions when the covering takes place.
All of this is unnatural – upsetting the natural circadian rhythm during the winter months and exposing these mares to unnecessary and elevated levels of estrogen and other steroidal compounds.
In the racing industry the official "birthday" of Thoroughbreds is January 1st in the Northern Hemisphere and August 1st in the Southern Hemisphere.
The tactics of artificial lights and premature stimulation of a mare’s reproductive system is a contrived strategy to producing foals as close to the “birthday” as possible since these artificial dates have been established to facilitate the standardization of races for horses in specific age groups.
The method of impregnation for the mares is sterile, methodical and unequivocally controlled by human intervention. Many mares, especially those who are bred for the first time, can be terrified of the stallion. Ultimately the process is nothing more than pre-arranged rape. With legs straddled, tied down and conceivably drugged, depending on the struggle, the stallion mounts her.
Mares in their twenties and closing in on their lifespan continue to be subjected to this ruthless cycle.
Many older mares will suffer and die from health-related complications associated with countless pregnancies over many years.
Others will simply be put out to auction, some carrying foals, where they will end up at the slaughterhouse along with other Thoroughbreds who have since lost their "value" to their owners. This "value" is strictly measured in dollars in the industry.
 Animal Aid UK; "Bred to Death"; Undated; http://tiny.cc/mp2pc .
 Liebman, Dan; "Mares Bred Down 13.5%"; Blood Horse Magazine Online Special Reports; 2009; http://tiny.cc/3o2xz .
 Animal Aid UK; "Bred to Death"; Undated; http://tiny.cc/5xkuf .
 Young, Craig; "Call for a ban on shuttle Stallions"; The Sydney Morning Herald; Sept. 2, 2007; http://tiny.cc/zdn2w .
 Animal Aid UK; "Bred to Death"; Undated; http://tiny.cc/mp2pc .
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