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Attention: The Jockey Club

As a concerned animal enthusiast and animal welfare advocate, I would like to approach The Jockey Club (TJC) regarding their policies.  Specifically those contained within The American Stud Book Of Principle Rules And Requirements.

thoroughbred mare and foal

The concern is that your rules and requirements are needlessly causing abuse of horses and their foals due to breeding policies.

Breeding Practices Not Approved by The Jockey Club, Artificial Insemination: The process of depositing semen into the reproductive tract of a broodmare in order to get a broodmare in foal (pregnant) without the physical mounting by a stallion. ”

TJC is undoubtedly aware of the plight of Nurse Mare Foals that is directly caused by this rule.  Although a search of your site for the term “nurse mare foal” returns no results.  Does TJC take no responsibility or make any acknowledgement of this horrible reality caused?

For those who are unaware, a nurse mare foal is a foal who was bred for the singular reason to bring in the milk of its dam.  Once born, this foal is discarded and the more expensive foal is placed on the nursing dam.


This is explicitly caused by the requirement of TJC for a live cover.  Partnered with this policy: “Age of a Horse Age of the Thoroughbred: For the purpose of determining age, the date of birth for all Thoroughbreds is deemed to be January 1 of the year of foaling.”

Mares must be bred early in the year in order to accommodate the 11 month gestation of the horse.  Foals born earlier have more time to mature than those born later.  This inflexibility does not allow for “expensive” mares to naturally nurse their foals to weaning of up to 6 months or more.  Mares need to be “bred back” in order to start on next years crop of foals.  The “foal heat” occurring anywhere from 9 to 20 days postpartum, is the first opportunity to breed the mare.  A 9 – 20 day old foal and it’s dam are at a huge risk for injury, stress and infection if transported during this tender time.

The additional pressure of this deadline: “Section VI, DEADLINES:
Report of Mares Bred (Stallion Reports): This report should be filed by August 1 of the breeding year.”  forces all breedings to occur between February and August 1st.  For much of North America, foaling in the months of January – March are fraught with difficulties due to inclement weather.  Icy footing is dangerous for a young foal, the frigid temperatures, lacking pasture or fresh grass are less than optimal conditions.  Avoiding that weather further shortens the breeding season.  Not enough time to allow a mare to foal, nurse, wean and be rebred.

While it is possible that the stallion is close by to breed the mare, chances are they are some distance away.  A mare and new foal are unsafe to travel via trailer for any distance.  Putting the dam and new foal at risk is irresponsible.

Mares “bred back” via AI can be done so at their home barns with their foals at their side, safely.  She will be allowed to nurse her current “expensive” foal to term while pregnant.  This will also reduce costs to breeders as they will no longer have to feed and care for an additional mare or her breeding costs.  The need for a ‘nurse mare’ completely removed from the equation.

Nurse Mares and Their Foals

A mare of any breeding, however at least tall enough to nurse a Thoroughbred, is bred.  Some are papered and bred to papered stallions.  Most are grade mares bred to a stud that is convenient.  The resultant foal is an afterthought.  Much like a tree that is cut down, the leaves are a byproduct of the process.

The foal of the nurse mare is an unwanted side effect.  Without a mare to nurse them, they will die.  Some are culled immediately.  Some are sold for slaughter for meat and their skins (the sale and transport take time and the foals suffer greatly before they meet their brutal end).  While there are rescue programs to rescue these foals, the cost exorbitant  the workload feverish and the demand much too high for the slots available.  To add insult to injury, these rescues must purchase the foals as they do have value as meat.  Saving their life is not a priority.

It is these combination of requirements that have forced the reprehensible practice of nurse mares and their foals.  How TJC can so callously and knowingly cause the situation leading to this so called solution is repugnant.  Is it because of the fact that the nurse mare and her foal are not Thoroughbreds (although some are), that they are not worthy of TJC’s attention and concern?  If that is the case, TJC has a fundamental moral failing at its core.

Animal abuse is defined as: “…the infliction of suffering or harm upon non-human animals, for purposes other than self-defense or survival.”

If anyone has ever heard the cries of a dam and her foal who have been separated, there is no doubt that they are suffering.  The bond between the two is key to survival itself and is the most primal of instincts.

  • The expensive mare suffers when her expensive foal is taken away.
  • The expensive foal suffers when it is taken from its dam.
  • The nurse mare suffers when her foal is taken away.
  • Both the nurse mare and expensive foal suffer as they are forced to bond and engage in nursing.
  • The nurse mare foal suffers separation from its dam, often malnutrition and dehydration, terror of sales and transport and most often, a brutal slaying for their meat and skins.
  • It also needs to be said that a nurse mare who can no longer carry a foal to term (and therefore produce milk) is most often sold to slaughter.

Why Would The Jockey Club Have Policies That Cause Such Barbaric Practices?

Years ago, it was impossible to prove beyond a doubt that the foal was the result of a specific stallion bred to a mare.  However that is no longer the case.  With TJC requirements of DNA verification, there is no question as to lineage of resultant foals:

“Section V

    • B. Foals must be genetically typed and qualified by parentage verification by a laboratory approved and authorized by The Jockey Club.”

There would be no doubt that the semen inseminated into the mare and the resultant foal was from those two animals.  With the practice of DNA verification already in place, the safety net is currently present.

It may be argued that TJC is concerned regarding the ability to successfully mate naturally remaining in the breeding stock.  However a simple addition to the rules that a “Maiden mare or stallion equivalent must be bred naturally.”  Their first breedings and resultant foal would confirm their ability to breed naturally.  Maiden mares would be proven without needless risks, mares or foals abused in the process.

A concern of TJC may be the biodiversity of Thoroughbreds as a whole.  That allowing AI of mares would cause a narrowing of stallions in use due to their increased availability.  As has been found in multiple other breeds who allow AI around the world, this concern is unfounded.  Stallions from abroad would now be available to domestic markets.  The stud fees charged have a definite impact on who can afford to breed to whom.  The market regulates itself and ensures diversity.

While older stallions may remain serviceable longer, they will also encourage younger stallions to prove themselves longer and to higher levels, thereby increasing their worthiness of being bred long term.  Longer terms proving themselves also displays enduring soundness that will pass on to their get.  The overall quality of stallions being offered would increase.

In this difficult economy, breeders need to make financially prudent decisions.  Not having to house, feed and breed a nurse mare will save them money.  Allowing breeders to go to their stallion of choice regardless of location will cut down on transportation, vet costs, risk of injury and boarding of mares.  Stallion owners will be able to broaden their potential clients without the limitations of their boarding facilities or breeding schedules.  The Thoroughbred breeding and racing industry cannot afford for TJC to withhold this option from them any longer.

Time To Embrace 2013

Your industry is in trouble.  In the age of Social Media TJC can no longer ignore the plight of horses that fall victim to its practices and policies.  Mares can be bred without putting themselves or their foals at risk.  Maidens can be proven naturally and thereby ensure the viability of the species in the breed.  Diversity can be maintained and even broadened.  The quality of the horses generated can increase, generating fewer ‘wash outs’ by breeding to higher quality stallions now accessible by all.

The public is becoming more and more aware of the plight of race horses.  The falling from grace story of Ferdinand, once the toast of the Kentucky Derby winning circle, degraded to brutal treatment and being slaughtered for his meat.  His story bringing to light the waste of the Thoroughbred industry, their throw aways and refusal to have an exit plan for ALL of their athletes.

Horse slaughter is front page news.  Multiple polls have the public as 80% against slaughter and yet your practices to ignore their side effects encourages slaughter.

Now that newborn foals are being slaughtered simply due to archaic policies and outdated beliefs as to the potential impact on the breed.  TJC cannot allow this to continue.  Time to step up and become a leader in moral and social responsibility for your sport, breed and horses in general.

If TJC truly believes its mission statement on the homepage of its website, you can do no less.

“The organization is dedicated to the improvement of Thoroughbred breeding and racing, and it fulfills that mandate by serving many segments of the industry through its subsidiary companies and by providing support to a wide range of industry initiatives.”

Please don’t allow the mockery of this statement continue.  The tradition for the sake of tradition, over the tradition of dedication and improvement must end.

Yours truly,

The responsible, socially aware public, demanding better.