I realize my enthusiasm for updating our blog is a bit lackluster... but hey, nobody is perfect. In other words, this year so far has been insane both for better and for worse. I'm going to mull through the events that have taken place this year the best that I can, so bear with me here.
So I'll start with the good news first, because really... who wants more bad news?
The season opened up with not only the deliveries of 3 exceptional foals by Thunder van de Zuuthoeve and Aliboo Farm's Carrasca Z, we also welcomed our first foals purchased via embryo auction. The real kicker is once again we were given all colts except for a lovely Cornet Obolensky filly born in Ireland. So, looks like I won't be getting that keeper filly I've been dreaming about any time soon (insert dramatic sigh here)... Thinking positively here - all three of the Munny boys received a Premium title during their inspection with OS this summer, and one was even awarded Elite Foal and designated Stallion Prospect. So there's that. I'm also thrilled to say both Carrasca Z colts have found exceptional homes and Cuhrious Munny will be going to Taylor Flury/Aliboo Farm. I'm proud that she believes in her stallion enough to promote his offspring in the way that she is doing. I suspect we will see this pair in the big ring in the not so distant future.
It goes without saying that breeding comes with major highs and major lows. Some of you that know us well, know that our lovely mare, Elize van de Broekkant, has a taste for postpartum colic, and not just the give IV Banamine and sit back and wait type of colic. In 2015, she had her first foal and soon after wound up on the surgical table with a colon displacement and torsion. Craptastic things happen (read Murphy's Law) and we ended up being on the short end of the stick... Case was closed, mare survived to have more foals, happy endings, blah-blah-blah. At least that's what we thought. Turns out, we have a really nice ET only candidate and an all too young semi-retired broodmare instead. This year, only 6 days after foaling, I found myself once again at the clinic after hours, signing away surgical waivers and forms. Let paint you a quick picture though. There is nothing quite as heartbreaking as purposefully taking a very young, very confused baby away from their mother and listening to them cry out trembling. Needless to say, I shed a few on his behalf. Eliza came out of surgery fine, but had a few fairly substantial hiccups in the coming week after surgery. On top of this, because of developmental complications her foal in 2015 sustained and how much longer it took her to bounce back while nursing a foal the first time, we made the difficult decision to bring in a nurse mare to take over the care of the foal. (I'm all for saving lives, but when you are dealing with 500 other responsibilities simultaneously, bucket/bottle feeding every 1-2 hours and hoping the foal doesn't turn out to be a mental nightmare was not an option.) So through our sleep depravity and exhaustion, we drove to Lexington to retrieve the nurse mare, fondly nicknamed Kentucky, and straight back to the clinic to pick up our orphaned foal to take home. All in, it was a 12 hour round trip and even longer to make sure all was good with the new bond. But, enough of that sob story... I am happy to report our foal "Ziggy" (Thunder Munny) is flourishing under the supervision of Kentucky and his real mum has also followed suit. Blessed be the broodmares...
Sometimes I question why I put forth so much effort for something that you get so little in return from, but even little positive outcomes like that keep the gears turning. Most days. That said, it brings me to my next point. Cover your ears children... Breeding horses is a fickle bitch. There, I said it.
We could talk about how I'm likely going to grey prematurely from A) the lack of sleep caused by ultrasound checks and oxytocin shots every 2 hours throughout the night coupled with foal watch for weeks on end, B) my stress levels regularly skyrocketing, or C) everything else in my life being put to the wayside, which further stimulates example B, but that discussion is probably better left to a therapist. My season started in February and much to my horror is still going. Yes, I chose to do what I do. And yes, I absolutely love what I do. However, I am so ready for that glorious 5 month break from having to shove my arm in places it doesn't belong or worrying if people can smell the horse manure that has practically become ingrained into my poor skin. We initially had 8 mares to breed. That number went down to 7 with colic surgery, then 5, then down to 3... Do you see where I'm going with this? Between messed up cycles, a sea of cysts to swim through on one mare, colic surgery, infertility issues, etc. etc. etc. It's a wonder I have even two pregnancies confirmed. But boy, oh boy, am I excited for those two precious black dots. I'm especially proud of the fact that I was able to get a Toulon pregnancy when vets around the country have had much trouble doing so. For one time only, I am tooting my own little horn over this small feat. We are also expecting the very first Chilli Willi foal in North America. This is super exciting because Chilli Willi and Nicola Philippaerts were selected for the Belgian team for the upcoming WEG here at Tryon this year.
2018 also brought the first embryo auction for Flanders Foal & Embryo Auction to the US. It's a new concept still in its baby stages, and a concept that many here haven't grasped yet. The foal auction side of the industry is booming right now and it would be good to have some of our breeders here be a part of that and breeding for a goal to sell to top riders via auctions. Right now, it is solely a Europe-centric market because we're scared of failure - to take the initiative. With great risk comes great reward, but only if you pull up your britches and get your feet wet. It would be nice to one day have more reciprocity between North America and Europe that isn't so one sided. Will that happen? I have no idea, but it's a solid goal to work towards. I really hope to see this niche become more successful in the future, because you folks need to understand one very important thing. You can't buy the next Big Star undersaddle unless you have deep pockets. Auctions bring these top talents directly to you. So, learn the bloodlines, buy them young, take some accountability that all good horses have to start somewhere. These unicorns don't just magically appear when they're 5 years old and saddle broke, Susan. EDUCATE YOURSELVES.
I'm ending on the last piece of the puzzle, and perhaps the most important and memorable one of the year. Genevieve Edwards, Christine, and myself took some time from our hectic schedules to make a trip to Belgium. I had been dying to see our young horses and the masterminds behind FFA invited me to join them on their selection tour for the September auction coming up (keep an eye out for the collection here). It was a very interesting trip to say the least. We got to see a lot of fantastic stallions, for one. So that was really cool. Here is the best part though. Getting to travel all around the country isn't something that most foreigners can say they've done, but now I sure can. It made me realize three things. There is a reason Belgium is outputting some of the best horses in the world. There are also many places that remind me of our backwoods folk that probably shouldn't own horses. Strangely enough, this sort of eased my mind. I think I can speak for most of us Americans when I say we have this preconceived notion that we think, "Europe does it better" and that means all of Europe. Buddy, let me tell you a secret... that couldn't be further from the truth. Yeah, okay... they have access to better mares, better stallions and all for a fraction of the cost. But, it made me acutely aware that it doesn't matter what country you are from, there will always be probably irresponsible, and definitely uneducated breeders out there. So just remember, that there is a chance you can breed "like Europe does" if you do it smart. Okay, back on subject. Luk van Puymbroeck, Gerald Laenarts, and co. are great peeps. Luk and his darling wife were so kind to let us stay in their guest house and are the best hosts anyone can ask for. Making the decision to buy foals via auction was one leap of faith that absolutely went right. Had we not done this, we wouldn't have made invaluable friends that are of honest and trustworthy company, It makes this world just a little less scary of a place and for the first time since starting down this path, I feel like we are working towards something big. And I am happy, for Genevieve has also gotten a taste of this and is forging new relationships that will hopefully blossom over time. Cheers to new friends and new ventures.
Until next time, my friends.