When she called with an update on two mares at Taylor Mountain Farm in West Virginia, Holly Beck was too late to make the lengthy feature inside this magazine where we checked in on a sampling of Mid-Atlantic broodmares.
But she wasn’t too late to make an impact.
Beck, like so many people out there reading this, works on a Thoroughbred farm in the region. Winter is foaling season, breeding season, hope-springs-eternal season. People in her position can’t help but be impacted by it. They see broodmares standing in the cold, and worry. They look at the weather, and wonder. They think about due dates, and plan.
And in reality, none of it matters. Nature is the ultimate decider in the horse business, especially when it comes to broodmares.
“I walked through the barn the other day and there are mares in now who are getting close to foaling,” said Beck. “You can see the foals moving around in their bellies. It’s hard to imagine.”
Yes, yes it is. That belly contains a future Thoroughbred. He or she could grow up to be fast, tall, graceful, athletic, valuable. Or not.
At Taylor Mountain, Like Down Town and Candy One will get plenty of attention this winter and into spring. The first is the dam of Charles Town star Down Town Allen and will have her ninth foal (by Denis of Cork) in March. The second is the dam of Greenway Court, another Charles Town star, who won four times in 2013. But every mare on the farm matters, just like every mare on every other farm in the region and beyond. Somewhere, somebody worries about that mare and the foal in her belly. Of that you can be sure.
The mares? I’m not sure they notice. If they could talk, they’d probably tell us all to relax. Look at their faces, in person and on the pages later in this magazine. Get a feel for them. There’s a peace there, a serenity, an attitude of “Hey, calm down, I’ve got this. It’s work, but I’m OK. You’ll be OK, too.”
Beck sees it, and through the dirt and hair and cockeyed looks you can see it too.
“I saw a mare today,” she said on a sunny mid-January day. “She’s pregnant and big, really big, and she’s rolling around on her back like nothing.”
Beck laughed. You know that roll in the grass felt good.
The fat, rolling mare, the one in the stall with the kicking baby, the one out in your field cribbing on the fence, they’re all part of an equation that’s part nature, part commerce and almost all mystery.
It’s a chicken-or-the-egg argument, but mares drive the true economy of Thoroughbred racing. I know, I know, they’re not the ones winning Kentucky Derbies or Breeders’ Cup Classics (mostly) or shuttling to South America or commanding fantastic syndication values.
But they are the ones having the foals, raising them, nurturing them, transferring the genetic code of greatness (or not), handling the pressure of expectation (and pressure on their spines) for 11 months. Mares boost farms that board them. Mares encourage the stallion industries in their states. Mares push successful veterinary practices. Mares keep the feed man, the blacksmith, the hay farmer in business. Mares help people get started in racing–people with patience anyway.
And that might be the biggest gift mares provide for the industry. They teach the humans in the game to think about the future, to plan, to wait and see. Mares are old-school investments, they are not for day traders. Mucho Macho Man’s dam Ponche de Leona topped the Keeneland January sale at $775,000. In 2009, she sold for $5,000.
Mares are the opposite of fast 2-year-olds or weanling-to-yearling pinhooking partnerships. Without mares, or enough mares, or the right reasons to own mares, a Thoroughbred economy can’t thrive.
Think about that the next time you see a mare in a field.