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Horse breeders see the flip of the calendar to January as the unofficial start of the foaling season, so it won’t be long before young equine babies start dotting the landscapes of Shelby County farms.
Since most breeds celebrate a universal birthday on Jan. 1, many owners of performance horses aim to have a foal born as early in the year as possible to allow for maximum physical development.
Though not all owners shoot for early-year births, January nevertheless remains the traditional kick-off of the foaling season, and this year is no different.
“We have a couple that are due in a few weeks; probably by the end of the month, we will have our first foals,” said Linda Bennett, who along with her husband, veterinarian Scott Bennett, co-own Alliance Stud in Simpsonville. “We are looking to have some good babies.”
Alliance Stud projects it will handle the foaling of about 30 mares this season, a lineup that includes those owned by outside clients and some owned by the farm.
“We had a good season last year, about the same as the year before,” Bennett said. “Some [farms] didn’t have a good year, but we had a good year.”
Bennett credits the addition of trainer Gerhardt Roos in mid-2010 to Alliance Stud’s recent success. Roos joins an increasing number of South Africans making an impact in the local Saddlebred industry.
“All of the South African guys have an amazing work ethic, but Gerhardt is a great guy,” Bennett said. “He is a fantastic trainer and marketer. He has really helped take us to another level.”
Dicey economic conditions continue to have an impact on the local equine industry, including in the area of breeding and foaling. At Rea Quarter Horses in Shelbyville, there will be no pregnant mares occupying the quartet of foaling stalls that were added to the farm’s infrastructure a few years ago.
Instead, horses in training have over-filled available stall space, said owner Barb Rea, who operates the 15-acre farm with her son, Rusty, a trainer who is also the western discipline coach of the University of Louisville equestrian team.
Breeding of Quarter Horses in the commonwealth has dropped with the decline of stud fee-driven funding in the Kentucky Breeders Incentive program, she said.
“Mares have kind of dwindled,” Rea said. “I would foal them if they brought them to me, but people from out of state have chosen not to breed.”
January also marks locally the annual All American Cup Stallion Review and Auction events held respectively at area farms and the Claudia Sanders Dinner House.
This year’s events, which are scheduled for Jan. 21, are expected to draw the biggest crowds ever in their 9-year history.
“I think it will be the largest by far,” said event organizer Jim Aikman of Indianapolis, who predicts about 400 people will attend the auction/dinner.
Part of the increased attendance can be credited to the 150 free registrations donated to riding students by Aikman and prominent owner Elisabeth Goth, who will be featured at the 7 a.m. pre-Stallion Review breakfast along with legendary Saddlebred horseman Don Harris.
The All-American Cup, which will be held in Indianapolis Sept. 4, has paid out nearly $1.8 million in purses for 26 classes since the first event in 2004. Each year, a Weanling Class and 3-Year-Old Class is staged, and participating horses are only eligible if they were sired through the All-America Cup Auction held in Shelbyville.
This year, about 150 stallion offerings are on the docket for the 6 p.m. auction, which will be streamed live for the first time by the Richfield Video (www.richfieldvideo.com) company owned locally by R.H. Bennett.
Last year, $208,000 in bids were realized on 158 stallions, with the top bid of $11,500 going to Undulata’s Nutcracker, a leading Saddlebred sire who stands at Joan Lurie’s Willowbank Farm in Simpsonville.
Local farms participating in the 8 a.m. stallion review that will take place in three counties include Copper Coin Farm and Alliance Stud.
All American Cup Stallion Review And Auction
WHAT:A tour of horse farms and stallion auction.
WHEN:Saturday, Jan. 21. Pre-tour breakfast at 7 a.m., tour begins at 8:13 a.m., dinner at 4 p.m., stallion auction at 6 p.m.
WHERE:At Claudia Sanders Dinner House.
FARMS:Alliance Stud and Copper Coin, Simpsonville; Sunrise Farms in Versailles; Cornerstone Farm in Carlisle.
COST:Tour, $34; dinner, $29 in advance, $33 at door.