How to Start a Horse Breeding Farm

Eight Methods:Is this the business for you?Locating your businessEquipping your business with the essentialsPurchasing the horsesCaring for your horsesBringing home your new breeding horsesBeginning breedingMarketing your horse breeding business

Starting a horse breeding farm isn't something to take on lightly. In fact, this article can only introduce you to some of the more important things you need to be aware of, as you'd need to read an entire tone of information to cover all the requirements for a successful horse breeding operation, including how to assess your own suitability to undertake such an enterprise. Nevertheless, there are some basic principles and essentials that will help to guide your decision to start a horse breeding farm and will help you to decide whether this is the right thing for you to do. Saddle up and learn what's involved!

Method 1
Is this the business for you?

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    Make sure you want to start a horse breeding farm. Note that there are challenges that you will face, including financial, physical, and emotional consequences. It is important to know how to deal with those.
    • If you've owned one or more horses, you'll already be aware that there is a lot of work involved and that it's a rather expensive undertaking. Breeding horses will increase the work, the expenses, the worry and the long-term attachment to your business in ways that simply owning a horse doesn't really prepare you for.
    • You will also have to immerse yourself in such aspects as marketing, detailed and reliable checking and referencing of the horses' background and breeding information and keeping track of all your income and expenses, meaning that you're going to experience a lot of administrative input on top of the horse care, as a business operator. A brief overview of the advantages and disadvantages of turning your hobby into a business will help you to decide if this is what you really want to do. Here are some suggested pluses and minuses to help you form your own list:
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    • Advantages: If you love horses, working in a business that involves them means that you'll be doing what you love, often an important element of a successful small business. Moreover, if you're already knowledgeable, you'll be well ahead of others starting a business from scratch in products, goods or animals about which they know nothing. Some other advantages include:
      • The opportunity to ride horses regularly
      • A chance to be around your horses constantly
      • Caring for foals
      • Selling horses for more money––while optional if you're operating as a stud farm, this tends to be a necessity to prevent overcrowding, to remove horses that aren't getting along and to keep your business well funded. This can be a source of pride in knowing that your horses are going elsewhere but it can also be a very emotional side of the business
      • Operating as a stud farm, offering the services of your stallion(s), offering your mares where appropriate and perhaps offering boarding and foal raising facilities. This can be a very rewarding aspect both financially and as a source of pride but it's also fraught with the potential for liability and worry.
    • Disadvantages: There are numerous disadvantages to owning a horse breeding farm, including start-up costs for land, stables, equipment, feed and the horses. You will need to have quality breeding horses, or risk nobody wanting to purchase the horses, and this initial outlay can be very costly. You won't necessarily see a good return for your cash outlay for several years, meaning that you'll have to run a tight business and make do for a while. Other disadvantages include:
      • The constant need for high quality, expensive horse food; you might consider whether it's possible to grow your own or to buy as a co-operative with other horse owners in the local area.
      • The requirement for adequate equipment, supplies, and tack, which will quickly add up financially. When starting up, make use of sales, discounts from belonging to professional organizations and used items through auctions and other sales. If you're smart and lucky, you might find a horse breeding business that is closing down and has stock to sell off (of both the product and animal kind).
      • Increased regular vet visits––more horses means more potential for problems, including general health maintenance such as deworming and shots, everyday injuries through to disease and major injuries. Emergency treatment will also need to be accounted for as a possibility at least once a year, so set aside adequate funds and plan good insurance coverage.
      • Increased regular farrier visits will be required to ensure that all of the horses' hooves are maintained in top condition; presentation of breeding horses is your customer's reassurance of quality, so you cannot skimp on this, ever.
      • Increased workload and responsibility. It's self evident that more horses means more work, including more mucking out stalls.
      • Need for ongoing legal and financial advice to ensure that you won't be out of pocket for things out of your control or for a poorly run budget.
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    Gain experience and knowledge on how to work with horses. It is extremely important that you know how to properly handle, care for, and understand horses. You don't have to be able to ride a horse, but if you can't, then you'll need to hire someone who can to keep the horses in shape and well trained as most people will only buy horses that have been "broken in" for riding (foals being the exception). In fact, buyers may consider it a little odd that you run a horse breeding operation without actually knowing how to ride a horse, so unless there is an issue of disability involved, it's recommended that you learn to ride. And just in case you're a bit green with horses, here are some skills you should have set in place beforehand:

Method 2
Locating your business

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    This size should be determined by what you can afford but also by what horses need–-plenty of space to run and plenty of space to separate horses that shouldn't be breeding at particular times or who shouldn't be together, such as two horses that don't get along. Also, check zoning regulations before considering any property, to make sure a horse breeding operation is an acceptable use. Your best bet is to buy fertile land with lots of green grass/hay/alfalfa; otherwise, your expenses will increase because you need to bring in lots of feed. Local agricultural organizations will often test land for you to help you identify the species of grass growing on it, and any other relevant issues such as the mineral content of the soil. If you plan on keeping horses on pasture all year round, the grass needs to be rich in vitamins and minerals and non-toxic to horses. It also needs to grow back quickly! On the other hand, if your climate means that the horses need to be kept indoors over winter, you'll need suitable barn accommodation with easy mucking out facilities and at least a small outside area for exercising during the warmest part of cold days.
    • Horses need approximately 1000 square feet per horse. More space is always better than less.
    • You'll need at least two separated areas of land, one for the stallion(s) and the other area for the mares. If you have more than one stallion, you'll need more separate areas, as keeping two stallions in the same pasture is not a good idea in most cases, especially since farm lots rarely replicate the wide ranges of wild horses. Moreover, there is a distinct need for rotating pasture, to allow pasture to recover and to release the horses onto fresh pasture regularly, meaning that you will need more pasture than you might first think.
    • It would be preferable if the land you bought already had a barn, outdoor shed (for your horses in winter), a place to park a horse trailer, and any other necessities. If not, you'll find the costs add up very quickly on top of the land purchase.
    • Ask about the water supply––look for a guaranteed, quality supply, where there is a plentiful and sufficient amount of water. Creeks, ponds, dams and the like are good sources of water, but you'll need to ensure that algae growth isn't an issue in the warmer months. On the other hand, too much water can water log the pasture, ruining its feeding potential and causing problems for the horses walking in puddles and muddy conditions.
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    Search the pasture and remove all sharp and otherwise dangerous rocks, barbed wire, and poisonous plants that could hurt a horse.
    • Check for holes in the pasture. It would be best if there weren't any gophers or other animals/rodents which dig holes in the ground, because if a horse (or any large mammal, for that matter) steps in these at a fast pace, there is a risk of severe injury. If there are holes, consider whether measures to eliminate the cause of the holes is viable or not.
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    • Areas with snakes need to be checked for snake habitat in the pasture. Snakes and horses don't mix, so by reducing the habitat preferences of snakes, you can reduce the potential for snakes hanging about around. Some things that may help are not having wood/log piles, junk heaps, and any other such place that encourages rodent breeding, which attracts snakes.
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    • Check for possible toxic plants. Trees are an important shade source but they can also be a liability if they produce toxic berries, seeds or leaves. Identify plants on a property using a field guide before making a purchase decision. You might be able to remove an offending tree but a whole copse of trees or a pasture filled with weeds starts to be a lot of work without a guarantee that you've found all possible toxic plants. To see a list of common plants poisonous to horses, see
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    • See How to prepare a pasture for horses.

Method 3
Equipping your business with the essentials

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    Equip the land and built areas with a barn, water supply, outdoor sheds (for horses in pasture), and any other necessities.
    • Shelter is essential for hot, sunny days during the warmer months. If you rely on trees as part of the shade, ensure that they're not toxic. Trees also need protection from chewing, including removal of chewed branches to prevent infection to the trees. A shade shed should be built in pastures lacking in shade trees. This can be as simple as a high roof on four posts or a shed with three sides; it can be made very inexpensively.
    • Orient any shelter so that it heads away from prevailing cold winds and to make the most of cooling summer breezes (usually south facing in the northern hemisphere, vice versa in the southern hemisphere).
    • If you do need to build before starting the business, get firm timelines and signed deals as to costs of building. Most building projects inevitably cost more than initially thought. Moreover, get a variety of estimates rather than relying on just one builder. And only use registered builders affiliated with a recognized building association.
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    Provide your land with good quality fencing. This is extremely important, as you don't want your horses escaping or getting hurt on the fencing. Good fencing costs money but it's not worth skimping because injuries and loss can amount to a lot more than money outlaid on suitable fencing from the beginning.
    • The best fencing of all would be a tall, thick, and wide hedge with a wooden fence in front of it. However, as most people don't have the time to do this, a good quality wooden fence works just fine, as does metal bars. Wooden fencing comes in many kinds, such as post-and-board, post-and-rail, etc. and needs to be maintained. Using wood that is non-toxic and enduring, you should expect a good 15 to 20 years life from a well-cared for wooden fence. The trick is in maintaining it––borers can attack such fencing and bored horses like to chew it. Keep a regular eye for insect damage of wooden fencing and replace it regularly; as for chewing, you can try running an electric wire along the wood to condition the horses into leaving the fence alone. Many people resort to vinyl coated white wooden fencing because it needs less painting maintenance.
    • Another option is electric fencing. Provided it is properly earthed and made with quality wire using at least three to four rows, it is a cost-effective and usually safe solution. Most horses will shy away from it after a few shocks. However, sometimes it can scare a horse enough to destroy the fence, so care needs to be taken with particularly wild or frisky horses.
    • Do not ever use hog wire fencing for horses. Horses (and other wildlife like deer) can accidentally get their legs caught in it.
    • Barbed wire should not be an option for keeping horses. Barbed wire was designed for cows, not horses. Horses can be seriously injured, perhaps permanently, if they get caught in barbed wire.
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    Organize the necessary supplies, such as grooming gear, a lead rope, a halter, and buckets/tubs for feed and water. Also make sure you have equipment to clean the paddock/pasture and any other areas the horses will spend their time. Equipment includes a spade or a shovel and a rake if your horse is stabled. When replacing the bedding, you will need either a bucket for transporting the bedding or a wheelbarrow. Buy good quality tools, either new or used, as good equipment works better and lasts longer, making it cheaper in the long run.
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    Organize your horses' feed. Horses need a lot of food to maintain their body condition. If a horse is underweight, she needs more to put the weight on, if she is overweight, she needs less feed. Know what the horse was fed before you bought it; horse's diets need to be adjusted over a period of several days. Remember that how many oats you give the horse depends a lot on how strenuously she is working. The basic components of a horses diet include:
    • Forage - Horses eat roughage to keep them warm. When buying hay, look at the quality––you want something that is nutritious but is not going to pass right through the horse. Try to get grassy hay, or an oaten hay. If you do get alfalfa (lucerne) hay, try to get a second or even better a third cut, as the hay will be more stalky and will not be too rich.
    • Concentrate - Horses in a paddock usually will eat grass and will require hay to help keep their body condition. However, some horses require hand feeding every day, twice a day, or every other day depending on the horse. The best mixture of chaffs is alfalfa and oats or wheat. The alfalfa chaff will provide high protein and calcium for your horse, and the wheat will provide a source of bulk food. This is when the horse will eat to stay full but the food does not put on or take away nutrients. This is used when you want to fill a horse up faster without adding heat and energy to the food.[1]
      • Older horses with bad teeth generally should receive a fair amount of chaff too, as they don't have to chew so much and still get the fibre and energy they need. Other than that, this also helps with maintaining a healthy appetite.
      • When feeding your horse chaffs (especially made from alfalfa), first mix in some water and crush it into a gruel. This will help prevent choking.
      • Also, don't feed your horse chaffs right after exercising, or she may choke because of lack of saliva to break down the chaff and make it go down smoothly. So before giving your exercised horse chaff, first let her drink some water and get rehydrated.
    • Supplements - Pellets and grain are good ways to put on weight and maintain it. They are also handy when you require a boost of energy for a show or your horse needs a lift. Boiled grains are best as they help to put weight on and during the colder months help to keep the horse warm. If you don't want to fuss around with boiling them, go for a steamed or crushed variety. Wholegrain needs to be broken prior to consumption, as the grains expand when contact with moisture has been made. If you're new to feeding and want something super easy and cost efficient, go for a Pelleted Mix. There are a lot on the market, and it can be difficult to find the right one for your horse. The best thing to start with is a lucerne pellet or a cool pellet. These feeds are add no additional energy and they provide a range of vitamins and minerals. After a while you can try different products until you find the perfect fit.

Method 4
Purchasing the horses

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    Find out which breeds are selling well in your area and beyond. Depending on what your customers want in a horse, you might consider breeding gaited horses, laid-back horses, or competitive horses. Of course, most horses are good in a variety of things. Do more research than you think is necessary––don't simply rely on your own current knowledge. Find out who is selling good stock at the moment, which horses are renowned for which traits, the types of issues you're likely to be faced with in caring for that particular breed of horse, etc. Go and talk to existing breeders for their advice, updates and tours of their facilities. Visit horse sales as an observer to get a feel for purchasing horses and how the auctions work. Go through horse farms for sale to see what is available and the prices being fetched. Doing thorough research will ensure that you're well informed and that you're making the right decision about the breed that you're choosing.
    • Don't jump into breeding rare, exotic breeds unless you've had experience with them. Start with a breed you know a lot about and have spent time handling.
    • If you choose a very popular horse (such as a Quarter Horse), you will have to compete with more breeders to sell, therefore lowering the prices. However, if your aim is to provide quality in all respects, plot this out as part of your business plan and keep to the plan when purchasing, breeding, caring for and selling these horses, so that you are on track to building a solid, good reputation as a reliable and trusted breeder. In business, provided you are focused, aware of your competitors' moves and consistent in producing quality outcomes, you can usually always provide a better service than other people in the same business.
    • If you want to breed racing horses, this requires an enormous outlay of money and should only be started by someone with excellent, firsthand knowledge of the racing industry or you risk making big and costly mistakes.
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    Purchase the horses. It doesn't matter which breed you're breeding, but obviously some horses will cost you more, and some horses will sell for more. Before you buy a horse, make sure it's registered, a purebred, and has good bloodlines or ancestry. This means sighting papers and checking contractual clauses confirming the ancestry of each horse you purchase. In terms of how many horses you start with, that should be determined by your research, your land space and your budget. Initially it's probably best to start small and see how it goes rather than over-extending yourself only to find out you can't manage it.
    • If possible, buy a stallion too so that you can breed your mares for free. Beforehand though, make sure you know how to correctly handle and care for a stallion. If you're not yet ready to own a stallion, that's fine and it's good to recognize your limitations––it's far better to find other solutions initially than to get in over your head. Look for suitable sires in the local area and be sure to have a decent form of horse transportation (which you will need anyway, for vet visits and shows).
    • Research the pedigree of the horse you're interested in. Since a horse's lineage can affect the quality of her breeding outcomes, an in-depth knowledge of pedigrees for that certain breed is necessary. Pedigrees are basically a family-tree for horses, and they should list the dam, the sire, the grand dam and grand sire, and so on. Reputable horse breeders will be able to include this in the terms of sale of your new horses.

Method 5
Caring for your horses

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    Care for your horses and keep them in shape. Ride them often, but be careful not to get them hot and sweaty when riding in winter (unless you're in an indoor arena) as your horse could very easily become sick or get a chill.
    • If you'd like to ride in the wintertime, consider investing in a heated indoor arena. These are also nice places to ride untrained horses, give lessons to children, or ride a horse at a canter for the first time, as if you fall you'll only land on sawdust, and your horse won't be able to run off.

Method 6
Bringing home your new breeding horses

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    Sort out an appropriate feeding regime before bringing your new horses to the farm, based initially on what the horses have been used to and then gradually shifting them to your preferred diet for the horses (if necessary). When a new horse comes to an unfamiliar surrounding, it is best to leave her alone for at least a couple of days until she settles in. To help the process along, make up a yummy appetizing treat to ease the transition. This could be a basic chaff and grain mix, or you could go all out and make something original, such as Bran Biscuits or a sweet feed mix. Whatever you choose, don't get into a bad habit of overfeeding, as the horse will be a little stressed to be in a new surrounding, you don't want to upset her stomach and you don't want her to start expecting too much food and putting on weight. If the horse doesn't eat the meal, don't force it. She is in an unfamiliar surrounding and everything is new and different. The water will taste different, the food will smell different, so let her adjust and have the food there just in case she's hungry.
    • Find out what the horse was fed before you bought her; horse's diets need to be adjusted over a period of several days or more depending on how much it'll be changed. Sudden changes can bring about gas, diarrhea and more serious complications.
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    Do a safety check of the stable regularly. If you plan on keeping your new horse in a stable either at night, most of the day or even for an hour or two, you'll need to make sure it is safe. Make sure there is a sufficient water source, a large bucket will do if only stabled for a few hours, if stabled at night or all day, invest in a water trough or automatic waterer. Provide adequate bedding such as straw or wood shavings. Keep in mind that the bedding should be an approved horse bedding, as some by-products of woods and timber can be toxic to horses.

Method 7
Beginning breeding

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    Breed your mares to a stallion once it's the correct time to breed. Make sure that your mare(s) are in heat before you try breeding them.
    • A good way of telling if a mare is in heat is to put her in a padded stall with a 'teaser' stallion in the padded stall next to her. If the mare moves her tail to one side and sidles her rump towards the stallion, that means she's probably in heat. However, if she starts lashing out at the stallion, that means she probably is not in heat.
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    • Choose a stud with a good pedigree, good achievements, and good ability. Also, people like purebreds a lot, and also horses with good conformation for what they'll be doing. Seek and accept advice from current horse breeders who have an excellent reputation with other horse breeders; check with your local horse association for more information. Most breeders will be happy to share information, as they're as keen as you to maintain high quality standards and to see more healthy horses.
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    • Breed your mare to a stallion that's similar to the mare. It's been known that if you breed, for example, a very short mare to a very tall stallion; the foal may have deformed lungs, legs, and so forth, and may have to be put down. However, if you breed two horses that look very much alike, you should get foals with no deformities, plus, the foals will look alike! Do a lot of research and advice seeking about the best approaches to breeding. Don't take anything for granted!
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    Imprint train your new foals. It is critical that you acquaint the foal with humans, as this will make the horse easier to train. A well-trained horse is also more valuable, and will likely be friendlier and easier to work with.
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    Continue breeding, training, riding, and selling your horses. Always care for them and be kind––both horses and the customers can sense a confident, kindly and approachable breeder.
    • Be sure to get involved in showing your horses. The prizes or awards are a vital part of promoting the worth of your horses. Showing of horses is a vast topic in itself, so do lots of research, asking of questions and get involved.

Method 8
Marketing your horse breeding business

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    Name your horse farm. Make it something creative, yet sophisticated if possible.
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    Make a website for your horse farm. There are quite a few free web hosting places, so you can just use one of those if you don't want to pay a fee. However, now that you're a business, it is not the time to be quibbling over small amounts spent on advertising to bring in more customers. A quality website will make a good impression, something that will set you apart from breeders who can't be bothered spending time with online awareness––people expect to find all the information they're looking for in an easy-to-read and professional website, so give them what they're looking for.
    • Keep all of your prizes and important information right there where customers can see the accolades and information! Don't hide behind modesty––customers want to know your horses are prize winners.
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    Promote your business. You should be setting aside some of your budget to advertise your existence, your specialization and your availability as a horse breeder/boarder/trainer. Use Google ads and Facebook ads for online reach. Advertise in relevant horse interest and horse association/club magazines. Ensure that there is a decent sign advertising your business at the front gate. And use every media opportunity in the local press that comes your way!
    • If you like writing and photography, and have the time, maintaining a blog about your horse farm, along with horse breeding advice, can be an excellent form of outreach that will gain interested followers who might just turn into customers now and then!
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    Last but not least, enjoy the journey. Breeding horses is hard work but it's rewarding, especially if your life is dedicated to horses. You will find yourself emotionally attached to the horses, to what happens to them and to the business as a whole. Most of all, provided you run a tight budget and keep within your means, you will hopefully find it is a healthy and financially rewarding business as well. You might not make millions but if you're doing what you love and making ends meet plus a little more, then it can be a good earner and as your expertise grows, you can use this expertise to teach, write, advise, etc. as well as breeding the horses.


  • Stay realistic. If you're always running at a loss, get financial advice to sort things out quickly––don't let things spiral out of control before seeking help. The worst that can happen is loss of your beloved horses and farm, so you owe it to them to get good financial advice, regularly.
  • If you have excess manure to deal with, consider using or selling it as fertilizer.
  • Try to have fun. Do not let the stress of running a business get in the way of this experience. You get what you sign up for; a lot of work, but also a lot of love!
  • Note that if a horse has won shows before, it will most likely sell for more.
  • Make sure that you're fit. This is no office job and you'll have to throw yourself into the work physically almost daily.
  • Look into artificially inseminating your breed mares. You don't have to have a stallion or transport one to cover your mares.


  • Always be careful when handling horses, especially stallions. When near horses, always have on a riding helmet and riding boots. Remember that even if your horse loves you and would never deliberately try to injure you, you need to use the same safety precautions as you would with a strange horse, as anything could happen.
  • Owning animals on a farm is a 24/7 business. Factor this in when taking on the business, as you will find it hard to get away for extended periods of time. Make a good network with other local farmers and do turns in caring for one another's property (it doesn't matter whether they have horses or cows, sheep, pigs, crops, whatever, just so long as you're prepared to farm sit). That way, you can at least help one another out in times of emergency and the occasional short break.
  • Remember that you get what you pay for. Shortcuts in equipment, shelter, food, pasture management, etc. will repay you with reduced quality and poorer outcomes.

Sources and Citations

  1. Deborah Lucas MSc.Eq.S.,CBiol., R.Nutr. - Consultant Nutritionist to HorseHage, "Why Feed Chaff to Horses?",

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