The breeders of horses may be divided roughly into two classes - the professional and wealthy amateur, and the commoner. The former usually has means sufficient to secure as foundation stock expensive and superior animals. He may expect profits, but does not always realize them. The business is not infrequently carried on for the enjoyment which is secured from rearing, handling and driving fine horses. While the undertaking may yield no profit to the proprietor, it seldom fails to be of great value to the horse interests. The commoner learns much from observing the successes and failures of the professional and the amateur in their expensive efforts to make advancement. Then, too, the commoner may reap great benefit from having near at hand tested stallions, the services of which may usually be secured at reasonable terms. Although the commoner has to follow a long way behind the professional, he should not, by reason of prejudice, fail to make use of the many valuable facts secured by the liberal expenditures of the professional. It would be gratifying if the wealthy breeders would take more interest in improving the horses in the hands of the farmers and less in conspicuous display.
However, it is the commoner we are seeking to benefit; since the wealthy breeder usually has the lesson of breeding fairly well learned, and, in case he has not, is amply able to employ experienced and trained foremen. The wealthy breeder often goes so fast and so far that the commoner loses contact and hesitates to follow.
The farmer carrying on mixed husbandry has constant use for horses during a part of the year. For about six months they are often overworked; during the balance of the year the cost of maintenance exceeds the value of their services. To minimize this expense, the grain ration is much reduced or entirely dispensed with. The coarse and innutritious roughage, which cannot be readily disposed of in the market, is used to furnish a ration which sometimes falls short of the maintenance standard. In the spring, the horses are soft and inefficient, and when put to severe work are often permanently injured. Usually the animals are too light for the service required; in rare cases, too heavy. Many are "weedy" and weak, when the highest endurance should be possessed to carry the farm-horse through the rush of spring seeding and harvest. In the following chapter something is said as to adapting the breed to the work to be performed and as to the details of raising winter colts. Here, it is proposed to speak to that large number of farmers who pay little or no attention to breeding horses and give but scant care to the horses already possessed. When one is worn out another is purchased, or the attempt is made to farm with too few work-animals. All this results in slovenly and often unprofitable husbandry. The stocks and bonds of a railway that owns too few, inefficient and poorly cared-for locomotives never sell at par or earn satisfactory dividends.
It will not require a large fund of knowledge or long experience to fit even a man who has little taste for horses to intelligently select a good brood-mare, and the experience of his neighbors will indicate the stallion to be used which will most, likely beget offspring suited to the soil and the work to be performed. Once the work of breeding is entered upon, even the novice will soon learn enough of the fundamental principles of breeding to produce animals which are likely to be far superior to those purchased at random under the stress of necessity and paid for by a promise to be fulfilled in the future.
Farmers' boys without colts are as unhappy as married people without children. Our experience leads to the conclusion that, after keeping an account of the value of the food consumed by colts, there is a profit of from thirty to fifty per cent in raising colts up to three years of age, provided they are worth one hundred dollars at that time, and allowing that the value of the manure produced equals the trouble of caring for them.1 In other words, in the middle and eastern states, horse-raising at present is likely to produce double the profit that can be realized in most other branches of mixed agriculture; and this, too, by the man who is unskilled, and whose chief energies may be devoted to the production of grain or hay or dairy products.
1 See "Fertility of the Land," for quantity and value of manure produced by horses.
To secure one hundred dollars, more than 10,000 pounds of milk must ordinarily be produced. Perhaps I am spending too much time in trying to energize those who stand lowest in the art of horse-breeding, and who find it easier to give promissory notes for an unacclimated horse of comparatively little value for a year, and which may prove to be vicious or unsound, rather than to "bother with a colt." But I have a great interest in, and really affection for this man, who had no opportunity in youth to acquire even a smattering of the principles which underlie his profession, - who has worked so hard and long, as boy and man, that he has become unresponsive, soured and often egotistical. Under the circumstances, it is difficult for him to receive and adopt new methods which require additional knowledge and foresight. He is often so cramped in means that he hesitates to undertake anything which does not give promise of quick returns, although the undertaking may offer satisfactory rewards. These are the men who set no orchards, drain no lands, repair no buildings. They are to be pitied, not blamed. It has seemed to me that this class of farmers should find a friend and an adviser somewhere. Such cases cannot be dismissed by simply saying, 'why don't you do better?" Why not raise cows that will bring fifty dollars each, instead of twenty-five dollars? Why not raise horses at forty dollars profit each, instead of raising wheat and oats at a positive loss? Or why not raise hothouse lambs and get ten dollars per head for them at eight weeks of age? But how can they do better until they have more knowledge and skill?