Let it be supposed that a farm requires the labor of four horses. It may also be assumed that the usual number kept is seldom sufficient for performing the work promptly and satisfactorily in the spring. Such a farm should be equipped with at least five work-animals, four good brood-mares and one animal suitable for the carriage and family use and for emergencies: it may take two or three years to secure them. If four brood-mares are regularly bred, two or three colts may be raised each year, on an average.
Until the colts are large enough to do light work, the carriage-horse may be used for farm work in emergencies. When the colts reach from two and a half to three and a half years of age, they should be taught to do light work.
One weakness of the horse-breeder is his apparent inability to sell his colts and horses as rapidly as he should. A good way to advertise the fact that you have good, young horses for sale, is to drive them into town once or twice each week after the five o'clock supper. Get on a clean shirt, get the mail, and earn a dollar, more or less, by driving the colts; thereby enhancing their value by making them familiar with city sights and sounds. You dare not tie them in town, and therefore will have no opportunity to get a glass of beer. If the farmer is breeding roadsters, not infrequently he will place such exorbitant prices on his colts as to effectually prevent the sale of them. He may ask three or four hundred dollars for a single untrained colt, while, at the same time, he may have reared a calf to the same age and offer it for $25; notwithstanding the fact that the calf has probably cost him one-half as much to produce as the colt. Ability to sell is quite as necessary as ability to produce. Lack of either handicaps the farmer, especially the breeder of live stock.
The intelligence of the farmer is augmented if he raises such products as require skill and judgment in their production and sale. The fruit-growers are usually intelligent and broad men, because it requires high intelligence to produce good fruits and to sell them to the best advantage.
If the number of colts which may be produced from four mares and their female progeny in ten years is computed, it will readily be seen that unless many sales are made this kind of horse-breeding will ruin the breeder. Just here is where many men who have added horse-breeding to their other activities have failed. A man will milk cows semi-daily for eight months of the year and secure from them from five to ten per cent profit; but when he offers a colt or a young horse for sale he will put a price on it which includes cost and fifty to one hundred per cent profit. Failing to sell, the animal continues to eat until it "eats up the owner."
If the colts or undesirable brood-mares become too numerous and the pastures too short, trade in August for a pair of bob-sleds, and get "boot." They will, at least, not "eat their heads off." The next winter some one will want the sleds. Or trade for hogs, cattle or sheep. These may be killed and disposed of, and the apparently endless chain is broken. The thrift of the New Englander is due, it is said, to his skill in swapping jack-knives. It is even recorded that a family of boys traded watches among themselves one entire winter and each made not less than five dollars. There is always a person somewhere who wants the very thing you have, - find him.
The two-year-old fillies which have the promise of developing into good brood-mares should be bred at about two years of age, and again at three years old. They may produce two foals each in this time, and a fair test will have been made of their breeding qualities. It is probable that their offspring will not be quite so good as it would have been had they been older; but it is of the utmost importance that they be set at their life-work when young if they are to be developed into superior brood-mares. The same principle should be observed with brood-mares as in the production of dairy-cows. After the second foal is weaned they may be trained for work.
If they prove unsatisfactory as mothers, by proper feeding they may be made to take the general form of mares which have not produced, when they may be sold or exchanged, being yet in the fifth year and quite young enough for city use.
All this plan may appear to the young reader easy of execution, but it is not, - it is difficult. Difficult undertakings, if successful, produce liberal rewards; easy ones, meager compensation. Failures will be met with, you may get cheated in trading horses; if so, that will stimulate your intelligence and after a time the increased knowledge, the valuable business experience and training, and the profits will be ample reward. Good horses are scarce and high priced. Milk is cheap. Then why not reduce the cow dairy and add a winter horse dairy and let the colts do the milking?