A clearly defined plan of what is desired to accomplish should first be made. To do this, a good knowledge of the horse and horse-breeding should be secured from all available sources. Breeding establishments should be visited, and the successes and failures noted. The beginner should become acquainted with successful and distinguished horse-breeders, - in fact, become a pupil for a few hours or a few days, of those men who, above all others, are able to teach. All of this preparation and more is desirable, even if but a few colts are to be bred yearly on the farm devoted to mixed husbandry.
It should be clearly kept in mind that, from this time on, none but superior horses will sell at remunerative prices. The man who is able prefers his own carriage to the street-car; but everybody prefers the street-car to a carriage drawn by a "lame, woolly horse." Do the best we can, there will always be enough mistakes in horse - breeding to supply the demand for cheap hack-about animals. I doubt if the market will ever be overstocked with superior animals - roadsters, coach-, saddle- and draft-horses.
For all except the few professional horse-breeders, - who should confine themselves to the production of thoroughbreds, full-bloods and standard-bred animals, the following suggestions may be of value:
Care should be taken to select the breed which best suits the farm, the local markets and the tastes of the breeder. Roadsters naturally belong on land devoted to grass and the dairy industry. Here but little plowing and other hard work will be required, and the necessity of reaching the market town, the station or the creamery, daily, indicates that a light, quick-moving horse, especially if the country is rolling, would be best.
The coach-horse may well be bred on farms which require a somewhat larger horse than the dairy farm, but not so large as the grain farm. Coachers are well adapted to the fruit farm, with one exception, - they are too tall to be used to the best advantage in the tillage of orchards.
Farms devoted largely to grain-raising, unless the land is light in character, call for heavy horses. Here the draft-horse finds his true place while he is acquiring age and solidity before he reaches his final destination - the busy city. Mature horses are for the city, young horses for the farm.
The blood-horse is not well adapted to farm labor. Few of them are required; therefore, the farmer carrying on several lines of activity should not attempt to breed this high-mettled horse, even if he is beautiful.
The rearing of horses for the purpose of securing the highest class of animals - those which are to be used largely for recreation - should always be in the hands of a comparatively few skilled horsemen. If the farmer engaged in many enterprises has use for a well-bred roadster, or one with a long line of distinguished ancestors, he will find it cheaper in the end to purchase such a horse than to attempt to breed and rear it.
Should the farmer engaged in a more or less mixed agriculture attempt to breed and raise horses? Should many of the dairymen part with a few of the poorer cows and in time breed colts to take their places in the stalls? Would it be wise for most grain farmers to replenish their work-stock and have one or more spans of horses to sell each year? To all these questions the answer is emphatically, yes. Some farmers appear to have but one idea, viz., that the town or city is the place to buy things, even horses; when cities and villages should be looked upon by the farmer as places to sell things, and to buy only what cannot well be produced at home.
It is said that the horse is to be supplanted by mechanical contrivances, which will take his place in the street, the field and for recreation. It is also contended that horses are too expensive, in that they require feed and care when not at work; while the bicycle, the automobile and the street-car require no care when not in use. The last argument may be met with the fact that nearly all classes of machinery and appliances rust out and depreciate when not in use faster than when they are constantly employed.
Formerly, horses were used extensively during the winter months. Cord-wood, logs and various obstructions to tillage had to be removed. They were also used extensively for freighting and for travel. All these primitive conditions are passing away and most of the farm-horses are now idle for nearly half of the year. To economize, they are kept on coarse and innu-tritious foods and have little or no exercise. All this results in soft muscles, weakened vitality, soft and distorted feet; and in all ways the horse becomes, during the winter, more or less incapacitated for the difficult spring work. Can these conditions be improved? I think they can; and the following somewhat specific directions, if carried out, will, it is believed, materially increase profits and better conditions.
Brood-mares should be kept on the farms to a much greater extent than they are, and fewer mares should go to the city. None but mature horses of not less than six to seven years of age should be used on pavements; while the brood-mares and the young animals, with their immature and soft bones and muscles, find a congenial home in the green pastures and on the soft, moist earth of the plowed field.
We believe that the breeding and rearing of horses by farmers who are engaged in mixed farming, where three or more farm- and driving-animals are kept for each one hundred acres of land, can be made profitable. It costs about fifteen to twenty-five dollars more to breed and rear a colt up to the age of three years than it does to rear a heifer to the same age. The colt may sell for seventy-five to one hundred dollars, while the heifer, unless she be pure and highly bred, may bring thirty-five dollars. The farmer whose time is occupied in carrying on several lines of activity, such as grain, fruit and berry industries, would better not attempt to breed the larger varieties of pure-blooded animals. For him the breeding of grade cattle, sheep and horses is likely to be more remunerative than the purchasing of them when wanted, or the breeding of pure animals, which necessitates large expenditures for foundation stock. Most farmers would better master the art of successful live-stock breeding by the production of grades. If eminently successful in this, it is easy to change to the breeding of pure-blooded animals when the principles and practices of breeding are mastered. The breeding of superior grades presupposes that the dams are selected with a specific purpose in view, and that their sires are pure-blooded animals selected from the stables of those whose chief business is to breed and rear superior pure-blooded animals endowed with strong, specialized characteristics. It is no uncommon thing to see horses with draft bodies and roadster limbs and feet, or with these characteristics reversed. Some have large, ill-shaped heads and legs and beefy shoulders, with the trotter's loins and hindquarters. Too often, the feet and limbs are not well adapted to the body-weight or the work which the horses are called on to do. In pioneer days, oxen were largely used for farm work; but, when the forests were cleared away and the country lad had outgrown his homespun suit, he longed for more rapid transit than could be secured even from his yoke of frisky steers.
As yet the true draft-horse was not thought of.