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Learn from a first-hand account of a breeder’s key lessons about the investment side of breeding.

Beverly Servi

Beverly Servi is a Western performance equine breeder and stallion owner, as well as a retired CPA and financial consultant. She serves on the NRCHA Board of Directors and is on the strategic planning and owners committees and the stallion incentive task force. It’s her goal to build connections through educating others about the breeding and showing business.

BREEDING AND FOALING SEASON is an exciting time of year, but it hasn’t always been that way. It’s taken time to get to the point where I’ve gained confidence in my breeding decisions. Several incredible people in the industry have been my mentors and guides. I value the relationships and knowledge I’ve built through the years. Along with educating myself in the Western performance horse industry, I realized that financial planning is also critical in decision-making. I start with a written plan: a breeding budget and a review of the financial market to determine the supply and demand of the industry.

Although the economy has been a past concern, the volatility doesn’t seem to influence the industry at this time. Exciting events such as The American Performance Horseman, The Run For A Million and barrel racing and rope horse incentives alone added more than $12 million in purses to the industry in 2023. The surge in the NRCHA, National Cutting Horse Association, National Reining Horse Association and American Rope Horse Association industries has led purses to increase to an all-time high, and they continue to grow.

By that same token, stallion fees, mare costs and the overall cost to breed and raise a horse have increased substantially during the last few years. It’s an exciting time in the industry, and the demand for well-bred horses is at a premium. What does all this mean for the breeding business?


We can’t read buyers’ minds, but we have a pretty good idea because we’re deeply involved in the Western performance industry.

Buyers are looking for well-bred horses with more than just good bloodlines. Conformation, good bone, eye appeal, sire and dam earnings, a good mind and demeanor and longevity are some important aspects buyers look for that should play into your decision when choosing a broodmare or a stallion. How the sire and dam move, what catches your eye about them, what you like about the stallion or mare’s presentation and what the offspring will bring to the industry will be items on the buyer’s checklist and should be on yours, too.

Additionally, buyers want to purchase from a breeder they know provides quality care and who they can trust to put the horses’ best interests first. This gives them confidence in their investment, which can be substantial.


When we look at the surface of this endeavor to produce high-quality offspring, the stallion must have superior qualities, lifetime earnings (LTE) and progeny earnings (PE). The chosen mare should have the proverbial “mare power,” including her own LTE and PE, proving she can produce winning offspring. If the mare has several offspring earners, you have yourself an asset—hold onto it. Some mares have limited lifetime earnings or no earnings, but their offspring are successful. Keep in mind it takes four to eight years to prove a mare this way. Intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) and embryo transfers help increase the PE for mares, making both her and her offspring more valuable.

Creating this winning combination may cost a minimum of $50,000 for an egg. A winning mare with longevity in the sport and earnings of $150,000 could cost $25,000 to $75,000 for an egg. Scarcity plays a role here, because there are very few mares with this type of record. It takes a minimum of four years to prove a mare, so consider the time value of money here. You can invest $30,000 to more than $100,000 raising a single foal to show age, so proving a mare can be costly.

Many factors influence the cost of raising a foal, including breeding, raising and training. And don’t forget the value of your time and overhead like barns, utilities, trailers, trucks and equipment. A long-term business plan can help boost your success and sanity. Having clearly defined goals and a breeding budget will help eliminate surprises and help you stay the course to meet your desired outcome and success.


Conversations with your reproductive veterinarian regarding the best way to breed your mare are important and are the first phase of your plan. Our industry doesn’t do live cover because of the dangers to the horses and humans. Therefore, the stallions are collected, allowing for fresh or frozen semen. Then, the mare or oocytes are artificially inseminated. Embryo transfers and ICSI procedures are also available, and I’m incredibly encouraged to know that IVF in horses may be available soon. This is so big for the equine reproductive community because it drastically reduces early embryonic loss. Each of these decisions, made with your veterinarian, is crucial in developing your plan.

Next, understand and be confident in the funds available to invest in breeding. Third, understand your customers and the industry and consider supply and demand. Finally, enlist mentors in the industry. People are willing to help, and your relationships with stallion owners, mare owners, associations, reproductive veterinarians, trainers and stallion stations can bolster your plan—and your confidence in it.

Here’s a list of some budget items to consider in your breeding plan.

  • Read the stallion contract to identify all fees, such as the stallion himself, chute, shipping, rebreeding and other fees that may apply if your mare doesn’t
    settle in foal the first time.
  • Closely examine the stallion and mare’s disease panels.
  • Before signing the contract, conduct a complete reproductive soundness exam on the mare, including cultures and biopsies.
  • Consider costs such as the additional electricity to keep a mare under lights, transportation expenses and regular care, including vaccines and farrier expenses.
  • Look into fees for artificial insemination, embryo flush, embryo transfers and recipient mare fees—these can add up.
  • The average conception rate in the equine industry is about 65 percent, which means you might have to breed your mare multiple times before she settles, which affects your budget.
  • Look at your feed program and any additional mare and foal growth and development supplements you’ll need to purchase.
  • Price mare care at an equine reproductive facility if that’s part of your plan.
  • Be ready for veterinary expenses to add up, including pregnancy checks up to 120 days, foaling out the mare, foal care, post-foaling vet check, plasma IV and more.
  • Price additional insurance you’ll need to carry to protect your investment.


Raising quality foals requires planning, whether you’ve raised one or 100 foals. What makes your mare a great candidate for breeding? Does breeding bring you a great deal of joy? Are you seeking to be a part of a community of people who raise extraordinary equine athletes? Or, is your goal to produce a future show horse for yourself or a trainer? Your why determines your goals, mission and dreams. When you’re confident in knowing your why, it’s easier to ask for what you want and to communicate clearly. Having clearly defined goals, including a breeding budget, will help eliminate surprises and help your program meet your desired outcome.

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