Welcome to another addition of Behind the Foaling Door! This time we'll talk about the debate regarding model mares having limited or unlimited amounts of foals. Second only to the aging vs. non-aging debate, this issue has been a bone of much contention between breeders. Breeders select their system based on realism, ease, and convenience for themselves and other s/d list users. As with the aging debate, IPABRA takes no formal stand on which system is best and encourages members to use whatever system suits them best. Both sides have been presented to help new breeders select their own method.
Basically speaking, the issue is all about how many foals a model horse mare may produce each year. People who use the unlimited system have no restrictions on the amount of foals produced in a given year. A list using this method will list the information on the mare and then will usually list years available as "1986 and up" or write in the s/d rules about how old a mare must be before she many have a foal. Beyond that, there are no foal restrictions. A mare can have one foal each year or twenty-six. Here are some reasons why some breeders use this method....
"I let my model mares have an unlimited number of foals due to embryo transplant. Of course, I have some limitations in the sense that I don't have an unrealistic number of foals per mare (like 100). Most of the s/d lists that I've seen recently have their mares able to produce an unlimited number of foals."
"I was never worried about how many foals a model mare had because obviously they are not real horses. It's rather silly, when you think about it, to force real limits on a plastic or ceramic model. If one is serious about pedigree assignment there are other areas more deserving of realism, such as inherited color and color genetics, and breeding for types within breeds. The way I handled age is not to assign an age to begin with. A sample sire listing from my s/d list would read: Ragnarok (Shamrocket x Belle Grade) Adult bay Thoroughbred stallion. Photo and live show champion. Beswick Connoisseur Series Thoroughbred. Fee: .20 cents. If folks would cease putting ages on their models and simple indicate they are adults or foals/yearling then all the problems of ages would no longer be problems. It is sufficient to say that Ragnarok is an adult. Why would one need more information?"
"My mares have unlimited foals simply because it is easier for me and my customers. While perhaps it isn't the most realistic way to breed, it saves me a lot of bookkeeping (keeping track of which mares have had foals from which years) and my customers a lot of grief and possible frustration (especially if they've already arranged for a whatever-year foal from someone else's stallion, and then had to write back to the person and have them change the year on the certificate and in their records.) I suppose I could make a great effort and spontaneously switch to the more realistic system if I wanted to, but being the lazy slob that I am, I prefer to keep my bookkeeping to a minimum."
"I prefer unlimited because it's a heck of a lot easier! I can't deal with getting 10 requests for one mare and then sending all but one back. I also HATE it when I get a list, find the perfect pair of parents (especially when it's a rare breed), and can't use them because the mare doesn't have a year open. This recently happened to me while I was going over a list looking for parents for my bay Clydesdale mare. I found a perfect mare and stallion only to find that the stallion was too young for the mare's only available year! I know of quite a few lists that state that they use embryo transplant or that due to technical advances mares may have more then one foal per year."
On the other hand, breeders who limit their mares' years only allow their mares to have one foal per year (or occasionally two in the case of twins). An s/d list might have the information on the mare and then follow it with something like "1984-1986, 1988, 1991, 1995-1997." This means that the mare has already produced a foal for all of the years not listed, and that these are the only available years left for a mare to have a foal. Here are some comments from breeders on why they have chosen to use this system....
"I am in favor of limiting foals per year for each mare. Personally, I prefer to run my model pedigree assignment program as much like a real horse breeding program as possible. This means that a mare can only have one foal per year (and rarely, a set of twins). I don't like the idea of embryo transfer and do not use it as an excuse to give a mare any more then one foal per year. It is risky at best and many real horse registries will not accept it. Those real horse registries that do allow it have very strict guidelines for it and often will still not accept for registration more then one foal per year from a mare. If I owned and bred real horses, I would not use embryo transfer because it is so risky (and I think it is pretty expensive, too)."
"I go with the one foal per year rule. I occasionally allow twins, but not very often. If someone wanted to use embryo transfer for their explanation of why they allow more then one foal I wouldn't have a problem -- just as long as they limit the number of foals to just 2 or 3 a year. I strive to keep my breeding program as close to real as possible. But I don't have a problem if other people want to do it differently. That is their choice. However, I would probably choose not to use their mares if they allowed their mares to have lots of foals per year."
"I say mares should be limited to one foal per year, just like the real ones. To my understanding, the model world kind of 'copies' what happens in the real world of horses (heck- conformational, tack accuracy, obstacle accuracy, ect.) and therefore should also carry over to the mares having one foal per year."
"I feel that a good pedigree assignment stable, and something it seems we all strive for, is as realistic as possible. There seems to be a lot of care taken in making sure color genetics are taken into account. We try to research real bloodlines for different breeds. One thing that kind of bugs me is when I get a s/d list that says 'mares can have unlimited foals because we employ embryo transplants'. Like embryo transplants are the cure and now our mares can have unlimited foals. But it doesn't work that way in real life! In real life, embryo transplants are extremely costly and health-risky for the horses involved. Even when it does happen, which is much rarer than people think, it doesn't mean one mare can have unlimited embryos taken out of her and put into other mares. It MAY be the case where a mare has 2 foals in one year due to embryo transplant...but any more than that and the poor mare's not going to be able to survive that! It's already an incredible health strain. So I feel that unlimited foals is very unrealistic, and goes against our main concerns and goals in pedigree assignment of making it close to real life as possible."
"I feel that unlimited foals from mares is extremely unrealistic. While science has progressed in the area of ET, it is still an expensive and relatively uncommon procedure. And ET is not the only technology involved; the mare must be made to 'super-ovulate' for there to be multiple foals, and this technology is still in the experimental stage. And technological issues aside, few registries will accept more then one foal from a mare in a given year, and many do not accept ET foals even if there is only one. If we are going to follow other registry rules regarding acceptable colors and breed crosses, why can we ignore THIS rule?"
What system do YOU use? Write and let us know!