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Buying Broodmares: Qualities that Begin With the Letter P - With Shane Plummer as featured on QHN


Quality broodmares are often one of the hottest tickets at the horse sale, with quality producers always in high demand.

Quarter Horse News (QHN) talked with SDP Buffalo Ranch owner Shane Plummer about what he looks for when buying broodmares, including what he can’t live without and what will eliminate a mare’s chance of riding home in his trailer.

This is the second in a series of Industry Insider With SDP blogs about buying Western performance horses at auction. Previously, Plummer discussed what he looks for when buying 2-year-olds at auction.

QHN: Do you have a philosophy that guides you when it comes to buying broodmares at auction? If so, what is it?
Plummer: I am a market breeder, so my criteria is business-related. That which has no demand has no value. But, I am horseman enough to follow my gut and intuition. I would never try and produce something which I would not keep or believe in myself. If it is going to carry my brand, it is going to have my heart and will along with that brand. 

I can’t predict outcomes, but I can stand by my effort. I desire broodmares that have a family of P’s. To me, “P” stands for performers and/or producers. Without either of those, I’m not interested. My father taught me at a young age, a good trunk can produce a bad branch but a bad trunk (family) will have a very difficult time producing a good branch.

QHN: What are the most important factors when you’re looking at broodmares or broodmare prospects at auction? Your must haves. How much emphasis do you place on production record, pedigree, conformation, show record, etc, in your evaluation? 
Plummer: You’ve pretty much covered the bases with your question, I look at all of those. Their age and if they have a foal selling with them, that will also be part of my analysis. Pedigree will always be my number one. Not only the names in the pedigree, but also the number of performers and producers in the pedigree as mentioned above. If the mare herself is a performer and a producer, she will be higher on my list and I suspect the market’s as well. Then the evaluation goes to her dam, second dam (her mother’s mother) and so forth. 

If she is by a commercial sire (one that has market demand), well then, higher on the list she goes. If she isn’t pretty, well that will be a problem. Ugly does not sell well. Performance horses are not halter horses, so what they do is far more important than what they look like. Having said that, try selling an ugly horse. You are swimming upstream and my life experience tells me that is much more difficult. Over the last couple years, I have seen color be much more of a thing in the market than I for one care for. I don’t like that trend, but I don’t control the market so there’s not much I can do about it. 

Pedigree, produce, performance, conformation, age, foals in tow. Those are my go-to qualities in the market for a broodmare.

QHN: When you’re buying a broodmare or a young filly that you may want to keep as a broodmare someday, how much emphasis do you put on her female family – the production records of her sisters, dam, second dam, etc? And how many generations back do you look in a mare’s pedigree for key maternal ancestors … the “blue hen” mares? 
Plummer: I place a lot. In fact, it is probably my No. 1 factor. I want to explain some things. I have heard my entire life people say “the mare is 80% of the foal, so mare power is everything.”  When it comes to the market, that is correct. A strong bottom side is a major factor in the dollar. The better the female family is, the higher the value: breed fees and breeding stock. However, in the God equation for reproduction, the stallion and mare are 50/50 partners in genetics. Sperm gives half the genes and the egg gives half. That isn’t my opinion, that is just biology. 

As I stated at the beginning, I am a market breeder. So, the better the mare’s family, the more demand for the stock. That also betters the odds for quality production, so your risk is reduced. I can make wonderful decisions in mating selection, but again, I cannot guarantee outcomes. High-quality stallions bred to high-quality mares give the best chance to produce quality foals. 

Never go against your gut though; if you feel like you should do something – please do it.

QHN: When it comes to evaluating a broodmare at an auction, what are some red flags that might cause you to pass a mare you otherwise like?
Plummer: Depending on her age, I will evaluate her produce history. If she is in her teens but has very limited production in quantity of foals and also produce record of foals with earnings, I will be suspect. Perhaps it was ownership or she was showing through her aged event years and into her teens. Maybe it was just economic or lack of focus by her owner. Or, maybe she is a hard breeder. I wouldn’t want to own a broodmare that is a hard breeder. I have been there and done that. Some young mares at no fault of their own were not put in the best owner’s hands for their reproductive future. Admittedly, those are the exception and not the norm. But it is something to watch out for. 

If I see an older mare, 18 years or older, and if she is not in good “flesh,” I will be suspect. Could she have some hormonal issues or underlying factors which could mitigate her reproductive soundness? If she is underweight, I won’t be interested. I like to see fat mares. Not too fat of course, but she better be plump for certain.

QHN: If the broodmare offered for sale is currently bred, how much does the sire of her in-utero foal factor into your decision to buy her? What if it’s a situation where it’s a nice mare that you otherwise really like, but she’s carrying a foal by a sire that you aren’t wild about.
Plummer: As a market breeder, I am absolutely interested in the sire of the foal she is carrying. I went through my opinion above about mare power and how important the is, but market demand and market communication is stallion-driven. 

Have you ever been to a trainer’s place and you ask, “what is that one?”  They’ll say, it is an “X”. They’ll just tell you the sire’s name. You ask who is the dam or dam’s sire, I’ll bet you $5 they won’t know. How many broodmares do you see advertised in the market? Not many. The narrative is stallions and it has been that way forever. So, if a mare is bred to a “hot” stallion, meaning one that is of commercial market quality, that will absolutely get my attention and that means higher value, too. 

I wouldn’t buy a mare based off who the in-utero’s sire is alone. She is way more important to me than the foal; the foal would just be the cherry on top.

QHN: What about open mares? How does a mare being open after having a foal or two affect your willingness to buy her? And, how many times does she have to miss having a foal before it’s a hard pass from you?
Plummer: If she is a show mare, I would prefer a recipient mare to go with her, but she could be open if need be. A retired broodmare being purchased in the fall or winter, I probably wouldn’t be interested at all. Not unless I got her for a significant deal. A broodmare in the spring, I would be interested but again, it would be more in the, “getting a good deal” range. Mares without foals accompanying them are just not as valuable. Buying a car with good tires and a full tank of gas is going to have more value than a car sitting on four blocks and an empty tank.

QHN: In today’s Western performance horse world, it’s becoming more common for broodmares to have production records showing 3-4 foals a year via embryo transfer. Or, a mare may be offered for sale with the notation that the previous owner is retaining 2, 3 or sometimes several embryos. How do you view these situations? 
Plummer: I personally see it as a major win for the buyer. If you want to own a factory, you have to have foals out there and doing well. The more help you can get to that end, the easier it is for you to have a producing mare with earnings. This game is so expensive, you need as much help as you can get with owners backing your mares. 

If you can have a foal out of your mare in training with a trainer, well, your likelihood of earnings just shot up significantly. Why do I want to have a 30-round capacity magazine? With 30 tries, it is much easier to hit a target than with only five. 

So, if I see a mare with a healthy group of prospects already in the pipeline and they are by quality sires, well then, I am much more interested to place my chips on the table.


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