This Guns For Nic and Shane Plummer

How long is a piece of string?

In my years in the horse business, I have learned two things concretely:

  • No one is smarter than God.
  • No one is smarter than the market.

How long is a piece of string?

Do you know the answer? I sure don’t. I get asked questions like that, ALL THE TIME. I see questions like that, ALL THE TIME. I don’t think there is a day that goes by that I don’t see questions on Facebook asking, “I have an 8-year-old mare by Stallion X out of a daughter of Stallion Y, who should I breed her to?” Or, “Here is a photo of my 3-year-old filly. Think she’d be better on cows or barrels?”

How long is a piece of string?

Do you remember the DirectTV commercials, “Don’t be like me.” If you want a refresher, here is one via YouTube: So, don’t be like that guy!

In all seriousness, in the quest for knowledge, there aren’t any bad questions. Asking the right questions is the key.


Here is a list of a few questions you need to ask yourself:

  1. What discipline are you wanting? Cutting, reining, reined cow horse, etc.
  2. What is your budget? If you can afford $2,000, don’t look at $5,000. I’d love a Ferrari, but I’ve never been to a Ferrari dealership. It would be a waste of everyone’s time.
  3. Make sure you analyze your mare’s pros and cons. All horses have them; you need to
    know what you’ve got. If your mare has little feet, what do you think you’ll get if you breed to a stallion with little feet? If she has an ugly head, look for a pretty-headed stud. If she is straight in the stifle, what do you think I’m going to say…? This list goes on and on and on.
  4. Are you breeding for the market or to keep? Let me tell you what I mean by that. Breeding for the market can be vastly different than breeding to keep. If you are wanting to breed for the very best individual you can get, well you’ll look at different data than if you are trying to maximize a return on your foal. The majority of the time you can align both questions to get one answer, but not every time.
  5. Don’t overbreed or underbreed your mare. Meaning, if your mare is a $10,000 mare, do not breed her to a $10,000 fee stallion. Your baby won’t be worth the expenses for conception, let alone raising it. I recently saw a breeder troubled at what the market thought of his foals’ value. He was upset that even though the foals were by a very popular and expensive sire, the market didn’t agree to his three-times-the-breeding-fee calculation. That metric is only relevant if the mare’s value is comparable to the quality of the stallion. Now, if you want the best foal you can afford, go ahead and do whatever you wish. But don’t expect the market to pay a premium when you’ve overbred or underbred your mare. A mare will generally (and I mean generally) reproduce between 25 to 50 percent of her value in a healthy market when bred to a commercial sire.
  6. You are not smarter than God, so don’t swim upstream. Just go with the flow. Look at your mare’s pedigree and look what bloodlines cross well on your mare’s bloodlines. If you want to color outside the lines, go right ahead. Good luck.


Here is a list of a few questions you need to ask yourself:

  1. See questions 1 and 2 above. The same applies.
  2. Enlist an expert. Depending on what the use of the horse is (i.e. competition or breeding stock), surround yourself with competent professionals – veterinarian, trainer, bloodstock expert. I can hear my father’s wisdom in my ear: “Never take advice from someone that doesn’t make a living doing it.” I’m not a trainer; I need a good trainer. I’m not a vet; I need a good vet. As good as they are at their profession, I’m just as good at mine. I always try and surround myself with people that are smarter than me. Excellent counsel to follow.
  3. You aren’t going to find perfection. What I mean by that is sometimes you just have to follow your gut. I think of Thoroughbred Triple Crown Champion and legendary sire the great Seattle Slew, who was purchased by Mickey and Karen Taylor for a mere $17,500 as a yearling race prospect. He won more than $1 million on the track and at one time commanded a stallion fee of $150,000 a mare. Mickey, who was a logger by profession, famously said, “I don’t think I’ll ever have to chop down another tree.” It’s OK to have some flaws; follow your gut.
  4. Make sure you know the expense of what it will take AFTER the purchase. You already know this, but horses are expensive. Make sure you know exactly what you are getting into as they’ve got to eat; they’ve got to be properly cared for; if they are of training age, they must be trained; if they are breeding stock and aren’t breeding, well their value just plummeted. It’s not the horse’s fault if you don’t do your part. Horses don’t have checkbooks, they don’t wear watches and they don’t know what a calendar is. Be smart. Be responsible.


As a certified equine appraiser and someone who has sold millions of dollars worth of horses, it is still hard to pinpoint value. There are so many variables, and there really aren’t any comparables because horses are like people – no two are exactly the same. I’m sensitive here to a point, but here is the brutal truth:

  1. What you have into your horse does not mean that is what your horse is worth.
  2. Your emotional connection does not mean squat in the marketplace.
  3. Your horse must be in use for what it is in order to achieve optimal value. Meaning, if it is a horse of show age, it must be in work/training. If it is a broodmare, it must be in foal or foal at side. Also, depending on her age, she needs to show healthy production to marketable sires. If it is a yearling, it needs to be fit and presentable. Deviate from
    that reality and the market will prove you otherwise.
  4. Facts don’t exaggerate, and the market knows that. That is why sale catalogs are so 
important for buyers. There aren’t any stories or explanations in them, just black type 
facts. The naked truth bares all.
  5. The longer the story, the lesser the value. Bullet point facts equal value added.
  6. What is a horse worth? Whatever someone is willing to pay.

All this being said, have a great time! I’ll end with some sage advice from a legendary horseman.

“I think you’ve got to constantly be looking for excellence. Most people know where they want to go in life, but they get up every day and don’t know how to close the gap. They know where they’re at today, but they don’t know where they’re going to end up or how to get where they’d like to be.

Most people go through life or in the horse business like a man who jumped off a 10- story building. As he passes the fifth floor, he says, ‘So good so far.’

Really most people are dreamers. They dream about winning the big one, having the great cutting horse or whatever your discipline is, they dream about it and aren’t ready to make the sacrifice to make that happen or that you have to make in order to get where you want to go.” – D. Wayne Lucas

Dream big. Surround yourself with experts. Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Have fun. We are all in this together.

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