The Mare Search Continues – Part 2

New Focus

Last time, on Lantern Farm, disappointed with my search for a mare thus far and inspired by the work of the Livestock Conservancy organization I have decided to align my goals of breeding, raising, and training horses with my goals of conserving at risk native and heirloom breeds and species by switching to a horse breed that doesn’t number in the millions worldwide and instead is at risk of going extinct. There were three such horse breeds under consideration: Akhal-tekes, Canadians, and Cleveland Bays.

Step one was to talk over the new plan with Nate and get his opinion, and yes, his opinion does matter. He was not a big fan of the Akhal-tekes and to be fair they have a very distinct and unique look which doesn’t appeal to everyone. He also pointed out that they were literally born and bred for life in the desert and Minnesota ≠ desert. And if we’re being totally honest, I’m vain enough to want to look good while riding a horse and words that I would use to describe Akhal-tekes include ones like “delicate” and “refined” and those two words have never, in my life, been used to describe me.

That got it narrowed down to Canadians and Cleveland Bays.

Step two was talking with an acquaintance of mine who has spent her entire life working in a wide variety of horse related fields and endeavors with a wide variety of breeds. She has a breadth and depth of knowledge regarding horses that few people have. She said the Cleveland Bays she’s worked with have been very athletic horses who were beautiful movers, but she never liked the personality of a single one and would never choose to work with them if given the choice. She has also had the opportunity to work with Canadian horses and had a friend who raised Canadian horses back in the day and they were also athletic horses and good movers, but had the extra bonus of being likeable. She said she liked every Canadian horse she ever worked with. Therefore, her recommendation was to search for a Canadian mare.

She and I also had a long talk about conformation and breeding. After all my research on horse conformation I have gotten pretty good at identifying faults and flaws with a horse but I don’t necessary know how to rank those faults in terms of importance. I liken it to grading. Students make all sorts of mistakes, but some mistakes are minor, and the student has clearly done A or B work, but other mistakes are worse and indicate C or D level work, then of course there are the “you have literally no clue what you are doing, here is your F” mistakes. I felt confident in my ability to distinguish “A” or “F” horses, but not as confident in my ability to distinguish between the vast majority that fall somewhere in the middle. The reality is that finding a horse with “perfect” conformation was always rare but has become even rarer now that society no longer literally runs on horse power and people have lost touch with what makes a horse not just good looking but also healthy and sound for the long haul. The “A” horses are now rarer than ever and the ones that are out there are totally out of my budget. This means I need to instead be focusing my efforts on identifying the “B’s” (which is still a really good grade) from the “C’s” and “D’s.” I’m optimistic that now, after having spent some time working with her, I can do that. Hopefully.

Thus my search for a mare worth breeding has begun again but with the new focus on finding a solid, but not perfect, Canadian mare. As of right I have found four possibilities and two of them have a great deal of potential. I’m just waiting on more pictures, videos, and information. Fingers crossed I find this mare soon!

The Mare Search Continues – Part 1


The search for my next mare, the one that will be the cornerstone of my breeding efforts, has been ongoing and frustrating. I have “known” for as long as I can remember that there are a lot of problems within the horse industry, particularly with starting horses too hard, too fast, and too young and breeding horses for the wrong reasons, usually for fancy names on a piece of paper or for fancy color. Sure that stud has terrible conformation and went lame at four and is utterly unrideable, “but he’s a blue roan!” That is literally what one lady said to me when I expressed concern about her choice of stallion.

At first, I thought that this utter dearth of sound horses with good conformation could work in my favor. Purposely and intentionally seeking out healthy, sane, sound, horses with good conformation to breed would inherently improve my odds of having foals that were healthy, sane, sound horses themselves and that would help me stand out in a very crowded market; it would make my horses something special and worth having. The longer I searched though, the more I realized that a large proportion of riders and horse people don’t have a clue what good conformation is and why it matters. They have simply accepted the current reality where horses are lame by twelve and need corrective shoeing, yearly injections, and all sorts of other maintenance just to stay rideable. This has become the new normal and very few people seem to be questioning it.

I put that word “known” in quotes in the first paragraph because in today’s current world lots of people “know” things that are in fact total bullshit and when I first started this search my “knowing” was based on very hazy remembrance of 4-H horse judging practice sessions, various presentations attended at horse expos and clinics, and my own personal experiences. But that knowledge wasn’t based on any source I could point to and as mare after mare fell short of my expectations I started to wonder if my “knowing” was in fact bullshit and if maybe I was the one out of touch with reality. I have thus spent much of the summer seeking out verifiable references and knowledgeable people with true study and experience behind them to ground my knowing in reality. These sources did confirm my knowledge and I am far more confident and comfortable in declaring that I do actually know what good conformation looks like and that it is in fact important! They also confirmed that  yes, the horse world today is filled with crappy conformation; and yes, horses are in fact started way too hard, way too fast, and way too young; and that yes, the combination of these two things is behind many of the lameness issues horses and their people have to contend with. Below is a list of the references I have been consulting.

Horse Conformation References

Where does that leave me, other than being frustrated and still horseless?

Upon completion of The Modern Racehorse, I returned the book to the library by actually walking into the library and handing it to an actual librarian, as a book that age is due. Once in the library I couldn’t just leave without taking a turn through the stacks and while perusing I found The Small-Scale Poultry Flock by Harvey Ussery. Another truly amazing book which I will talk more about in a future post, but relevant here was a reference to The Livestock Conservancy, an organization dedicated to the conservation of endangered livestock breeds. While checking out their website I noticed there was a horse category, and within the horse category were a number of breeds I had heard of but several I had not and then it hit me. Why waste my time, effort, energy, and money on trying to fix a breed that numbers literally in the millions and that has drifted so far from the breed standard and good conformation that any good I did in my breeding efforts would be but a single drop of rain in the ocean when there are really nice horse breeds out there whose populations are genuinely in jeopardy and for whom my efforts would make a tangible and lasting difference? Most of the horse breeds listed are not suitable for my personal goals being either too small (there are many pony and small horse breeds on the list) or draft horses who are meant to pull things and are not well suited to riding. That left three breeds that are riding horses capable of doing a variety of disciplines and that naturally get up to at least 16 hands tall or taller:


I found this photo on Wikipedia –


I found this photo on the Breyer Horse website as this was the horse they used as their model for the Canadian Breyer horse – 

Cleveland Bay 

I found this photo on the Livestock Conservancy website – 

Next step – a new mare search with a new focus, but which breed should we pursue?

The Search Continues

Looking for Number Three

As mentioned in this post the original goal was always to expand the number of equines in our care, first with a pony, then with either a donkey or another mare. This other mare would serve two purposes, being a riding horse for me while we got Leeloo sound and to have a few foals that I would train and sell as they got older. That plan has never changed. We did, however, put it on hiatus for a while because Juniper and Leeloo had been getting along better and we were still coming up short in terms of barn building money and having a third horse would not only cost in terms of buying said horse, but also in terms of caring for said horse. I was still occasionally peaking at ads throughout fall but after our first snowstorm Nate came fully over to the “we need a barn and we need one now” side of things so I stopped even half-heartedly looking at horses and focused everything on finding a builder and saving up for the barn.

Then Leeloo had to go and die.

It was only a few weeks after when I found myself starting to look at horse ads again. Which made me feel weirdly bad because I didn’t think I should be ready to look for another horse again so soon and there I was, looking at horse ads and not crying (okay, the first chestnut mare with socks and a blaze triggered a bit of a meltdown), but then I realized I wasn’t looking for another Leeloo, I was looking for that third horse, the babymaker, that I had already been looking for and Leeloo’s death didn’t change that at all. I wasn’t buying a new “first horse” I was buying the “third horse” as planned, it’s just that the first horse isn’t here anymore. 

I was still searching on the downlow though, because I was still feeling oddly guilty about it and we are in fact building the barn and that is going to take literally every penny of our savings so where is the money for this mare coming from Sara?! Then Nate saw my screen one night and asked me pretty much word for word that last sentence “Building the barn is taking literally every penny of our savings and then some, so where is the money for this mare coming from Sara?!” Also not having to feed and care for two horses means saving money which we need to do because the barn is taking up all of our money. These are very good and valid points. But I need a horse in my life and I want Juniper back home. Also finding this mare is going to take time. I do not want a horse, I want the right horse. So just because I’m looking now doesn’t mean I’m buying anything now.

The goal as outlined in that first post is to have babies so I need a horse that is worth breeding. It is shocking to me how many people breed horses that have major faults, things that make them predisposed to injuries and shorter useful lifespans; why are people breeding horses like that? 

So far I’ve looked through hundreds of ads, messaged a lot of people, and met six horses in-person. I’ve liked three of them but am waiting to hear back from some more knowledgeable advisors to make sure I am making a rational decision and not an emotional decision, particularly regarding the mare who has very similar personality to Leeloo; however the delay has meant at least one of the maybes sold before I heard back and so I continue to search while I wait.

I know that right horse is out there.

Dream vs. Reality

Who will win?

When the Mega Millions was over a billion dollars the mathematician in me who understands that lotteries are just a tax on people who don’t understand statistics lost out to the dreamer in me who could not help but think of what we could do with that much money! Here is just part of the list I started thinking of:

  • Build the barn and arena I really want 
  • Finish the basement 
  • Finish and pave the driveway 
  • Plant native prairie-based pasture and hay field
  • Put in the fence for the permanent paddock paradise track system
  • Find that third mare (and a donkey, and maybe a gelding)
  • Get a tractor and all the hay making equipment
  • Get an electric pick-up truck
  • Get a horse trailer
  • Build hay and equipment storage buildings
  • Plant more trees

We of course did not win the Mega Millions, which the mathematician in me knew we wouldn’t but the dreamer in me could not help but be disappointed. However, having started really listing all the things that I would like to fulfil my life long dream of having a horse farm I have been facing the reality that without something bordering on the miraculous (like getting picked up as a reality show on the Magnolia Network) or inventing a time machine and getting things done before 2020 (stupid pandemic messing up the stupid economy) that despite having a full time job and working three separate side gigs I don’t think it will happen and I’m not okay with it. This winter has really hammered home that we need to have some sort of indoor space where we can get out of the weather; I know other people have horses in cold climates without any indoor space but I am not those people. I don’t know if I can be happy with only ever having the Plan B version of this dream when my realistic Plan A is already a reality checked version of my ideal Plan A which itself is a massive (and practical) step down from high school Sara’s dream (see drawing below which includes a 50-stall barn, a 100’ x 150’ indoor riding arena, a 100’ x 140’ outdoor riding arena, and a pretty small house – at least teenage Sara and adult Sara still have the same priorities even if teenage Sara had way more energy). As I said in this post, I know this entire thing is a big giant want and that I am lucky and privileged beyond words to even have what we do have, but my heart is just not having it and I’m struggling right now being reasonable when I see other people getting their impractical and expensive dreams and I’m working my a** off and still unable to reach mine.

I’m not giving up on realistic Plan A yet. I am currently waiting on numbers from a few builders, since lumber prices have finally started to come down, and I’ve discovered a site that sells clearance steel buildings and I’m monitoring that regularly, but it has been a struggle to stay hopeful.


p.s. this post was written by an actual human and not an AI, you can tell because of all the run on sentences. 


Looking for a Baby Maker

Leeloo Needs More Friends

Juniper would like Leeloo to get more friends. Having Leeloo’s full and undivided attention is getting to be a bit much for her.

Because it is just the two of them and Leeloo is used to being with a herd at all times Leeloo insists that the two of them be together at all times, not just within sight, but together. Leeloo also hates bugs almost as much as I do which means she wants to be hiding in the slightly less buggy shelter area most of the daylight hours. Juniper on the other hand doesn’t mind the bugs if she can be shoving food in her face and would rather be out eating all day. But because Leeloo is who she is, and has no one else but Juniper, that means that Juniper has to be where Leeloo wants to be, and that is in the shelters and not eating for much of the day. They are not starving by any means, I have been picking up enough poop every day to know that, but Juniper would definitely be eating more if she had a chance. For Juniper’s sanity we really need to find Leeloo more friends.

Juniper’s preference – grazing

Leeloo’s preference – hiding from the bugs in the shelter



I have some strong feelings on who this next friend needs to be. I have wanted to have a horse farm my entire life, specifically I have wanted to work with foals and young horses. I had my first opportunity when Leeloo was born and have loved almost all of it; the injuries, illnesses, and mystery lameness not so much, though I have learned a ton. My goal when we moved here was to start a very, very, small horse breeding and training operation. I had hoped to have a new foal every other year and work with them slowly over several years and then sell one sane, sound, well trained, six- or seven-year-old every other year. VERY small operation. But to do that I need a mare worth breeding. I love Leeloo, she is one of the best horses ever, and I would love to have many of her qualities in future horses. However, the sheer quantity of lameness issues she has dealt with, some with clear sources and some without, combined with some of the soundness issues her sisters have had, makes me unwilling to breed her. I never, ever, want to have to go through the pain, heartache, and money that I have gone through with Leeloo again and the chance that there might be a genetic component to her various lameness issues is just too high to risk passing on to another generation. Therefore, I need to find a mare worth breeding.

I have learned that means different things to different people, this is what I mean when I say that: I’m looking for a mare with good conformation and a good personality.

Conformation. There is a lot of information on what good conformation looks like – this post by the U of M extension has a really nice summary. I’m looking for everything they mention plus I want a pretty head and good feet. A “pretty head” is a little harder to pin down than good confirmation, but I did find this website that articulates it fairly well. I think Leeloo has a pretty head, but of course I am biased. Good feet can be a bit trickier to identify because the condition of a horse’s hoof is a combination of conformation, genetics, nutrition, environment, and farrier care. Bad farrier care, bad environment, or bad nutrition can ruin perfectly good feet. That being said after having a horse that had to be shod year-round and dealing with Leeloo’s various feet issues, having good feet is a must. I read an article in the American Quarter Horse Journal (it was an actual physical magazine so I can’t link it) about one of the founding studs of the Quarter Horse breed. He was a really talented racehorse and a popular stud, but they mentioned in passing that he had bad feet. My immediate thought was, and you just bred that trait into how many future generations? So, I’m looking for good confirmation, good feet, and a pretty head.

Personality. I think a foal picks up much of their early personality and behavior from their dam. Leeloo’s dam Annie was a sweet, friendly, smart, willing mare who loved to be around people (she was a lapdog that somehow got born into a horse body) and I believe Leeloo got that from her both through her genetics and through learned behavior; by watching how Annie interacted with the world and people around her. That’s not to say you can’t ruin a perfectly good-natured horse by treating it poorly or that a horse that starts out as a bull-headed a** can’t eventually become a friendly and willing partner. But starting out with a foal who already likes and trusts people because their mom likes and trusts people makes the job easier. So, I’m looking for a sweet, smart, and willing mare. 

Things I don’t care as much about.

Height – I am a tall person and most of my height is in my torso, so when I’m sitting on a horse I look even taller. If I ever start showing again it’s important that the horse and I “make a pretty picture” and since I’m 90% torso I look stupid on short horses. Not to say shorter horses aren’t great, we just look very disproportionate. So, I’d like a horse that is at least 15’1 hands high and not taller than 17 hands. I know that in some performance-based events (like barrel racing) shorter horses are preferred which is why my height range has expanded from my long-term preference of 16 hands or so.

Color – I have always been partial to buckskins, duns, bays, and roans. But in the end color doesn’t matter, good confirmation and personality matter. Also, Leeloo is a chestnut and Annie was a gray and I love/loved them completely so who cares about color

Breeding – I think too many people get caught up with certain bloodlines and in the end a good horse is a good horse. A horse can have the “best” (as in most expensive or most famous) breeding and be just a so-so or worse horse. I do however want a registered mare because I think long-term it gives more options for what to do with her and how I can market and sell future offspring.

I have just recently started searching for this dream mare, having been preoccupied with the seemingly never-ending fence saga, I’ve gotten a few leads but so far they haven’t panned out, or have been out of my price range. I had always assumed I would be getting a Quarter Horse or an Appendix since those are the horses I have had so far in my life and most of the people I showed with while growing up had Quarter Horses or Appendixes. However, two of my last three leads were Paints and one of the neighbors who I’ve started to get to know better shows her horse at Paint shows. Is the universe telling me to get a Paint?