WINX – what does her future hold?

Winx is no doubt an outstanding horse that has amassed over 26 million dollars in prize money alone. She will however not benefit from her winnings. Instead, she will be given what is considered to be ‘the very best care’- but what does that mean?

Winx will now be considered a brood mare. That is she will be used for breeding purposes so that she can make even more money for her owners. Her progeny would be expected to sell for well over $2M each. It is in the owners’ interests that she is cared for properly however the motivation may not necessarily be altruistic. It’s much more likely to be to protect their investment that could potentially earn them tens of millions of dollars more over the next ten years.

The Breeding Cycle

The official birthday of all thoroughbred horses is 1 August each year.   The gestation period or length of pregnancy is 11 months.   The breeding season in Australia therefore starts in early September which allows the foal to be born at the optimal time in early August.  Every year from now on, it is likely Winx will be made pregnant to capitalise on her pedigree -whether she likes it or not.

Note:

The rules of thoroughbred racing only allows for horses to be mated naturally whereas harness racing horses (standardbreds) are permitted to be artificially inseminated.

The “mating’ procedure is very much a controlled event aimed at protecting both the mare and stallion from injury.

Firstly, the mare will be inspected by a vet to determine when she will be coming into season. At times drugs will be may be used to assist this process.

On the day of the mating, she may be given a sedative to keep her calm.  A twitch may also be used to keep her still. A twitch is a device that is used to restrain horses for various stressful situations, such as veterinary treatment (or mating). Some believe that a twitch calms the horse by releasing endorphins as pressure is applied, thus reducing stress and pain. Others understand the use of a twitch device forces compliance through causing the horse pain. 

On the day of the scheduled mating, the mare will be taken into the mating barn or pen where she is to be served by the chosen stallion. If necessary, her legs may also be restrained so that she cannot kick and injure the stallion whose worth can be tens of millions of dollars and whose protection is therefore given the highest priority.

If the mare has a foal at foot, the foal is likely to be restrained nearby within view of the mare. Typically, the foal will be just 1 month old and separation from each other may cause great distress to both.

The mare will then be meticulously prepared. To prevent any damage to the stallion, every hair of the mare’s tail will then be careful tied up away from the mare’s vagina and the area sterilised to minimise risks of any infection.

A teaser stallion will then be brought out to gauge the mare’s reaction to the possibility of having sex. The teaser stallion is often a much smaller horse that can be more easily managed. It will be left up to him to get the mare ready for the sexual act and take the risk of being kicked by the mare. For the poor teaser stallion, he will never successfully mate with a thoroughbred and often suffers psychological issues as a result.  

The thoroughbred stallion will then be brought in and he will be expected to mate with the mare as soon as possible. The mare will have no option but to accept the stallion. 

When the current foal reaches 6 months of age, the foal and mother will be separated forever so that the mare can prepare herself for the birth of the foal she is carrying.

Anonymous thoroughbred stud manager,

“the mare and foal are brought into the barn together and left there for a while. The mare is then led out and taken away. They both whinge and carry on for a bit but they get used to it.  Sometimes the foal will cry for hours but they all get over it.  They know they’ve got a job to do”

Even for Winx, her life after racing will be far from retirement.  She will be repeatedly treated as a breeding machine and separated from her foals at a very young age. 

Though Winx’s fame will ensure she never ends up at the knackery or slaughterhouse, approx. 4000 thoroughbred mares are retired from breeding each year. The racing industry currently does not account for them.  It is therefore highly likely they are slaughtered or sold to a blood farm, after which they are slaughtered for human consumption or pet food.