SWAN PLAIN - Bighorn Clydesdales at Swan Plain, (North of Norquay), has made another export of their genetics.
In 2021, the Clydesdales breeder exported two black fillies back to the country of their origin; Scotland.
Now a stallion from the farm is enjoying life in Australia.
“It’s an incredible thrill to see a baby born on your farm end up across the world,” said Bighorn owner Lacey Unterschute. “I am so excited for him with all that he will see and learn and can’t wait for him to start his breeding there.
“I hope he produces many foals that can help their black Clyde population grow.”
But how did a buyer in Australia find a young stallion in Canada?
“The buyer found me on my Facebook page for my horses like the buyer from Scotland did,” explained Unterschute.
The sale was a modern affair in the sense technology was key.
Unterschute said the sale was “all virtual. I do my best to be 100 per cent honest with all sales. You don’t get far in this world being dishonest.”
The Scottish sale probably didn’t hurt in terms of making the latest one.
“I think every sale is important, but these international sales maybe get talked about more so this in turn leads to more people that will visit you or find you online which leads to more domestic sales,” said Unterschute.
Unterschute’s focus on big black Clydesdales helped too. She said her breeding program dedicated to black horses has garnered attention. “Black Clydesdales are the rarest colour.”
And, increasingly less breeders are focused on black genetics.
“There are getting to be fewer and fewer large breeders of Clydes in the world and even fewer sole breeders of blacks,” said Unterschute. This is mostly due to breeders retiring or passing away and not having family members that want to continue breeding, or they start scaling down their operation (breeding is a lot of work!) so fewer horses are born every year.”
By contrast Unterschute said she is actually building her numbers – at least a little.
“We have increased horse numbers since then (the Scottish export in 2021),” she said. “This year we had 10 foals born here, the most we have foaled in a year. We hope to have around that same number next spring. We sold our senior stallion last year after breeding season. We kept one stallion and used him on all of our mares this year. We have a young colt -- will be three next year -- we will be using next year in addition to the stallion we have now.”
As for details of the trip Bighorn Finnegan made, Unterschute explained he left here on April 5, and arrived in Australia on Aug 03.
It was a time consuming, long trip for the young stallion.
Unterschute explained after Finnegan left here April 5, “he needed some blood work done in the USA before he could fly out. He was supposed to fly out April 30. So he started his quarantine once he got to Kentucky and had his blood drawn. His blood work was fine so he began his pre-boarding quarantine (two-weeks) then just a couple of days before he was to fly out two horses that were supposed to be flying with him showed signs of strangles which is highly contagious and can be lethal to horses.
“Luckily because of him having to have blood work done previously because he travelled in from Canada, Finnegan was never with these horses so he was OK. He was monitored but never contracted it. But because strangles is so dangerous the whole facility was locked down.
“All the horses had separate people caring for each horse to help them from accidentally contracting the illness. No horses leaving or coming into facility.
“This delayed the process immensely, and added unnecessary daily cost to the buyer having to keep him in quarantine. All horses needed to test negative before they could fly out. Once they did they were able to catch the next flight- July 8.
“The lady I was organizing this with said she worked there for 15 years and they never that this happen to them before.”
It was far from a straight flight too.
“Finn travelled from our farm to Kentucky, where he did his quarantine, from there trailed to Chicago where he flew out,” said Unterschute. “He flew to California, where they stopped to fuel up, onto Hawaii where they refuelled again, and on to New Zealand. There he unloaded and quarantined for 14 days. He then got on another airplane flew to Melbourne Australia. He got in another trailer and continued on a four-day trip west to his new home.
“Once there he quarantined again for 30-days to be sure he didn’t pick up any sickness since he travelled from eastern to Western Australia.”
Unterschute, said veterinarians monitored him while he was at home for any sickness that he may have picked up on his way across the country.
Overall, Finnegan travelled 15,313 miles (24,644 km) roughly.
“He sure saw a lot,” noted Unterschute.
For a snapshot of the breed ‘Down Under, Unterschute said she had some numbers from a member of the Clyde Society in Australia noting they have more than 15,000 horses in the database which covers many years of breeding.
There are 630 members nationally and they estimated about 2,500 to 3,000 live registered Clydesdales in Australia with about 20 per cent being black most being bay or roan.
The process was a more complicated one than the export to Scotland.
“Shipping to Scotland was a lot easier,” said Unterschute, but added she would ship to Australia again “now that I know what needs to be done.”
Speaking of Scottish horses how are they doing over there?
“The mares I sent over in 2021 are doing great,” said Unterschute.
“They have trained the oldest to ride and have started to wet their feet in the showing circle.
“Breeding them is still in their future the last I heard.”
So has Unterschute visited the mares?“I haven’t been over to see them but the World Clydesdale show is going back there in 2028 and our three boys will be big enough that we feel it may be an excellent learning adventure to see not only the show and the mares but possibly by then their offspring and the beautiful country.”
As for a trip to Australia, well maybe one day.
“I would love to visit him in Australia, but again would wait until the kids are older and they could come along to enjoy it too,” said Unterschute. “By then we could see some of his offspring hopefully as well.”