Posted on June 27, 2018
When it comes to high quality thoroughbred breeders in Canada, few can compare to Highfield Stock Farm. Since the inception of the operation, Highfield has been consistently producing top quality yearling thoroughbreds through a multitude of highly detail-oriented approaches. Purchased in 2004, by David Munro, an outdated cattle operation near Okotoks, Alberta, quickly transformed into one of the most competitive and beautiful thoroughbred breeding operations in the country.
Jennifer Buck currently leads the team at Highfield, as Farm Manager. For the past five years, she has put her heart and soul into making the breeding operation the success it is today. With her team of staff, veterinarians, trainers, farriers and nutritionists close at hand, Buck works tirelessly to ensure the highest level of care for all the equine athletes, past, present and future, at Highfield.
“It truly takes a team to get these horses to the point where they are ready to race.” Buck explains. “Producing top quality yearlings starts long before the breeding pairing is even made.” Making a top-quality race horse includes much more than just winning genetics. It takes a combination of the right feeding protocols, the right hoof care, top quality veterinary consultation and a precise and individually tailored training plan. With experience spanning multiple segments of the equine world, Highfield consistently demonstrates its ability to produce successful horse results on track.
Award-winning program built on excellence in all key facets
Highfield’s well calculated efforts and expertise have not gone unnoticed in the thoroughbred world. The operation has received multiple awards over the course of its breeding years. In 2017, Highfield was awarded both Albertan, and Canadian Breeder of the Year accolades. These prestigious titles join the list of Highfield’s other accomplishments, including Leading Breeder of Alberta Bred Runners in 2010, 2013, 2015 and 2016. In 14 short years, Highfield has devliered the capacity, the meticulous approach and the expertise to rise to the top of the thoroughbred breeding world.
As with any breeding program, genetic prowess is the foundation of producing winners. For this very reason, two top quality stallions call Highfield Stock Farm home- Cape Canaveral and Exhi. Cape Canaveral, who throws back to the legendary Seattle Slew, has more than proven himself as a successful sire. With 14 crops of racing aged offspring, he takes the credit for over $16,000,000 in progeny earnings. His offspring are showing consistency as starters and competitors on the track. Exhi also demonstrates significant range and promise both on the track and as a stallion. With multiple stake victories on dirt, poly and turf footing, he has the diverse ability that is sought after in young prospects. These two top quality stallions are a big piece of the puzzle when it comes to the successful breeding program at Highfield, which producers over 30 foals annually.
Nutrition approaches fuel success
As pointed out by Buck, however, as important as genetics are, they are not the only carefully selected component that goes into developing consistent and high-quality horse power. Selecting a proper feed program also goes a long way for building promising prospects. Highfield Stock Farm has a longstanding relationship with Hoffman’s Horse Products, which has played a significant role in developing that horse power.
“The staff at Hoffman’s Horse Products are definitely part of the team at Highfield.” Buck explains. “They supply us with the expertise to ensure that we are meeting the nutritional requirements of our horses, to the best of our abilities.” Highfield spends a great deal of time working with Hoffman’s to ensure the team is optimizing its equine nutrition platform. Through regular feed and water testing at the farm, Hoffman’s top nutritionist, Bernie Grumpelt, assists with providing Highfield with a comprehensive approach to equine nutrition.
Hoffman’s develops specific rations based on the nutritional value of Highfield's readily available forage and water sources, to ensure that all of Highfield’s horses are provided with precisely balanced diets. By measuring the nutritional content of existing feed sources including hay and water, Grumpelt is able to develop a ration that fills in any gaps that may be appear when examining Highfield’s current feed and water supplies. By developing rations with specifically calculated nutritional content, the team at Highfield can feed with confidence, knowing that all of each horse’s needs are being met. Supplying future high-powered athletes with sufficient nutrients is one of the first and most critical steps when it comes to developing competitors on the track.
Custom strategies based on knowledge and science
Aside from looking at nutrition for Highfield’s horse string as a whole, the team at Hoffman’s is also capable of offering individualized approaches to nutrition. Whether it be anything from developing rations to ensure a steady and sustainable rate of growth in weanlings, to providing options for a specific, individual animal with nutritional based challenges, Hoffman’s provides the solution. “They help us with all classes of horses at Highfield,” Buck explains. “They create different rations for everyone. From broodmares to our yearlings preparing for sale day, Hoffman’s focuses nutrition plans to the exact needs of each class of horse at Highfield.”
When looking at equine nutrition, Jennifer’s team is focused on nutrition as a tool to deliver as many outstanding young prospects to the track as possible. Nutrition has a significant impact on many aspects of breeding race horses. Proper feeding can influence a mare’s ability to become pregnant, carry foals to term and to produce enough milk for young horses in their early years. It also directly impacts the development of young horses as they grow. “Thoroughbreds are very sensitive animals when it comes to tissue development,” Buck explains. “Over- or under-feeding is a very real way to cause problems in young horses.”
High planes of nutrition critical
Ensuring proper planes of nutrition makes a difference when it comes to preventing many development issues, including Osteochondritis dissecans (OCD), a developmental disease that impacts the cartilage and bone structure in young horses. Caused by improper feeding, young horses may grow too quickly, causing deformities in their skeletal structures. By maintaining a proper plane of nutrition, and appropriate rate of growth, breeders minimize their risk of issues such as OCD that can hinder future performance of the equine athletes.
The highlight of the year for Highfield Stock Farm, however occurs in mid September at Northlands Park in Edmonton. All of the team's efforts are on display as Highfield consigns a number of top quality prospects to the Alberta Thoroughbred Yearling Sale each year. “Sale day really is Highfield Stock Farm’s day to shine.” Jennifer explains. “It is truly the culmination of all the breeding, feeding and care decisions that have been made at Highfield, coming to fruition.” The majority of Highfield’s prospects are sold at Northlands; however, some are sent outside of the province.
“Aside from the Alberta Thoroughbred Breeders sale, we also send a few prospects to Woodbine in Ontario, and some even end up in Kentucky.” Sale day is one of the most rewarding days for Jennifer, as she sees all of the love and labour that her team puts into their horses every day, presented on the main stage for thoroughbreds in the province.
Teamwork, relationships anchor successful program
Highfield’s relationship with Hoffman’s shows on sale day. Jennifer Buck takes pride in the appearance of her string of horses when they are on the auction block. “You can really see the results of all the work put in," says Buck. The secret to success lies in all those detailed, calculated decisions along the way from breeding pairings, all the way to nutritional support.
Developing a strong string of top quality thoroughbreds requires a precisely planned foundation. Highfield Stock Farm has proven time and again that they have the skill, foresight and vision to develop that foundation of which true high-quality prospects are built upon. The reputation of this standout stock farm remains strong and ever growing. As the team looks forward to the 2018 sale, Buck is excited about this year’s string of sale yearlings.
“Sale day really tests the work that we have put into theses animals since they were bred. It is always exciting to see how they often stand up extremely well with the rest of the top breeders in Alberta.” With her team of experts, Jennifer looks forward to the years to come at Highfield. From feed to handling and care, there is always something new to explore, and there are always new methods to improve. Working with companies like Hoffman’s makes staying on the leading edge of technology easier for operations like Highfield. In the competitive market among thoroughbred breeders, remaining innovative and detail oriented is one of the best ways to gain a leading advantage.
More information on Hoffman’s Horse Products is available at www.hoffmanshorseproducts.com.