by Victoria M. Howard
Born and raised in Hartford, CT, it was a bit of a culture shock when Courtney Pink attended veterinarian school at Texas A & M. Unlike most youngsters that change their mind dozens of times on a career choice, Pink knew exactly what she wanted to do with her life.
“When I was eight years old I was taking horseback riding lessons when a vet came to the farm to treat a horse with colic,” she said. “At the time I didn’t know what colic was or what the vet was doing, only that he was making the sick horse feel better. From that day on all I wanted to do was to make sick horses well.”
Specializing in reproduction and neonatology, a job opened up at Hanover Shoe Farms shortly after Pink graduated. She jumped on it.
“I took the job at the breeding farm and fell in love with harness racing. It was exhilarating to become part of the team at Hanover — the #1 standardbred horse-breeding farm that raises and breeds the next generation of champion racehorses.
“It’s wonderful to help with the foals, watch them grow, and hit the track. And it is especially exciting when some of the horses I foaled return to the farm to become broodmares. It is a ‘full circle’ moment.
“After graduating from veterinary school I did my internship at Hill-N-Dale, a thoroughbred-breeding farm in Lexington, Kentucky. From there I went on to work at Hanover from 2008-2016. After I left there I worked at Mid Atlantic Equine Center in Ringoes, New Jersey, for one year, which brought me to where I am today and have been for the past four seasons – Diamond Creek Farms.
“Currently 75 horses call Diamond Creek home, including stallions, broodmares, foals, tease mares and several HHYF trottingbreds.”
This makes for a very long day for Dr. Pink.
“I start the day early in the morning checking the broodmares and young foals to ensure they have done well overnight. Then it’s off to the breeding shed, collecting all stallions that have semen orders for that day and ovulation checks. After the broodmares have been checked I attend to any new cases or very sick horse.”
Diamond Creek is proud to stand several top stallions such as Father Patrick, Always B Miki and Creatine.
“We do have many great sires so it’s hard to pick a favorite, as they are all so different. I really enjoy working with Father Patrick as we have a really great working relationship.
“Patrick is a very ‘alpha male’ stallion so trying to learn his personality and working relationship was hard at first. But now that we know one another we have a great relationship.
“On the pacing side, Always B Miki is my favorite for he is very quirky and has a huge personality. Miki has developed into a great stallion over the past four years and we are excited for his future.
“Creatine, another one of our trotting stallions, was born at Diamond Creek. He is a 2010 stallion out of Berry Nice Muscles that was retired from racing due to an injury in the midst of his 6-year-old campaign, after earning slightly over $2.1 million. Creatine’s first crop of foals are 2-year-olds and we are very optimistic he will produce some great racehorses.”
Another superstar born at Diamond Creek is the Somebeachsomewhere mare out of Western Montana named Pure Country. Born in 2013, Pure Country went on to earn over $2.4 million and was named Pacing Filly/Mare Of The Year for her 2, 3, and 4-year-old years. Pure Country was retired and is currently enjoying her new career as a mama — raising her first foal, a Sweet Lou filly.
The breeding end of the business is not easy. It can be tiring and heartbreaking, but also exciting, and the reason why many of us die-hards remain in the sport.
It’s ‘the dream’ of every horseman to breed and raise a world champion — or at least, a very good stakes winner.
“I think getting a good foal has a lot to do with genetics. If you have a smart, athletic, strong mare bred to a great, proven stallion the odds are in your favor of getting an athlete.
“In addition to genetics, everything needs to go right. I like to say my goal is to have good healthy broodmares bred to good healthy stallions, which will lead to great pregnancies, followed by an easy foaling, and a healthy foal that will grow up to be a healthy yearling, that will turn into a successful racehorse.
“Also, to get that perfect cross, again, it has to do with genetics. But for me personally, it is the untrained or unraced sister to the good race mare bred to a great stallion.”
Pink said Lilting Laughter is one of the most special horses she has ever encountered.
“When I first met her she was an active broodmare, although at the time she wasn’t carrying her foals anymore. We were breeding her and flushing an embryo out of her so a recipient mare could carry the foal for her as Lilting (as we call her) no longer could carry herself.
“Although she was officially retired as a broodmare, she took on a second career as a nanny mare. I always loved using her as a nanny mare because as soon as we would bring her into the foaling barn, she would nicker for the foal.
“Lilting loved each and every foal as if they were her own. Today, she is 30 years-old and officially retired living her life with a herd of horses.”
Pink said she thinks invitro fertilization is an excellent development.
“Assisted reproductive techniques have come so far in the last 20 years that I think we should utilize it more than we probably do. It is a great way for a proven broodmare to continue producing foals when they are no longer able to get pregnant. We have the knowledge and technology to provide these services and I think they should be readily available for those who wish to pursue these options.
“As far as too old to breed, I think that is a mare dependent answer. Some mares are great producers and very fertile into their late teenage years producing nice foals, so I would let them continue to breed. For others who might start missing a year or producing small foals, I would say you should probably think of retiring them.”