A small-scale breeding operation in the Pacific Northwest, Finally Farm Paints is producing big-time performance horses covered in chrome.
By Rachel Griffin
Excerpt from the January/February 2020 Paint Horse Journal
It’s hard to miss Laura Lindstrand’s Paint Horses as they charge down the fence or out of the roping chute behind a fast-moving steer. Based in Elma, Washington, Laura’s busy building a niche breeding program focused on producing high performance athletes with color to boot.
Though not born into a horse-savvy family, Laura put her law-school study skills to work to learn all she could about breeding and raising Paints. Together with her husband, Zack Hemond, Laura has practically hand-built a successful small-scale breeding operation. The fruits of her labor are starting to show, with her homebred horses turning heads in APHA and National Reined Cow Horse Association competition.
How did you get started with Paint Horses?
Laura: I come from a non-horsey family, but my dad bought me my first horse at 10 years old to teach me responsibility; I definitely learned about work ethic, but I can’t count the times that mare bucked me off! Still, she gave me a lifelong passion for horses.
I was horseless while attending college and law school, but I took riding lessons to stay connected to horses. One lesson, I met the most beautiful horse I’d ever seen: a stocky palomino mare with lots of chrome. That was Miss Sunlit Breeze, and she now lives in my pasture.
I’d dreamed as a child of breeding horses, but I assumed only people growing up in the industry with families full of horsemen could ever hope to achieve that goal. Yet when I discovered Paint Horses, I thought, “I’m smart, work hard, can learn new things and love horses. Why shouldn’t I try breeding?” I took the leap into breeding by purchasing Cajun Breezing Miss in-foal to LS Smart N Hot in 2004. I spent the next several months studying nutrition, mare care and foaling while Zack researched feed and nutrition labels. We got our hay analyzed, constructed a foaling stall and put together a foaling kit. As our breeding program expanded little by little, I kept reading, absorbing as many books on breeding, stallion handling, mare and foal care, color genetics and more.
I enjoy a demanding career as an attorney for a state agency, and it can be hard to put in more hours at the barn after a full-time job. But if I happen to glance at the wall of pictures, ribbons and trophies showcasing my horses’ successes, I get such a rush of pride that keeps me going on the hardest days; we have truly built our breeding program from nothing by using hard work, determination, book learning, on-the-job training and a good dose of stubbornness.
What made you choose your performance horse niche?
Laura: Breeding Paints is part science and part artistry—it engages both the scientific and creative parts of my brain. You never know what you will get, and they are all unique.
As for my choice of disciplines, I wanted to continue the breed’s legacy of doing the kind of work Paints were originally bred to do: working cattle, doing ranch work, and utilizing their speed and athleticism. While QTS Cajun Cub and Peptos Smart Cookie represent my program at the highest level, I’m also proud of my foals who are now in reining training for non-pro owners, as well as those who have become project horses for local 4-H teens.
How do you approach crossing bloodlines?
Laura: When I consider breeding a horse, I look at the show record, pedigree, temperament, conformation and color. I’m also thinking about what cross is going to improve the breed or discipline; my goals are to avoid perpetuating any faults, improving upon what’s there and fill in any gaps.
I don’t breed to the hot stallion of the moment. Instead, I like to look back two or three generations to make sure a stallion has a solid, proven performance pedigree, whose appeal will stand the test of time. I don’t like to inbreed or line breed, and I try to make sure any common relatives are at least three generations back.
I’ve had a lot of success taking a strong, all-around performance pedigree and matching it to a horse with a more specialized pedigree and great show record in a particular discipline.
What advice do you have for hopeful breeders?
Laura: Be ready for how much time it takes to build a stallion and a program. If you can’t invest in a top-notch stallion right away, then you’ll have to create one; that takes years of planning, growing, training and showing. Once you have that stallion, promoting him is a costly undertaking. I recommend planning to keep several of your stallion’s offspring yourself to ensure they are shown, which again takes years; a stallion’s book won’t grow until his offspring are proving themselves in the show pen. There is no way to be an overnight success in the breeding world, but the results of all your efforts are well worth it.