The beginning of a new year brings with it the excitement of foaling season to those in the horse breeding industry, and as the mares settle down and prepare to give birth, the horse racing world awaits the new champions’ first steps.
At Whysper Wynd Farm LLC in Chester Springs, PA, the excitement and anticipation of foaling season, along with a few nerves, is now around the clock. Justine Howell, along with her husband Marc and their daughter Josie are busily preparing for another breeding season at their farm. Daughter Lizzie assisted on the farm for many years growing up and is in college studying Equine Veterinary Medicine, and interned at Hagyard Equine in Lexington, KY.
Justine was born into the business, and has a deep passion and love for horses. “I’m a third generation racing professional. My parents are both retired jockeys and they still train a small stable at Presque Isle Downs, so I was basically raised in racing. We kind of did all aspects of racing, including retirement (of horses). We were sort of ‘rescue and retirement’ before it was cool,” she laughed. “This dates back all the way back to the 1970’s with my grandmother, she did a lot of off-the-track re-training and selling. My grandmother is actually 103 years old and still going! She loves to talk about all those horses, and the ones that were her favorites, and the ones that she re-trained.”
Soon, she and her husband made an important business decision to look ahead to their future, and they never looked back. “We incorporated in 2008, that’s when my husband and I made the decision to go off on our own. We had sort of casually bred ‘breed-to-race’ in partnership with my parents before then, but that was when we decided to go out on our own. It was tough with the economy, but it was shortly after that we bought our first farm, and we’ve been growing and expanding ever since.”
Whysper Wynd focuses on commercial breeding. “I don’t breed a ton of horses because we’re not the size of Lane’s End; we’re in Chester County, and we don’t have hundreds of acres. I breed somewhere between four and ten a year. It just kind of depends on the year. This year, I’m only expecting four, so it’s a smaller crop.”
When it comes to making a decision on who to breed to whom, the research is extensive and requires endless studying of bloodlines and pedigrees. “The breeding decisions are very labor-intensive. When I look over the span of a horse, it’s probably where I put the most amount of labor that I do, and that’s weird to say, because I’m cleaning stalls every day and all that goes with that. I commit a tremendous number of hours to it. My husband does finance and predictive modeling, so I have spreadsheets where I’m comparing stallion performances present-day to number of foals in their upcoming crops to see if they can support that performance, if I think it will go up or go down, and then compare that to the stud fee that they are priced at. Then from there I have to make sure that they match up to my mare, both physically, and then I don’t always use ‘nicking’ (a comparison of what sire-line to sire-line did) programs. I spend a lot more time focusing on what has worked well with each mare’s family in the past.”
“Some of these horses, you look at their catalog pages and you’ll see the same stallion name over and over again, or the same lines over and over again, that produce really good runners, so I sort of try to look for those trends, and feed those trends into what I do,” she explained.
Now the public will be able to watch the mares as they prepare and give birth with the Foal Cams, presented by the Pennsylvania Horse Racing Association. Justine reminds everyone that will be watching that foaling is very stressful and extremely delicate. “Foaling mares is especially difficult because people think horses are like people or like cattle where they can labor a very long time, but really, you have about 30 minutes to get that foal safely out. Every minute past that, you start to see a decline in the likelihood that the foal is going to survive.” In addition, an emergency can happen with the mare, as well, so they must be prepared for all circumstances.
The introduction and exposure of the live Foal Cam to a potential new audience is tremendous, according to Justine. “I see the benefits of racing and the impact it has; for the people and the horses. I try to be a racing ambassador. I try to always highlight what these horses do; how they do it; why they are so good at it; and the benefits of having these horses.”
Justine, Marc, and Josie all keep an eye on the mares ready to foal. “We stay awake, we’re up all night, watching them, and when they go out, we’re checking on them all day, too. The second we think they’re close, we’re putting on coveralls and getting ready, and hopefully, get a nice baby on the ground.”
One mare is due in February. “Twisted Purpose is due February 9th, and is in foal to Flatter. She’s ahead of everybody else; she got a break last year. She has a daughter named Creative Copy that runs at Parx Racing. And then she’s scheduled to be bred back to American Pharoah!”
“If everything goes the way it’s supposed to go,” Justine said, “we should hopefully be expecting two American Pharoah babies next year!”
The other mares in foal this year are Colonel’s Lady in foal to Tiz the Law; Shabby Chic in foal to Mo Town; and Maxie Ford in foal to Unified.

Justine is highly complimentary of breeding and racing in Pennsylvania. “I honestly don’t think

Twisted Purpose and her 2021 foal Twisted Empress
Photo Credit to Justine Howell

Pennsylvania gets enough credit for what they do. Our PA Horse Breeders Association (PHBA) is funding anti-doping research! Parx has a backyard with a playground for kids. Presque Isle has a beautiful area to watch the races, too. Plus, there are programs like Turning For Home for horses after racing, and CANTER Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania has such a uniform embrace of the sport.”

As the babies arrive, Justine and her family look forward to the new additions, and to breeding into the future. Whatever the horses do, and wherever they go, she’s happy to see them succeed the best they can. “My goal is to breed horses that try. Whatever their task is, that they go out and they try. Whether it’s running, whether it’s jumping fences, whatever it is, that’s my goal. Just to get a horse that tries.”
Tune into the foal cams here.
Facebook – Whysper Wynd Farm
Turning For Home
CANTER Pennsylvania
Cover Photo Credit to Justine Howell
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