With Spring just around the corner, it’s an exciting time for horse breeders – they are either waiting on a much anticipated foal of finalising the choice of stallion to put their mares to. If you aren’t an experienced breeder but thinking about putting your mare in foal, there are a few things to consider.
Firstly, it is strongly advised that anyone wishing to breed their horse gain advice from their vet. While it’s tempting to find information in the internet and ask the social media experts, it’s always best to seek a professionals opinion if you’re inexperienced of have any medical questions.
If your mare is already approved for breeding in one of the breed registries you should first consider the stallions that are approved in the same registry. This will simplify the registration of the foal.
If your mare is not yet approved, or needs to be approved in a different registry, you will need to decide when to get this done. The safest time is before you breed or before the foal is born. If the mare is not approved or she was to die soon after the foal is born you will not be able to get papers on the foal in most breed registries.
If you don’t know your mares breeding history, have a vet check her before breeding. The vet will check her general health and reproductive confirmation to highlight any problems she may have. If there are any difficulties likely to occur, preventative measures can be taken to allow safe breeding and foaling.
Temperament and conformational traits are genetically passed to offspring, so you will need to ensure your mare and chosen stallion have qualities you want in your foal. Remember that nothing is ever 100 percent certain, the Olympic jumping horse you are aiming to breed may turn out to be a nice Dressage horse.
Although it may seem cheaper, breeding your horse does come with significant costs. You will have to weigh up whether it is cheaper to breed your own or to purchase a horse that is already on the ground.
Selecting a stallion
Basic to all considerations is the stallion’s conformation. Breeding to a stallion that is conformationally better than the mare gives the prospective foal a better chance of improving upon the mare.
Avoid selecting a mediocre stallion and expecting your mare’s good conformation points to overshadow his weak points. You might get lucky, but it’s a much better idea to start with the best genetic material possible in the stallion since your mare is the unchanging factor.
The best indicator of a good stallion isn’t what he does, but what his offspring do – that is what you are going to get. Try to talk to some of the owners of the stallion’s offspring to find out about their character, rideablilty, and how hard or easy they were to train. If they have yet to perform, you must give extra consideration to the grandsires and granddams. Beyond that, although their names can look wonderful on the pedigree, third and fourth generation progenitors seldom have made much contribution to the prospective sire.
You will also need to look into unsoundness in the stallion. If the stallion is unsound, you have a red flag warning you to consider carefully breeding to him.
Increasing breeding success
There are several breeding procedures on offer to increase success of conception as well as checking that the pregnancy is going well. These include:
- Intense scanning and hormone supplementation is necessary if you are using advanced reproduction techniques, such as artificial insemination and embryo transfer.
- Taking bacterial cultures of the mare’s uterus to determine if it is healthy (this is useful in problem breeders).
- Determine the right time to mate by using the mare’s behaviour towards your chosen stallion or a teaser.
- Testing the follicles increases the success of conception if the mares ovaries are ultrasound scanned. This is to see when an ovum (the mares egg) is ready to be released and that the uterus is healthy.
- Scanning for pregnancy can be done after 16 days post mating. The ultrasound can show the tiny foetal vesicle and action be taken should there be multiple vesicle.
Caring for your mare
Once your mare is in foal, her health needs to be monitored as the developing foal relies on this. Ensuring she is on a balanced diet with quality feed is a necessity – you’re aiming for the mare to be in good condition without obesity so keep an eye on the portions.
It is important that you keep up with regular worming, as a burden can affect both mare and foal. Regular farrier work and dental checks are also required.
If your mare becomes unwell, immediate attention is needed. Diseases will cause loss of the foal or can compromise its health. It is especially important to call vet if the mare develops a vaginal discharge at any stage of the pregnancy.
Facilities for foaling
Ideally broodmares should be isolated from other horses on the property that leave and return from shows and events. This lowers the chance of diseases and infections being spread.
Facilities should include a horse crush which can allow safe and easy mare procedures when required.
Once the mare is close to foaling or the foal is born you’ll need to make sure there is some space for them to be separated from other horses. A dedicated foaling area such as an extra-large stall, yard or small grassed paddock is kept and it should be warm and clean.
Yourself or an appointed person should be available for monitoring the mares at term and the newborn foals. Foaling alarms may not always work and mares may have issues delivering so it’s always a great idea to have someone checking in on them regularly (day and night).
Written by: Dannii Cunnane