Hints & Tips – Breeding and your horse
BREEDING AND YOUR HORSE
If you’re thinking about breeding from your mare this is a major commitment, and it’s important to think about whether you are doing it for the right reasons. Consider the following:
- Do you have suitable facilities and have you considered the costs?
- Is your mare a suitable candidate – don’t forget to consider age, temperament and health.
- Does your mare have a proven performance record, good conformation and good bloodlines?
Ask your vet to examine your mare for breeding purposes.
After you have considered all of these aspects, then you need to start your search for a suitable stallion. This is really something that should be done well before the breeding season. Things to consider include your mare’s qualities and blood lines, and what type of foal you would like to produce. Try to gather information about various stallions that may be suitable and if possible view them and their progeny.
Also consider which covering technique is the most suitable for your mare, options include natural covering, artificial insemination techniques (fresh, chilled and frozen) and embryo transfer.
TAKING YOUR MARE TO STUD
If you are sending your mare away to stud try to go and visit the stud first and have a chat to them about their procedures, the fees concerned, and the requirements they have in place for visiting mares. Requirements may vary between studs, but may include blood tests for Strangles, Equine Viral Arteritis, Equine Infectious Anaemia, and swabs for Contagious Equine Metritis. Your mare will need to be vaccinated and wormed up to date. Also, ask your vet about vaccinating your broodmare for Equine Herpes Virus.
THE OESTRUS CYCLE
If you are planning on breeding from your mare, make a note of her oestrus cycles. This is also good practice if you are a mare owner, as it may help to understand any changes in ridden behaviour and identify any abnormal oestrus patterns.
Mares are seasonal breeders and normally have oestrus cycles when the weather is warmer and the day light hours are longer. Some breeders use artificial lighting to extend the breeding season. Mares do not normally come into season during the winter, so if your mare is in season all the time ask your vet to check her.
The typical oestrus cycle in a mare’s breeding season is around 21 days, and they will be more receptive to a stallion for about 6 days. After a mare ovulates there is up to a 48 hour period where fertilisation can occur, so mares should be inseminated around 2-3 days before the end of their cycle.
Ultrasound scans of your mare’s reproductive tract will allow your vet to determine what stage of the cycle she is at. Various drugs can be used by your vet to manipulate your mare’s cycles, such as prostaglandin and regumate. Some studs may also use a ‘teaser’ stallion to determine if a mare is in season.
Pregnancy can be diagnosed from 14 days using an ultrasound scanner and twin pregnancies can be identified at this stage. The mare’s placenta is only designed to carry one foetus and twin pregnancies can result in abortion, therefore, it’s important that your vet identifies a twin pregnancy promptly so they can take the appropriate course of action. Also, as your mare can lose a foetus early on, a further scan should be carried out at around day 21 and a third scan should be carried before day 34. The gestation period (length of pregnancy) in the mare is approximately 11 months.
Entire colts and stallions can be castrated (gelded) at any age, however, don’t forget that entire colts will be fertile from the spring of their first year. Our experts recommend that the procedure is carried out when they are young, as there is less risk of surgical and post-operative complications. Young colts can be castrated under standing sedation, however, a full general anaesthetic may be required in older, larger horses. Spring is a good time to have your horse castrated, as there are fewer flies and there is (hopefully) less mud around.
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