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Should You Breed From Your Mare?
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Should You Breed From Your Mare?

If anything goes wrong – have a foal, isn’t that the mantra trotted out by mare owners? But the fact of the matter is that not every mare should be considered a breeding prospect and it can cost an awful lot of money to create a foal and raise it to riding age, whether that foal is a good or a bad specimen.

What type of mare should you breed from?

The idea with horse breeding is to take a good mare and a good stallion and breed something even better – that’s the theory anyway. However, even if you start with a good mare and put her to a quality stallion, there is no guarantee of a good outcome. A lot can go wrong between covering and foaling and it is not a given that you will pick up all the attributes of both the mare and stallion which attracted you to breed from them in the first place.

The general rules are that any mare should be able to demonstrate the following:-

Good conformation – if there are defects, they should be of the type that cannot be passed on, e.g. scars caused by an injury or other issues which may be the result of management or environment

A good temperament

A proven competition record

Known breeding history – this is not essential and some mares will only have recorded breeding going back a couple of generations but it does make it much harder to evaluate what type of foal you might produce if there is little or no breeding record and increase the risk that you may not get what you want

Breeding is a risky business

Even with a good mare and stallion, there is no guarantee of the right product at the end of the process. Horses can inherit unwanted traits and characteristics from further back in their lineage (which is why it is helpful to be able to look back over several generations) and they can fail to thrive for a number of other reasons.

Costs

It is completely incorrect to look at a foal as a free horse if you have a good mare as there are plenty of costs which will need to be covered just to get you to the point of a live foal.

There will be stud fees associated with the covering and mares don’t always take first time. There are other (more expensive) options which you can explore as well such as AI – Artificial Insemination – and embryo transfer. Both of these processes are quite fiddly and will involve daily vet visits or trips for a defined period of time or livery costs if you leave the mare at stud for the process.

First time owners may want to consider sending their mare to stud to foal down if they haven’t done this before. Whether your mare foals at home or at stud, you will need to make provision for her on your yard. A mare and foal box is usually oversized and should be in a quiet location. There will need to be a small, safe turnout paddock for them with level ground and foal proof fencing when the time comes for them to go in the field. At six months, you will need to be able to wean the foal who should be far enough away from the mare with his own company so that mare and foal are not within sight or sound of one another so this might require moving the foal or mare to a different premises.

Before backing

Youngsters require a lot of handling and early input otherwise you will end up with a feral on your hands. It’s not a question of ignoring them until they are ready to back. Early handling should include:-

Picking up feet and tapping them with a hoof pick to get them used to being trimmed and shod later on

Wearing a head collar called a foal slip

Teaching manners on the ground such as tying up and leading in hand

Correct behaviour at turn out and on bring in

Loading and travelling

The more correct handling and education a young horse has, the better they will be to manage and to back. Showing in hand can be a good way to introduce young horses to the sights and sounds of the competition scene which is all experience in the bank for later on. Youngsters should not be shown too much and should only be asked to walk and trot up on good ground to protect developing joints.

Gelding

Colts should be gelded at around six months but some people do it earlier than this as they can become very boisterous and difficult to manage.

Breeding experts all maintain that horses have to earn the right to reproduce; welfare charities are full to the brim with the products of unregulated breeding – the world does not need more horses unless they have a specific job to do. There is a huge responsibility attached to breeding, to only use good quality animals with the aim of producing something even better than both parents.

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