What is degenerative joint disease?
Arthritis affects many horses throughout their lifetimes, it is a persistent disease of the joint whereby the cartilage on the joint surface continues to wear down, which causes the horse a lot of pain and is therefore the explanation for many horses being unable to move about and become ‘lame’.
Degenerative joint disease is a slow developing disease, which cannot be treated but can be managed. Often occurs in horses that are older and can result in the animal being retired from ridden work.
• Stiffness (that a horse can warm out of)
• Swelling of joints (most common are the: fetlock, knee (carpus) and the hock)
Septic arthritis is an acute form of degenerative joint disease which is caused by a bacterial infection. It is seen in horses that have had a serious injury to or near a joint and also within young foals which have weak immune systems or have had serious, whole body affecting diseases.
It is hard to treat septic arthritis as the antibiotics to treat the bacterial infection can’t always get into the joint capsule.
• Continued stress and pressure on the joint (hard work)
• Infection from a wound (septic arthritis)
A Vet will carry out a physical examination (sometimes including x-rays)
There is no treatment, however a vet can help to prevent and manage the arthritis from becoming very severe in a short space of time.
• Your vet can give non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs as a type of management
• Joint supplements (orally or injectable) such as hyaluronic acid or glucosamine can be given
• Hyaluronic acid and corticosteroids given as a direct injection to the affected joint/joints
• New developments are given by some vets of injecting stem cells into affected joints
You should aim to keep your horse moving and not on ‘box rest’ however the animal should not be given ridden work, by keeping the horse active it will help the joints to maintain mobility and suppleness.
A horse suffering from degenerative joint disease can be managed with medications and supplements as well as joint therapy.
Horses are able to continue to live comfortable lives while suffering from DJD, however it is sometimes decided by the owners with the best interest of the horse and it’s quality of life (the amount of pain and level of arthritis that it has) to euthanize the horse.
The rug debate that's heating up!
Well, winter is certainly upon us and we’ve already experienced some hard frosts in Cornwall. I constantly find myself worrying about my horse when it's cold and frosty...Is he warm enough? How many rugs does he need?
I currently own a 5yo Irish Sports Horse who’s had a full clip in preparation for his season of hunting and show jumping. He currently has two rugs on - one under rug and a full neck outdoor rug over the top.
I've kept horses for 20 years and I thought I had a good idea on how to effectively rug them. However, after reading veterinary articles, and doing some research, I'm starting to feel a bit guilty that I’ve been adding one too many rugs. Here's what I found out:
• It's a myth that a horse with cold ears is cold. Just like humans, a horse can have cold ears even if the rest of their body is warm.
• A horse has an amazing mechanism to keep itself warm which is achieved through eating. A horse effectively has a large in-built heater inside its gut, generating heat from its digestion. The more food it eats the more heat it produces.
• You can put your horse through a lot of discomfort by over-rugging. For example it can cause weight loss due to overheating and can affect the ability of the horse to control its own body temperature. It's much easier for a horse to warm himself up than it is for him to cool himself down.
• Fully clipping a horse will reduce its ability to keep warm by a 5°C margin, i.e. it will feel cold sooner. This can be can be managed by feeding the horse larger amounts of forage, to generate more heat.
• When looking at the weather forecast the two most relevant factors are wind speed and rain, not how cold it will be. If a horse gets wet and it's windy this can really affect their ability to stay warm. Be mindful of this when selecting the number and type of rugs.
Rugs are important and necessary for the well-being of our horses, however I'm sure many will not realise that they could in fact be over-rugging their horses.
Pulling a horse's mane, as most of you I'm sure already know, basically involves pulling out sections of hair using a small metal comb, in order to make it shorter, thinner and neater. And I can't deny it, I think a horse with a well pulled name looks extremely smart, and of course, it makes plaiting easier too. However, there ...READ MORE
Pulling a horse's mane, as most of you I'm sure already know, basically involves pulling out sections of hair using a small metal comb, in order to make it shorter, thinner and neater. And I can't deny it, I think a horse with a well pulled name looks extremely smart, and of course, it makes plaiting easier too. However, there is also no denying that some horses really dislike having this done; my old horse used to get all fidgety as soon as he caught a glimpse of the mane comb, and would stick his head in the air like a giraffe so I couldn’t reach. But, can we really blame them? I mean we know all too well how painful having our hair pulled or yanked can be, particularly if the perpetrator comes away with a fistful of hair, which begs the question - does pulling a horse’s mane cause enough unnecessary discomfort to deem it cruel?
Whilst horses have far thicker skins than humans, it is also commonly thought by some that horses do not have nerve follicles in their hair which means that pulling it doesn’t hurt. However, vets have pointed out that actually, this isn’t the case, and horses have sensory nerves at the ends of their hair just like we do. This means that they are bound to feel some kind of discomfort from having their manes pulled, especially when large amounts of hair are removed in one go. 'DUH' says my horse,'that's what I was trying to tell you!'
But just to be sure, a study was carried out recently by student Louise Nicholls who looked in to the effects of having the mane pulled on a horse’s heart rate. Taking a survey of 20 horses, Louise found that the heart rate rose significantly when the mane was being pulled as opposed to when it was just being touched by a human, an obvious sign of increased stress. Similarly, the body language of these horses changed when their manes were being pulled, with many of them exhibiting clear signs of discomfort such as putting their ears back, bracing themselves and swishing their tails. These results highlighted that mane pulling was definitely something that caused stress to these horses, and was certainly not by any means as relaxing for them as other kinds of grooming.
However, there do seem to be horses who don’t seem bothered by it at all, and appear happy to have their hair pulled out. To me, the effect of mane pulling is very personal to the horse. Some clearly hate the feeling and are scared of it – it could well be that this is due to a bad experience in the past with someone doing it too aggressively, so now the horse is anticipating a similar kind of pain. Others do not seem bothered, especially when it is done gently and carefully.
In order to minimise discomfort and stress caused by pulling the mane, it is suggested that you begin at the bottom, by the withers, and work upwards towards the poll. The same study by Louise Nicholls found the heart rates of horses were significantly higher when the mane pulling began by the poll and worked downwards rather than the other way around. Also, it is better to pull the mane when the horse is warm, such as after exercise. This is because the horse’s pores open up when their temperature rises, meaning that the hair can be removed from the follicle with less force. It is also suggested that rather than spending hours on end pulling a mane, you do it in small sections over a period of time. This way, you can avoid the likelihood of it becoming a stressful experience.
Having said all that, there are alternatives to pulling the mane, full stop. Whilst cutting a mane with scissors is tricky and can risk making your horse or pony look like you did as a kid after your mum had cut your hair, there are some special trimming tools on the market such as the ‘Solocomb’ that combines a comb with a blade to shorten and thin hair it in a way that doesn’t cause discomfort. Using a grooming tool like this can make the whole experience much less stressful for both of you and that can only be a good thing, right?
What are your thoughts on pulling manes? Does your horse dislike it? Do you think it's cruel? Do alternative tools do as good a job? I would love to hear your opinion and of course any tips!
Get your thermals out everyone, it's that time of year again! A typical British winter means rain, despite the glorious, hope-filled promise of snow, we trudge through mud and stomp through puddles.
During this time of year Mud fever can become... READ MORE
Ever wanted to know what it's like to be a top groom in the equestrian competition world? Then read on, for some illuminating info, straight from the groom's mouth!
Q: Name five of your favourite things about being a groom.
A: The bonds you form with the horses are truly something so special. You learn every square inch of their bodies and you're able to tell instantly when something is wrong. You learn where they like to be scratched and which of their muscles get the most sore and which ones will eat your banana peel after you finish your breakfast in the morning. It is an indescribable feeling to watch them shine in the show ring and see all your countless hours pay off. I still catch myself calling every horse I've groomed for "my horse" because they really do become a part of your family.
The people you meet. I have met some of the best, worst, and most fascinating people through years of grooming. The spectrum of people involved in the horse industry is amazing. I worked for a New York business man who owns a company worth billions, and would fly down to Florida on his private plane each weekend to ride and show (sometimes while on the phone making multimillion dollar business deals), then fly back to NYC Sunday afternoon. At this very same barn I worked with another groom who sent every penny that he could back to his family in Honduras while he survived on ramen noodles and lived in the hay loft.
You really learn a lot of life skills. When your rider is on deck to go in the show ring and her boot zipper breaks and you fix it with a spur strap and duct tape, you learn about problem solving. When you see a loose horse galloping around the stable and you are able to calmly pick up a lead rope and walk after it, you learn to stay calm under pressure. When its 3:30am and your alarm goes off and its chilly and stormy outside but the horses need breakfast and baths and to be braided, you learn about work ethic. When you've been at a show all day and you finally have a free second to grab food but you see the pony rider crying because she fell off and you stop to comfort her, you learn about sacrifice.
The travel can be really cool. I've seen most of the USA thanks to going to different horse shows. I am friends with a lot of grooms who have been to Canada and all over Europe for their grooming jobs. It is really a cool way to see new places and experience different cultures. (and sometimes your clients will put you up in a really nice hotel and pay for all your fancy dinners :) )
Making your barn family. You spend so much time with all the clients and trainers and riders and vets and grooms that you really do become the most dysfunctional family possible. When I was grooming at WEF we all used to go out to dinner together at least once a week at the end of the show day. We would have all been with each other since at least 5am and we were all exhausted and sweaty and smelly and probably had hay in our ponytails, but we were still able to laugh and talk and hang out together. That was one of my favorite things about working at a barn. You really do become a barn family, which is so important because most of our biological families are hundreds or even thousands of miles away.
Q: What type of person makes the best groom?
A: It may be obvious, but you have to really, really, REALLY love horses. Because they are large and occasionally very stupid animals, and after spending hours upon hours with them they can easily piss you off. They will bite you and kick you and jump on your feet because the flower pot they walked past 10000 times suddenly became really scary. They will get sick and get hurt and rub out their braids and chew holes in their brand new reins and pull shoes and knock things over. Because as loving and majestic and incredible they are, you do have to be prepared to deal with their idiocies.
Likewise, you really have to like people too. A lot of people don't realize just how much of a people job it is to be a groom. Clients and trainers and riders invest tons of money into horse showing, and they are going to want things to run perfectly. You are largely responsible for this perfection. It is your responsibility to have a beautiful shining horse, a nervous client, and a patient trainer all at proper show ring 10 minutes early. This is not always an easy task and you need to be able to do it flawlessly time and time again with a big smile on your face. You have to offer water to the rider who is about to go on course and run to the food truck and buy the trainer a coffee when they are getting a little too grumpy. It's just as much a people job as it is a horse job.
Q: And who shouldn't even think of applying for the job?
A: If you are scared of getting dirty, waking up early, working long hours, being underpaid, overstressed, or under appreciated, run away fast. You will need to scrub the cobwebs and very large spiders out of the corner of the trailer. You will have to be at the horse show from 5am to 10pm without much of an actual break. You also need a good sense of humor and some humility. This job is not easy and you will mess up and you have to be able to accept that and deal with in the the best way possible. You will also be working with a lot of very powerful people who have invested a lot of money and are under a lot of pressure. Horse shows are stressful and sometimes you are an easy target. You can't take things personally.
Q: When working as a groom have you ever made a real 'goof' that you got away with?
A:I was once clipping a horse's legs to prepare for an FEI show and I was using a set of clippers with an adjustable blade. I didn't realize it but as I was clipping I had my finger on the lever and so the hair kept getting shorter and shorter and I didn't realize it until I finished and stood up and realized that I gave this horse with white socks a surgical clip and he was now sporting pink socks. I was able to grow the hair back with hemorrhoid cream and vitamin E oil mixed together.
Q: And one you got caught out for?
A: We used to use safety pins to attach numbers onto the show pads for our jumpers, and once I was in a rush and forgot to take them all off before tossing them in the washing machine. I ended up ruining a bunch of beautiful white show pads because the pins rusted and put big orange stains on the saddle pads. Oops.
Q: What sort of employer should you run a mile from?
A: If it seems too good to be true, it almost definetly is. If you are promised to not muck stalls, ride all the time, have a good salary, and days off, something is probably off. Not to say that these positions don't exist, but they are extremely hard to find. Also, if you notice a specific trainer or barn constantly posting a help wanted ad, this is usually a red flag. A lot of the big show barns here go through grooms like water. Most grooms don't stay at the biggest show barns for more than a few months, and this is for a good reason. If you're looking for a grooming position, it is usually better to start small and work your way up.
Q: And why do you love working in the competition world?
A: One of the absolute best feelings is watching your horse and rider succeed. You watch them train and sweat and work so hard for hours and hours and hours, and the feeling that you get watching them on a victory gallop is really so amazing. I will never forget one international championship that I was grooming at, and the week started off really tough with the horse arriving off the trailer colic-y and lethargic. He ended up fine but they didn't place in the first class and had a couple tough schooling sessions. They ended up winning their last class, and watching them gallop around with their ribbon and cooler was truly an indescribable feeling.
There is nothing in the world that I love more than horse shows. I remember one morning at WEF that we somehow had a pretty quiet morning, and he had an hour or so of free time before the day was going to kick off. It was around 6:30am and we went and grabbed coffee and sat and watched a schooling ring. The poetry of horse shows is really something that is hard to put into words. Watching the sun come up and cast its warm orange rays over an already crowded schooling ring. Horses quietly working, their muscles contracting, balancing, and the quiet huff as they push off the ground and over a fence. Moms braiding colorful ribbons into their daughters hair. Watching golf carts and grooms and ponies all quietly hustling to wherever they needed to be. Riders in their white breeches holding coffee in one hand and a course map in the other. The quiet buzz of excitement and tension in the air that is almost palpable. Here we all were, from all walks of life and all corners of the earth, all gathered together in this tiny little town in Florida. I felt so incredibly lucky and blessed and just completely in awe of this crazy, horrible, wonderful world we call horses.
Groom's Secrets grew up in New Jersey but is now living in Florida. Graduating from high school a year early she worked full time with the horses as a groom, a working student, an assistant trainer, and pretty much everything in between. She traveled and worked at Lake Placid, the Kentucky horse park, NAJYRC, WEF, and has experience working as an FEI groom.
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Get your thermals out everyone, it's that time of year again! A typical British winter means rain, despite the glorious, hope-filled promise of snow, we trudge through mud and stomp through puddles.
During this time of year Mud fever can become a common and frustrating health issue for our horsey friends. Mud fever will occur through the bacterium Dermatophilus congolensis which lives in soil, and spores are released in wet conditions. This bacterium cannot invade healthy skin, but if the ground conditions are wet and muddy, the horses skin is weakened and chafed by the constant wetting and drying, and skin irritations and small sores may occur. The spores from the bacterium in the soil can invade the skin and infect areas of the lower leg. If your horse becomes a victim of this common problem, you will notice the hair around the fetlock and pastern will become matted and sores and scabs will appear. If left untreated or un-noticed Mud fever will worsen over time, eventually developing into weeping sore’s, causing severe pain and even lameness in some cases, which can only be treated with a course of antibiotics. However, Mud fever is not just limited to horses that live out all year round, knee deep in muddy puddles! Mud fever can also occur due to excessive sweating, washing or vigorous grooming which can cause mild skin irritation and can become infected. If your horsey friend has suffered from this problem it becomes more likely he will get it again, but don’t panic!
Here are 7 effective ways to help prevent and remedy mud fever.
The main goal of prevention is to keep your horses legs clean and dry as much as possible. It may become necessary to keep your horse stabled if an infection has already taken hold, especially if weather conditions are damp- or you could use waterproof leg bandages when turning out.
The bedding must be clean and dry at all times.
Make sure your horse isn’t over washed or groomed too vigorously, as this can remove natural oils that protect the skin.
When washing make sure the lower legs especially are completely dry- use an old towel or kitchen roll.
Make sure the legs are clean and entirely dry before putting boots on or bandaging.
Use an oil based barrier cream- petroleum jelly, aloe vera or tea-tree oil work well.
Check your horse’s legs daily, mud fever can be a lengthy, painful process for both horse and owner, so the quicker its detected the easier it will be to get rid of!
Mud fever can be easily remedied if these tips are taken into account, just watch out for the signs as the weather has proved quite unpredictable lately, despite the hopeful bursts of sunshine!
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Now that the nights are drawing in and our clippers are being serviced in readiness for the first clip of the winter, let’s consider why we are clipping our horses, and the type of clip that they need.
Horses grow their coat at this time of year, as a natural instinct in the wild, to protect them from the elements, keeping them warm and dry during the winter. Needless to say that when we exercise horses in a domestic environment that have a big thick coat, they will sweat heavily and become uncomfortable, in the same way that we would if we exercised in a big down jacket! Of course we will need to clip them to ensure that told they stay sweat-free and comfortable whilst they are working. However, we also need to consider is how hard they are working before we decide how much of a clip they will need.
Blanket clips are great for horses in light - medium work (eg dressage horses)
So often in my work as a trainer and massage therapist, I see horses in light work that are fully clipped out, ears and face included, simply because it looks smart and avoids having to worry about lines. These horses will be snugly wrapped up in rugs in the stable, but will probably spend every ridden moment during the winter feeling cold, because they are not exercising hard enough to keep them warm. It is a bit like when girls go for a night out in winter wearing a tiny dress and no jacket – but at least for them it is a choice, and quite often they have their beer jackets on! We all know how it feels to be cold…our shoulders hunch, our muscles tighten and it is thoroughly unpleasant.
Chaser clips are great for horses in light work
A few weeks into winter, many horses that are clipped out and don’t get their heart rates up during exercise, develop a sore back, which is often a result of bracing themselves for such long periods. This results in hefty bills from back specialists, which can be avoided. Most horses in light to medium work will suffice with just a trace, chaser or blanket clip. Horses that hack and do light schooling would benefit the most from a trace or chase clip, and dressage horses probably a blanket clip. There is a reason a hunter clip is called a hunter clip! If you have a horse in medium or hard work that needs to be clipped out, exercise sheets are a great way of keeping your horse warm on a cold day until they are properly warmed up.
Hunter clips suit hunters, eventers and horses in hard work
So… let’s consider how much coat we take off our horses this winter, and always use an exercise sheet until the horse is thoroughly warmed up. A warm horse will be a happy horse, and a happy horse will perform far better for you, which will be reflected in your results!
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Lucy Field-Richards : Lucy owns Ride Fit Equestrian, and is from Nottinghamshire.
Qualifications : First class BSc (Hons) Equine Sports Science (Equestrian Psychology), BHSAI, Diploma in Equine Sports Massage Therapy
Lucy is a lecturer in Equine Science at Nottingham Trent University.
Even in this modern age, certain cultural and societal stereotypes surrounding gender still haunt us all. One of the most popular notions is that men are rational, unemotional, straight forward beings that cannot understand the depth of feeling women experience. Women on the other hand are highly emotional and prone to more irrational behaviour. Does this sound familiar? Now girls, how many of you recoil in horror at being seen as less rational and capable of logical thought than your boyfriend, husband or brother?
Unfortunately, the equestrian world is not unscathed by this stereotype that still floats around despite it being 2016, it seems we have extended our ideas about gender in the human world and transferred them onto our horses, which ultimately perpetuates the myth of the ‘touchy’ female whose far too emotional to be as chilled out as the more relaxed man. Mares are considered moody and temperamental, whereas geldings are generally considered much more laid back and a bit of a breeze compared to their ill-tempered, unpredictable or “evil” counterparts. We are all guilty of buying into this idea and we ignore the possibility that “moodiness” in mares is possibly just a form of communication as opposed to an aggressive attitude problem.
Simone De Beauvoir, a well-known French feminist examined how women are “imprisoned within the limits of their own nature”, as they are described within a set structure of ideas that originated hundreds of thousands of years ago. Mares are being similarly imprisoned within an idea of “moodiness” that won’t seem to shake. Horses embody features that can be aligned with the societal and cultural perceptions of a human woman. In art, literature and theory women have been linked closely with the earth and the elements, due to the cyclical natures of their bodies which alludes to movements of time and season changes. Horses are also tied to the natural world, living off and within the land originally and then helping us to build and shape our world through their loyal servitude. All horses are sensitive creatures, exquisitely adjusted with their intuition and gut instinct, dually in touch with their physical body and emotions.
From this perspective, to limit your mare, labelling her as simply “moody” is an extension of the human belief that the female species is emotionally unpredictable, unable to keep feelings and actions in check, therefore perpetuating the myth that to be emotional is a negative. And the male attribute of being rational is positive in comparison. But what if we remove this idea and see mares for what they are, instead of assuming that they are just being disobedient?
We should take a fresh approach to our mares, instead of hanging on to these preconceived ideas, let’s try and understand the flat ears or the little kick when we tighten the girth, the frustrated buck when we ask for a movement or change of pace. Like stallions, mares are entire and the hormonal changes that occur throughout the year makes a difference to their overall temperament. Now Ladies, I’m sure we can understand the monthly sore back and short fuse, so when your mare displays signs of irritation, we should question whether she’s just showing signs of being in season. Often mares experience back pain during this time, which makes the simplest of tasks, such as tacking up, a bit more challenging. Surely we should have thought of this? We should try and treat our mares with sympathy rather that labelling them “moody”. Perhaps we can start to deconstruct or at least think about different ways to approach fixated ideas about gendered stereotypes in the future, and empathise with our mares instead of perpetuate the idea of the “moody” female.
Have you had positive or negative experiences with mares? Do you agree with the idea that mares are viewed in a certain way and this may have something to do with our human stereotypes? Or do you think it’s all a load of tripe? Whatever your opinion, I’d love to know!
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I can't believe it is already June! My Facebook and Instagram feed is full of gorgeous baby foals that my friends are having! Let's just say I'm a bit jealous that I'm not having a foal this year. Anyways since breeding and foaling season is in full swing, I've decided to run a breeding season series. I was hoping to have this posted about a month or two ago but I was quite busy. We will go over choosing a stallion, breeding and gestation timelines, terminology and foaling in future posts. Some fun stuff, so stay tuned!
To breed or not to breed? That is the question...
Well the first thing to decide is whether or not you want to breed your mare. It is a huge decision and commitment. Here are a few things to consider when breeding your mare.
A lot of people tend to focus on the stallions quality and leave out the importance of the mare. Your mare is a huge factor in producing a foal. Here are some questions to ask yourself.
Why do I want to breed my mare? What makes my mare stand out compared to other mares?
Seems like an easy answer to this question, but it is best to contemplate on the reason of why you really want to breed your mare. Don't just breed your mare because she is pretty. You need to have a good reason for why you want to breed your mare. Make sure you ask yourself about what traits, demeanor, and athletic abilities do I hope my mare passes to her foal?
One of the reasons why I bred my mare Spree was because of her integrity and passion to compete and work hard. She had a lot of confidence that many other mares and geldings lack.
Does my mare have good conformation? What are her qualities and faults?
In my opinion, this is one of the most important questions to ask yourself about your mare. How is her conformation? Does she have any big faults that could be passed onto the foal. For instance, a club foot? Small hooves? A long back? I recommend consulting with a veterinarian about breeding your mare before you commit, especially if she can't pass a veterinary check. You need to find out the reason behind it. Some things are caused by old age and are blemishes like arthritis, wind-puffs etc, but some could be structural and hereditary.
Obviously like humans, not every horse is perfect and it is very rare to find a horse that has all around perfect conformation. Take time to analyze your mare, pick out all her qualities and faults and try to search for a stallion that has qualities where she has her faults. We will go into this more in my next post "Choosing a Stallion."
What are my mare's bloodlines? Any popular ones in the current horse industry? What bloodlines would cross well with her?
Bloodlines always seem to be a controversial topic, but it is something to consider especially if you plan on making a profit off your foal. Trust me, I'm a firm believer that bloodlines are not the only thing that make a horse, I do believe good bloodlines help a horse and they help improve it's value immensely. Plus if you have been around horses for awhile you will find that certain bloodlines work better for you as a rider/trainer then others.
I will admit that I love looking at pedigrees of horses that are excelling in the barrel racing industry. I find pedigrees and special crosses very interesting. We will go into this later, but it is always good to be aware of your mare's bloodlines and choose a stallion who will compliment them and give them a boost if your mare is lacking prominent lines. This will help your re-sale value of your foal and give them a good foundation for the discipline you are breeding for.
How large of a money or point earner is my mare? Do I need to find a stallion with more money/points earned?
Has your mare been competed? What are her lifetime earnings/points? These are things to consider when breeding your mare. Not every good broodmare has earned money and points but it is another factor in the value of her foal. Back when I started showing I never kept tabs of my horses earnings and I deeply regret it. I hadn't shown in breed shows but went to a bunch of local jackpots and open shows. Nowadays I keep spreadsheets on my competition horses and track their earnings. Databases like Equistat help, but if a show producer does not turn in the results of that competition, your lifetime earnings might be less than they actually are.
If your mare has not earned a lot of money from competitions, I recommend you find a stallion that does have a good lifetime earning or point resume to help boost the value of the foal.
End goal's with the foal
What are your future plans for your foal? Are you planning on selling your foal or keeping it?
When considering breeding, looking into the future is a wise game plan. There are a lot of factors to consider about the future of your foal. Are you planning on keeping your foal for a while or are you set on selling it shortly after it is weened? What type of discipline do you want this foal to be bred for? Who is going to train the foal? Who is going to ride it later on? What hopes and dreams do you hope this foal accomplishes? These are all kinds of questions to ask yourself. It is also handy to set a time-line for your foals training and competition goals.
Do you have the proper finances to breed and raise a foal?
Breeding a foal and raising a foal is flat out expensive. Not only are you paying for the breeding contract fee, but there are many other factors following the contract fee. You need to consider extra fees that go along with choosing to breed your mare through live cover or AI ( most seem to vary when choosing the stallion). You will also have extra veterinary fees to go with ultrasounds and vaccinations. You might also spend more money on supplements, grain and hay during your mare's pregnancy and then once the foal arrives the expenses continue to add up. Considering your finances is a major step when deciding to breed and raise your foal. We will go into this more in-depth in a later post.
Where is your mare going to give birth and raise the foal initially?
Another huge factor that comes into play is where are you going to raise the foal. Do you board your mare or have your own property? If you board your mare, make sure you check with the barn owner before breeding to make sure they have room and safe accommodations for your future foal. If you own your own property where are you planning on keeping the mare during the foaling? Which pens/pastures do have for turn out for your mare and foal? There is a lot of controversy on the proper place to allow your mare to birth its foal but most people recommend a large stall or a large dry/pasture area. You also need to make sure the pen/stall is foal proof. Meaning that there are no holes, cracks or spots that a foal could get stuck under, poke its leg through or cut itself on something sticking out. Pasture fencing should go under the same lines depending on the age and size of the foal. We will discuss this in more detail later on.
How much flexibility do you have in your schedule to breed your mare, go on foal watch during foaling season, help with the breeding and raise/ imprint the foal?
Flexibility is really important when considering breeding your mare. From the start you need to be able to have time in your schedule to take your mare to the vet for checkups, ultrasounds and be able to rush her to the vet (for AI) or the breeder when she starts her heat cycle. One thing to remember is that horses have their own calendar. They don't consider avoiding weekends and holidays! You as their owner have to be aware of this and have flexible plans. For instance, I had one mare who went into her prime ovulation for AI on a holiday. Since it was a holiday we were not able to ship the semen and breed her. We had to wait till her next cycle! Man versus nature- nature wins, period.
After she is bred, you need to have time to take her to check ups with your vets, prepare the foals pen/stall and be able to keep an eye on your mare during her expected foaling time. Being flexible during foal watch is important, especially if it is your mare's first foal or if your mare has had complications in the past. Mares can go quite past their due dates so it is always a guessing game on when your mare is actually going to give birth. You also need to be aware that your mare will give birth during the wee hours of the night and early mornings. Be prepared to be tired at work the next day. We will go into foaling signs in a later post.
Lastly imprinting the foal takes some time once it is born. I found it handy to just spend a half hour to an hour a day, just being around the foal for about a month initially. Obviously as your foal gets older your time commitment for its training will begin to grow. Factors on how you will manage that time in the future are important especially if you have other horses you are riding.
There are many questions that you need to ask yourself before deciding whether to breed your mare and raise a foal.
Here is a quick summary of the main factors to consider:
• Mare's Value
• End goal with the foal
• Time Commitment
Producing and raising a foal can seem intimidating at first, but if it is done wisely it is a very rewarding and educating experience! Stay tuned for my next blog post on choosing a stallion.
Are you planning on breeding your mare? Have you raised any foals before? Which factors did you consider when breeding your mare?