Equine Breeding Series: To Breed or not to Breed?

Written by Thursday, 25 August 2016 13:49

Hello Everyone,

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.

Mare's Value:

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.

Time Commitment

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.

In Conclusion

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

• Finances

• Facilities

• 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?




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