So You Want to Breed...

Breeding season is just around the corner, and you might be one of the thousands of mare owners considering breeding your mare. Before taking the plunge and becoming a full-time reproduction service, you should create a realistic expectation of breeding management and preparation.

Begin by asking yourself several questions. Be prepared to discuss your options extensively with your veterinarian. Communication and understanding could be the key to successful breeding.

Which method of breeding do I want to use?

Today's technology gives you many methods through which to breed your mare. Do you prefer breeding by natural cover or artificial insemination? The breed is also important in selecting a stallion since some have restrictions limiting the use of shipped semen, artificial insemination, use of frozen semen, embryo transfer, etc. Mares bred artificially will require more attention and a higher frequency of examinations from your veterinarian.

What is the history of my mare?

The medical history may prove quite valuable if your mare has had systemic diseases such as hypothyroidism, hepatic disease, entercolotis, laminitis, etc., that may interfere with reproduction.

What is my mare's fertility type?

1. Young, maiden mares are less than six years old and have the highest fertility.

2. Foaling, lactating or barren mares are mares that have a foal at their side or have had a previous foal    but don't have one that is nursing and may require special management.

3. Old, maiden mares more than nine years old generally have reduced fertility. Age has a detrimental effect on fertility and after the age of 15 or 16 fertility starts to decline.

Your veterinarian may ask the following questions concerning your mare's history:

* When was the mare's last foal?

* Have there ever been post-foaling complications?

* Does she cycle normally?

* Has she had a previous Breeding Soundness Examination (BSE)?

* Does she have a history of reproduction problems?

What is my mare's cycle?

Most mares only have fertile cycles during the spring and summer, and they ovulate every 21 days with a heat period of five to six days. Mares can, however, have induced heat periods with the use of prostaglandins or other hormones. These induced heats are as fertile as a natural heat cycle.

The highest fertility is achieved by breeding the mare once or a maximum of twice just prior to ovulation. Breeding a mare many times in a single heat period could be detrimental. Mares have a prolonged heat cycle so a single examination is often inconclusive; therefore, be prepared to have your veterinarian check the mare several times during the breeding cycle.

Can I afford breeding?

 Factor the cost of semen, veterinary fees and increased management needs before you breed. Breeding can become quite costly, especially when a live foal is not produced.

You should realize that the mare may not get pregnant in the first cycle. In fact, the average stallion has a 60+ percent live foal rate, and the mare may resorb a pregnancy during that critical period of the first 45 days of gestation. The only guarantee is that your veterinarian will do everything possible to ensure your mare has maximal chances of conceiving. Whatever the outcome, well-informed mare owners are more satisfied, financially and logistically, with breeding.

About the Author

American Association of Equine Practitioners

AAEP Mission: To improve the health and welfare of the horse, to further the professional development of its members, and to provide resources and leadership for the benefit of the equine industry. More information:

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