Horse breeding can be a time-consuming and often costly undertaking. Breeding can serve many purposes – from keeping rare breeds alive to producing horses suitable for specific disciplines or sports disciplines.
Breeders that take breeding seriously will follow a mare’s heat cycle closely so matings are timed with her ovulation cycle, using regular teasing and ultrasound imaging techniques.
A stallion is defined as an intact male horse which has not been castrated and plays an essential role in breeding programs by providing healthy sperm to impregnate female horses (mares). Stallions must be physically healthy enough and possess high sperm counts in order to produce successful offspring for breeding, while being polite with mares in order to prevent injury.
Mares can be bred using either live cover, where a veterinarian examines their uterus to predict when the mare will ovulate, or artificial insemination (AI). With access to chilled semen and methods for freezing it, stallions can now be shipped directly from faraway places for AI use – creating possibilities for owners anywhere across the country or world.
Before breeding a mare, she must undergo an initial soundness evaluation and blood work evaluation to detect any issues that could impede fertility, such as infection or inflammation of her cervix. Mares should ideally be bred during foal heat when their bodies are most responsive to receiving the stallion’s sperm.
Breeders utilizing ultrasound and veterinary exams to predict when mares will ovulate can use this information as an accurate way of forecasting when to breed them, however ovulation may occur prior to or after predicted time frames and it’s vitally important that when this occurs a plan be in place within hours to increase chances of successful pregnancy.
Stallion selection is an integral component of breeding. The goal should be to produce foals which complement and improve upon a mare, without diminishing her inherent strengths or compromising them in any way. Therefore, mares should mate with stallions with exceptional pedigree records so as to increase the odds that her superior traits will pass down into future foals.
Breeding can be achieved via hand mating (where one stallion is manually mated to several mares by hand), pasture mating, artificial insemination (AI), or artificial mating with artificial insemination. Most people prefer AI due to its increased reliability in avoiding breeding accidents such as mare kicking stallion and its ability to syncronize to egg release timer.
To select an ideal stallion, one should inspect his conformation and movement closely as well as his competition record and that of his parents/next-of-kin; additionally, consider their keuring score (point system for two-and-a-half year old colts).
Once you have identified the qualities in your mare that you wish to retain and improve upon, create a list of stallions with those traits in mind and narrow your selection based on discipline and pedigree criteria. When you have narrowed down your selection further, look at pictures or videos of those stallions worldwide to identify common themes which might suggest prepotency for certain characteristics; additionally you can ask for advice from trusted breeders or trainers.
An effective breeding contract is key in protecting both stallion and mare owners against unexpected complications that may arise in breeding arrangements. It should clearly identify the stallion, address fees (including mare care, veterinarian and farrier costs that will fall to mare owners, as well as any guarantees), determine if live or artificial breeding will take place, as well as whether cold- or warm-transport semen is required; also it must state whether breeding can be transferred to another mare under what circumstances transfer may occur.
Mare owners must consider how their stallion will be tested for diseases that could harm her and her foals, with hereditary equine regional dermal asthenia, hyperkalemic periodic paralysis and Equine viral arteritis being some of the major concerns. A contract should clearly state whether their stallion will be screened.
Contracts should clearly identify both registered owners of both stallion and mare, their names and addresses, any fees the stable charges and how these will be paid; booking fees are sometimes included to guarantee a mare can breed with its desired stallion within an agreed timeframe – this can avoid disputes regarding what services should be delivered when.
Once an investment of both time and money in breeding has paid off, the mare is ready to foal. Unfortunately, foaling is often an extremely delicate and dangerous process which could have serious repercussions for both mare and foal if done incorrectly.
An examination should be performed on mares prior to foaling to ensure they are prepared. A veterinarian should examine their uterus and clitoris for signs that would prevent foaling from taking place, and also determine if this year marks her gestational year.
To facilitate foal birthing, mares should be kept in an environment which is clean and quiet. She should preferably be allowed to lie down during her delivery process. Any disturbance during this stage may interrupt or delay foaling altogether – therefore observers must take great care not to disturb her during this stage.
Once a foal is born, it should stand immediately and begin nursing from its mother. She may lick and nuzzle it to stimulate its blood circulation and aid bonding as she recognizes her foal more quickly. Over the next few hours or days, development should occur naturally with its growth soon following its return into its herd in nature.