angle-left Responsible Horse Breeding

Responsible Horse Breeding

Horse breeding comes with responsibility. These tips can help you determine whether or not you should breed your mare.

text size

Before breeding your mare, it’s a good idea to back up a couple of steps and ask yourself a few important questions before you go stallion shopping. First and foremost, why do you want to breed your mare? Is there sufficient space in your barn to accommodate a birthing mare? Do you have properly fenced pasture and secure areas for schooling?

The unwanted horse continues to be a major issue in the U.S. horse industry. AQHA and the Unwanted Horse Coalition are focused on finding homes, alternative careers and additional options for horses that are no longer wanted. But if we’re going to solve the problem, we must also decrease the number of unmarketable horses we are producing through responsible breeding practices.

When Breeding Your Mare Is a Bad Idea

  • An attempt to “settle her down:” Breeding may indeed settle a mare down for a while, but in 11 months, you will not only be faced with dealing with her - and in very close quarters - you will also have another horse in the barn that is just like her.
  • Just for fun: Having a foal around is certainly cute and exciting, but very quickly, new foal owners will learn there is much more work and longevity that goes into the process of raising a young horse. Instead, consider adoption or purchasing a young foal to help decrease the number of unwanted horses. 

When Breeding Your Mare Is a Good Idea

  • Sentiment: for example, they may have a mare that is getting on in years and she has proven to be exactly what they have always considered the perfect horse.
  • Profit: If you have a mare that possesses a trait or traits that are in great demand, whether it is the mare's beautiful conformation, excellent disposition, flawless bloodlines, or something otherwise desirable and marketable, you really should consider reproducing those characteristics with the intention of selling the foal for a profit.
  • Correcting a Flaw: Breeding your favorite mare to a particular stallion with traits that counteract her flawed area is another sensible way to complement your breeding program.

Give careful thought to what will become of the foal once he is born. Whether you keep and raise him for your own recreational use, use him to improve the overall quality of your herd, or find a niche in the market and sell him, have a plan ahead of time.

Making Good Breeding Decisions

To minimize risk and maximize the likelihood that you will produce exactly what you want, it is always a good idea to rationally think through:

  • Is the mare from a good bloodline and has she excelled in the show ring, on the track, on the ranch or on the trail? If she cannot do the job (too slow, too stubborn, unattractive, etc.) don’t pass those genes on. Remember, the mare will provide the foal with half of its genetics and often the majority of its personality.
  • Has she been genetically tested to ensure she is not carrying the genes for hereditary equine regional dermal asthenia (HERDA), hyperkalemic periodic paralysis (HYPP), polysaccharide storage myopathy (PSSM), malignant hyperthermia (MH) or glycogen branching enzyme deficiency (GBED)? Genetic tests are available for all of them.
  • Has she produced great foals in the past or have her siblings or half siblings produced great foals?
  • Does the stallion have a phenotype similar to the mare’s? Too often, people select stallions based on word of mouth or an advertisement. It is always a good idea to research the stallion’s bloodlines as well as his performance record to determine whether it nicks with the mare’s.
  • Is the stallion a carrier of any of the above genetic conditions? If he is carrying any of them, what is the probability that the foal will be affected?
  • If you’re interested in color, what will be the probable color resulting from this mating? You can always download AQHA's free Quarter Horse Markings and Color Genetics e-book to help you find the answers.
  • Do you have the resources or time to raise and train the foals(s) properly?
  • How are you going to market the foal(s)? Have you nominated them to a futurity to enhance their value?
  • What will you do with the offspring if it does not meet your expectations? Will you retrain it for another job, donate it, euthanize it or drop it off at the local sale barn?
  • Would you be better off buying a horse rather than breeding your mare?

These are just a few of the many factors you should consider before breeding your mare or standing a young stallion at stud. We all want to produce better horses and protect the integrity of our breed. The best way to do that is to be informed, organized and sensitive to the potential repercussions of breeding anything other than the very best to the very best.