To Breed or Not to Breed

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

A mare's disposition is a key factor when deciding whether or not to breed. Photo by Carol Marr of Rockdale, Texas

You have made the decision to breed your mare, and the search is on for the perfect stallion. “WHOA!” 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 it because you think a baby is so incredibly cute and would be fun to have around? Well, he is cute and certainly can be fun, but there is also a lot of work involved. For example, is there sufficient space in your barn to accommodate a birthing mare? Do you have properly fenced pasture and secure areas for schooling?

Are you preparing to breed your first mare? Learn more about preparing her for breeding in AQHA's FREE Mare Care: Breeding Tips ebook. You'll find tips on targeting a breeding date, ordering semen and more. Download it today!

Once you breed your mare, you will have approximately 11 months to see that she and her baby have a large, dry, well-lit stall and ample turnout space with strong, safe fencing available to them.

When Breeding Your Mare Is a Bad Idea

Are you breeding your mare because she is absolutely uncontrollable, and you have been told that it will settle her down? I remember one woman, in particular, who had booked her mare to our stallion.

One day, she called, saying that she and her sister couldn’t tell whether or not the mare was ready to be bred. (In cases like this, we often ask the owner to bring the mare to us so we can “tease” her with our stallion. A “silent” mare - one who does not show visible signs of being in heat - is more likely to show signs of being ready if she is near a stallion.)

The day they were due to bring the mare to our barn, the woman and her sister arrived early and, since I wasn’t there, turned the mare out in one of our small paddocks. She was obviously upset, sweating all over her body and pacing the fenceline so intensely she had made a small trench along it.

As I filled her water trough, I asked the owner to remove the horse’s halter. The owner looked at her sister and asked her to do it. Her sister responded with, “I am not going in there with that crazy mare!”

The owner then asked me to remove it, so I entered the paddock while they watched. The mare immediately pinned her ears and came at me with bared teeth. I stood there quietly while the two women cringed.

The mare threatened me until she saw that I was not intimidated by her actions. Her aggression turned into curiosity, and she calmed down enough to allow me to approach her. I got a lead rope with a chain and calmly put the chain over her nose - just in case I needed it for control.

Wanting to learn more about her and why she was so upset, I walked her around the paddock for a while; eventually she settled down but obviously did not have good manners at all.

I asked the women about the mare because they had originally told me she was an “easy keeper.” They admitted they were frightened of her, and they had decided to breed her for the sole purpose of calming her down.

At this point, I was wondering how we would ever get her in the barn, never mind breed her. So, I presented the owner with this scenario: what would happen if the mare got into trouble when foaling and the veterinarian could not safely go into the stall and assist?

After some discussion, the owner and her sister sensibly decided to work on the mare’s manners for a while and consider breeding her in the future.

In addition to evaluating a mare's disposition, it's also important to learn more about the breeding process before you breed your mare. Download AQHA's FREE Mare Care: Breeding Tips ebook and get the facts on prepping your mare and receiving shipped semen.

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.

It has been our experience that a great deal of your mare’s disposition is passed on to her foal. Of course, the disposition inherited from the stallion also plays its part, but the foal learns quite a bit by example, and for the first few months, he will be spending his time with his mother.

If your mare’s manners are suspect, see if her personality is something that can be remedied with time and attention, or whether it is a trait that you would be best not to reproduce.

When Breeding Your Mare Is a Good Idea

There are also excellent reasons why people decide to breed their mares. Some do it for sentimental reasons: 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.

Others breed their mare for profit. If you have a mare that possesses a trait or traits that are in great demand, whether it is her 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 in your favorite mare by breeding to a particular stallion with traits that counteract the flawed area is another sensible way to complement your breeding program.

Whatever your reasons may be, I suggest you 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, I urge you to have a plan ahead of time.