Preparing to Breed

There are many factors to consider when breeding your mare.

Once you’ve found a few stallion prospects for your mare, there are a still a few things you should do before you choose your foal’s sire and breed your mare.

Visit the Breeding Facility

Once you have narrowed your field to three or four prospective stallions, it is time to check each breeding facility, preferably in person, which should pass your inspection before you sign any contract. In order to get a good idea of how well your mare will be cared for while on the stallion owner’s premises, you need to see how he cares for his own horses. Ask for references from previous clients and talk to them first-hand, if possible.

Ask the stallion owner if he breeds live cover or artificially inseminates mares. If he does live cover, ask if he requires every mare to have a clean culture performed by a licensed veterinarian prior to breeding. (This is to make sure that she is free of disease). He should require proof that a mare’s vaccinations are up-to-date and that she tested negative on her annual Coggins test (the blood test that detects the presence of antibodies for equine infection anemia – “swamp fever”). Keep in mind that your mare may be staying at his facility for a while, so if the stallion owner does not require a clean bill of health for your mare before she arrives, the chances are she will be in a barn with other horses who may or may not have current vaccinations or testing.

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If a stallion becomes sick, his sperm quality and quantity can be altered for as long as 120 days, which means that he may not successfully breed mares that season. This is not a chance that a breeder should be willing to take. You can contact the farm’s veterinarian to ask about its overall breeding program, the health of its stallion and the reputation of the owners, but obviously, you’ll need to first ask the stallion owner to give his veterinarian permission to give out such information. If possible, spend time with the stallion’s handler in order to gain firsthand knowledge of the stallion’s disposition and the handler’s ability to control the horse. (You can arrange to meet them at a show that they may be planning to attend.)

The Importance of Preparation

To make sure he is reputable and responsible, verify that the breeder has filed necessary paperwork with his stallion’s breed association in a timely manner, and check to see if the association has ever suspended him for failure to do so. This information is a public record and should be available for the asking. Doing your homework before you breed your mare can save you time and money later.

Choosing a Veterinarian

You will need a veterinarian with experience in reproduction to be available to help you throughout the breeding process, and later, monitor the progress of you mare during pregnancy and foaling. Regardless of which method of breeding you choose, this vet will be an important member of your team. To determine if you’ll feel comfortable depending on this veterinarian in the coming months, ask him or her questions, such as:

  • What training and experience have you had in equine reproduction?
  • How long have you been involved in breeding horses in my area?
  • How available are you to answer questions that may arise during pregnancy and foaling?
  • What method of breeding do you prefer and why?
  • Do you own and use ultrasound, or do you simply palpate mares? (I prefer a vet with an ultrasound, which provides detailed views of the developing foal.)
  • If I should decide to breed via shipped semen, will you inseminate my mare on my farm?

The questions you should ask your veterinarian are going to depend greatly on the method of breeding you choose. In my opinion, the only stupid question is the one that goes unasked. And, as with stallion owners, how willing a veterinarian is to discuss your worries, walk you through procedures and provide attentive care to your mare – and you – can help you decide whether you want him on your team.

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