Breeding

Should You Breed Your Mare?

Consider these 13 critical horse-breeding questions before you venture into the world of horse breeding.

There are many horse-breeding factors you must consider before making the decision to breed your mare. Journal photo

The joy and excitement of a newborn foal and the feeling of satisfaction that comes from seeing a horse you bred excel are two of the most rewarding events a horse owner can experience. The old horseman’s axiom “Breed the best to the best and hope for the best” is good advice but even when followed faithfully does not provide all the answers.

Breeding horses is a complicated enterprise. It is in your best interest and your horse’s best interest to approach it armed with knowledge and experience.

AQHA’s detailed FREE Mare Care: Breeding Tips e-book can help you through the entire process, from cycling to getting your mare bred.

Unwanted horses, genetic disease, poor production outcomes and horses that do not meet expectations often result from poor breeding decisions. To assist in your horse-breeding decisions, look over 13 questions to ponder before you breed your mare:

1. Is she sound? Does your mare’s conformation predispose her to become unsound? Many types of gait abnormalities can be genetic.

2. Does she have a trainable disposition? If she is ill-mannered or not receptive to training, chances are good that her foal will have similar traits. Remember, the mare will provide the foal with half of his genetics and often the majority of his personality.

3. Has the mare been tested to ensure that she does not carry the genes for genetic diseases, such as hereditary equine regional dermal asthenia (HERDA), hyperkalemic periodic paralysis (HYPP), polysaccharide storage myopathy (PSSM), glycogen branching enzyme deficiency (GBED), malignant hyperthermia (MH) or other genetic abnormalities? Has the stallion been tested to determine if he is carrying genes for the above genetic conditions?

4. Has your mare or her dam produced quality foals? Have her half-siblings produced quality foals? The female line of the pedigree is of utmost importance in choosing bloodstock.

5. For what event or discipline are you trying to breed? Does the stallion (or his foals) excel in that area? Too often, stallions are selected based on word of mouth or an advertisement. Research the stallion’s bloodlines and sire record, as well as performance or race record. Experienced breeders recommend that you see a stallion in person before breeding a mare to him. Ask to see his foals, too.

6. Does the stallion have correct conformation? The same strict conformation criteria should be used in selecting a stallion as is used in determining if your mare is a candidate to reproduce. Regardless of the type of event or horse you are breeding for, correct conformation is of paramount importance.

7. Have there been successful crosses between the bloodlines carried by your mare and those of the stallion?

Download AQHA's FREE Mare Care: Breeding Tips e-book to learn how to properly care for your mare throughout the entire breeding process.

8. Are the stallion’s offspring eligible for various futurities or money-earning programs? Eligibility can enhance the value of the foal. Find out about the programs and the requirements for sustaining eligibility as the foal’s owner.

9. If you are interested in color, consider what the possible resulting colors will be. What if the mating does not produce the color you desire? Experienced breeders caution against relying on color as a desirable trait in your foals.

10. Do you have the resources or time to raise and train the foal(s) properly? If not, who will handle him as a foal or train him for you when he is older? Foals and young horses can be dangerous in inexperienced hands.

11. How do you plan to sell your foal? Will he be eligible for well-promoted auctions or sales? Have you nominated him for a futurity to enhance his value?

12. What will you do with the foal if he does not meet your expectations?

13. Would you be better off buying a horse rather than breeding your mare?