The thought of having a lovely homebred foal that in time matures into your perfect riding horse is a lovely idea; however, this won’t happen without planning, time and effort.
There are four main questions that anyone considering breeding from a particular mare should ask.
Is she suitable for breeding?
Confirmation, temperament and performance are key. A mare shouldn’t be bred from simply because she is no longer suitable for any other purpose.
Are suitable facilities and expertise available?
Including facilities not just for the in-foal mare but also for foaling, for the new-born foal and in time for a growing youngster. Do you have the experience to deal with a foaling mare and potential problems, or would she be better at stud?
Can I afford it?
Stud fees, livery charges, routine check-ups and unexpected veterinary bills can add up. There is no guarantee that a healthy foal will be produced or that the foal will mature into a quality horse.
What are my plans for the foal?
Are you breeding to sell or breeding for yourself? What will your circumstances be when the foal is grown up and ready for riding in four years?
Having considered your options and decided to go ahead, your next decision is which stallion to use. Considerations include conformation, soundness, performance, temperament, fertility, cost and terms of the stud fee and availability of chilled/frozen semen.
So, you have a suitable mare and have found the ideal stallion to compliment her; what next?
Your vet will need to perform some pre-breeding checks before commencing the process of getting her in foal to ensure the best chance of success. These include:
Swabs and blood tests to check for specific bacterial and viral diseases, namely Contagious Equine Metritis (CEM) and Equine Viral Arteritis (EVA). Ideally, these should be taken early in the season.
A gynaecological examination to inspect the mare’s vulva, vagina and cervix.
Ultrasound examination per rectum to ensure both the uterus and ovaries are normal and to check the stage of the mare oestrus cycle. Uterine swabs can be taken at this stage if there is any concern over infection or any previous fertility issues to allow appropriate treatment.
If your mare is not in season at the first scan, she will be given drugs to bring her to season.
Once she is in season, your vet will need to visit regularly to perform repeated ultrasound scans to ensure that she is inseminated at exactly the right time to optimise the chances of pregnancy. If you are using frozen semen, the number of scans increases as the timing of insemination is more critical. It would be best to have adequate facilities to restrain your mare for these examinations. Some mares may require sedation for everyone’s safety.
Remember to liaise with the stud and ensure that the semen is available and delivered when requested, accompanied by the correct paperwork. Please get in touch with the stud with plenty of notice.
After insemination, an ultrasound examination will be performed to confirm that the mare has ovulated and that there is no adverse reaction to the semen. Some mares will need further treatment at this stage, including further injections and flushing of the uterus.
Assuming all goes to plan, pregnancy diagnosis will be performed between 15-18 days and at 30 days, where hopefully we will identify a heartbeat. Unfortunately, many mares (especially older ones) will not get in foal the first time and require the insemination process to be repeated.
Please consider all your options carefully and contact us in plenty of time to discuss your plans. You should be aware that your mare will need several examinations before insemination and then keep your fingers crossed for a happy bouncing foal!