Why breed from your mare?

By Wendy Talbot on 14 March 2017

To breed from your mare or not to breed from your mare?

The prospect of the clip-clop of tiny hooves on your yard can be alluring but just because you think your mare is perfection on four legs it doesn’t necessarily mean breeding from her is a good idea. It can be risky, complicated and expensive. It can also be disappointing if you don’t end up with the type of foal you hoped for.

You should always have a realistic purpose in mind if you choose to breed, whether it is to sell the foal or to keep it and produce it yourself.  Always remember that if you choose to breed a foal you have a duty of care for its future wellbeing, whatever this may entail.

What do horse charities think about breeding?

The UK’s horse charities are very concerned that there are thousands more horses in the UK than there are good homes and this is causing a major welfare problem. The value of horses has reduced and the cases of abandonment and neglect are growing. They urge anyone who is considering breeding from their mare to think very carefully before going ahead.

How do I check my mare’s breeding credentials?

If your mare is registered with a breed society it is advisable to contact them to check if she has already been approved for breeding. This involves an assessment of her conformation, bloodlines and movement. If your mare is not registered speak to your vet to discuss her suitability for breeding.

How do I choose the right stallion for my mare?

If your mare has been approved by a breed society they should be able to advise on a suitable match from their stallion register. Ideally the stallion should help counter any weak points your mare may have but remember this is not a guarantee the foal will not receive the mare’s traits and you should take expert advice regarding the heritability and impact of any issues. The stallion will also need the performance traits you are looking for, but again it is no guarantee that the foal will inherit them. Meet the stallion first to see how he behaves and moves. It’s a good idea to take a look at some of his previous offspring too.

Artifical Insemination (AI) or natural covering?

Depending on the stallion you choose and its geographical location AI may be your only option. Your vet will be able carry out the AI procedure or put you in touch with an equine reproduction expert who can.  Your mare may need several rounds of AI treatment before she becomes pregnant which can be costly – involving numerous vet visits and scans as well as the purchase of semen in the first instance.

How long is the gestation period?

The average gestation period for a horse is 330-345 days – or around 11 months. The natural breeding season for horses is from May until August, to bring foaling at a time when environmental conditions should be best for their survival. For thoroughbreds, the breeding season begins much earlier in the year. 1st January is the official date of birth for thoroughbreds and thus earlier foals will be as mature as possible when they begin their racing careers.

Other related content: 

How horses communicate with their ears, eyes and mouth

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DR WENDY TALBOT BVSC CERT EM (INT MED) DECEIM MRCVS


Wendy graduated from Bristol University in 1999. She then went on to complete a residency at Liverpool University and holds a European Diploma in Equine Internal Medicine. After working in practice for 13 years, she joined Zoetis in 2012 as the National Equine Veterinary Manager.

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