Planning and preparation prior to breeding your mare can go a long way towards getting her in foal more easily. Preparation includes light therapy for early breeding, fitness and nutrition, preventative medical care and breeding soundness exams. Spending the extra time and money on the front end can frequently help save both in the long run.
Mares are seasonally anestrous, which means they only cycle during a certain time of year. More specifically, they are “long day breeders”; their natural season for mating is in the late spring through summer, as the days are getting longer. In nature, since the equine gestation period is roughly 11 months, foals will be born in spring and early summer, when grass is the greenest and abundantly available to keep nursing mares in good flesh. However, nature’s time frame does not always fit the desired January foaling dates for certain disciplines and breed registries.
Fortunately, a mare’s cyclicity can be manipulated using lights to encourage them to cycle earlier in the year. If you are planning on getting started breeding in February or March, before the natural breeding season for horses, then those mares should be placed ‘under lights’ at least 60 days prior to breeding. A December 1st start date should have mares cycling by early February. Light therapy entails using a combination of natural and artificial lighting to increase a mare’s exposure to 16 hours of daylight total per day. This can be accomplished by housing mares in artificially lit pens or stalls starting about 4:30 in the afternoon (before sunset) and continuing until about 11 pm at night. Lighting should be bright enough to be able to read a newspaper comfortably in the darkest corner. Equally important, however, is a period of darkness at night, so make sure lights are switched off, either manually or using a timer, for eight hours a night. If you are unable to stall or place your mare in a lighted pen, special masks are commercially available that use a blue light on a timer to stimulate mares to cycle early. Studies have proven that using this type of blue light in one eye is as equally effective as stalling mares with artificial lighting to induce early cyclicity. Continue reading.
The method by which semen is packaged and distributed will play a large factor in determining the total costs associated with getting your mare pregnant. The main “types” of semen distribution are via live cover, cool-shipped semen, or frozen semen.
When using live cover, the stallion will breed a mare naturally. This usually means the mare will have to travel to the stallion, so location may be a factor when selecting the stallion. Live cover can sometimes decrease your breeding expenses because the stallion will decide when your mare is ready to breed. However, have your veterinarian check the mare post-breeding to make ovulation occurred and that she is not retaining fluid, which will decrease her chances of conception. It is also recommended that mares only be bred live cover to stallions that require clean uterine cultures from all mares prior to breeding. That exam is best scheduled with your veterinarian on the cycle prior to getting your mare bred. This precaution will decrease the chances of sexually transmitted diseases and infections between the mares and stallions. Continue Reading.
Stallion Selection and Deciphering the Breeding Contract
Selecting the father of your future prospect is a big decision! Once you’ve decided on the mother-to-be, pick a stallion that will complement her strengths, but one that will also strengthen any weaknesses she may have. Temperament, conformation, and performance record are the biggest factors to consider when selecting a stallion. Color frequently plays a big role in stallion selection, but don’t let that be your only criteria when picking your mare’s mate; keep the other factors in mind before making the final decision. However, also remember that genetics are tricky, and Mother Nature may have other plans about which traits to pass on.
Once you’ve narrowed down the choices based on which stallion best complements your mare, next determine if Stud Fees, semen type (live cover, cool-shipped, or frozen), and semen shipping costs will fit into your program and budget. Stud Fees are typically set by the stallion owner and will vary based on a stallion’s popularity and performance. A non-refundable Booking Fee is frequently part of the total Stud Fee cost. While the Stud Fee goes towards the privilege of obtaining genetic material (semen) from the stallion, the Booking Fee goes towards the costs and time associated with stallion management, including record keeping, breed registry paperwork, and keeping the stallion in top breeding condition. Most stallions will also have a separate fee for semen collection and shipment, but occasionally one shipment of semen will be included in the Stud Fee. Be sure to read any breeding contracts carefully to determine what additional fees, if any, to expect. Continue Reading