Forward Thinking

So, you are thinking of breeding you mare?  Great - this can be a rewarding experience but before you go any further, please take a few minutes to read this article and ask a few questions, writes Mike Gulliford. Responsible breeders set themselves a target as to what they want to breed and why. First of all list your aims and objectives in creating a foal. What do you plan to do with it? Answer honestly and define your reasons and goals.

Mare and foalThe next thing you need to do is to take a good long look at your mare. It is very difficult to be objective about your own horse but you need to have an idea of the bad points which you would like to try and improve upon in any off-spring. You also need to know what good points you wish to enhance. Sit down with a piece of paper and write a list of good points and bad points. Ask other people for their opinions but be prepared for criticism and the possibility that expert opinion may advise against you passing your mare’s genes onto the next generation.

Breeding a foal is not cheap and you should decide upon your budget. Ask yourself how much have you got to spend on the stud fee? What are the keep costs likely to be? What other costs are likely to be incurred such as vet’s bills, transportation costs and so on?

Having decided upon your aims and objectives, the quality of your mare and your budget, you can now go stallion shopping. Look in equine publications and online where the adverts will give you an opportunity to see what the stallion looks like.  Make a list of the stallions you like and which you feel will meet your criteria. Armed with this, contact the studs and ask for details of stud fees and keep costs. Once you have the information, make a short list of stallions and, where possible, arrange to see the stallions in the flesh or on video. At the end of the day this is the best way of judging. Only by looking at him can you assess his movement and temperament. Ask to see any progeny as this will give you an idea of whether he stamps his offspring as being of a certain type. Also, ask about his fertility.

The stallion of your choice will be offered for natural covering or artificial insemination (AI). Studs that accept mares in for breeding will normally ask that your mare be swabbed for Contagious Equine Metritis (CEM) but they may also ask that she be tested clear of Equine Viral Arteritis (EVA). You also need to know what terms apply with regards to stud fees and pregnancy and whether a live foal guarantee is offered. As with all things, this advice is open to interpretation. But, if you do nothing else as you embark on producing your first foal, do bare in mind his future. Fast forward four years - you want to make sure that your three year old is a horse that is valued be it by you or someone else.


  • Ask yourself why you want to breed a foal and what his purpose in life is going to be
  • Be aware that you rarely make money out of breeding
  • Be realistic about your mare’s good and bad points and select a stallion that compliments her
  • Make every effort to see stallions in the flesh or on film. It is also wise to check out their progeny
  • Take into account the whole cost of breeding
  • Make sure to have your mare swabbed for CEM
  • Visit the stud before you send your mare away and raise any concerns well in advance

Mike Gulliford established the Artificial Insemination Centre in Bristol

The Buzz

At some stage of horse ownership, you will come across a horse that doesn’t like to be clipped. To us, clipping seems like something very acceptable. We know the clippers aren’t going to hurt but the horse doesn’t. Remember, horses are prey animals; they perceive anything new as potentially life threatening. Until you prove to them otherwise, they are not going to willingly accept anything in the ‘unknown’ category. Clinton Anderson ClippingThe good news is that there is an easy way to teach your horse to accept clipping. Follow these steps and, with practise, you will be able to clip your horse without having to fight him or restrict him in any way. The key is to break the process into steps and teach the horse that the noise and the feel of the vibrating clippers are not going to hurt him. The smaller the steps, the easier it is for him to understand. The name given to this process is ‘desensitising.’ When you’re desensitising your horse, the goal is to maintain the pressure until he stands still, relaxes and pays no attention to what you’re doing, at which point you should retreat. This is the behaviour I’m looking for when I clip my horse – for him to stand relaxed and not worry about the clippers.


Can you rub your hand all over your horse’s face and ears? Can you wave them around his eyes? If your horse has any resistance to your bare hand on his face and head, you can hardly expect him to stand still for clippers. You would be amazed at how many people wonder why their horse won’t be clipped, when the truth is these same people can’t even touch the horse’s ears with their hands. The first step is to get your horse to accept your hands on his face, muzzle, ears and around his eyes and then anywhere else on his body. Once you have accomplished this step completely, move on to Step 2. Don’t move on if there is any resistance from the horse, no matter how long it takes. If you find an ‘Oh no! Don’t touch me there!’ spot on your horse, continue to rub him in that same area until he stands still and relaxes. When that happens, retreat and rub him somewhere else on his face or body that he is comfortable with. Then approach the sensitive area again. Continue using the approach and retreat method until there are no off limit spots around your horse’s body.


Now place the clippers in your hand (turned off) and desensitise the horse to having the clippers around him. Let him smell the clippers. Then rub them over his face and wave them around his eyes and ears. If your horse won’t stand still for the clippers when they are not even turned on, he won’t stand there when you use them properly. Using the approach and retreat method, make sure that he will tolerate the feeling of the clippers on all parts of his face, eyes and ears. Be patient. This may take a few days, but it will save you time in the long run if you take the time now to do this step right. As before, make sure that the horse is showing no resistance to this step before you move on.


Remove the blade and turn the clippers on to let the horse get used to the noise. Without touching him, wave the clippers around the end of his nose, his eyes and his ears. Don’t touch him with the clippers yet. Desensitise him to the sound and movement first. When clippers are close to his ears, he will probably lift his head and act a little frightened. Leave the clippers up there eight inches from the horse’s ear and wait until the horse relaxes his head. Once he relaxes, turn the clippers off and rub him. Remember, you are not trying to touch him right now with the clippers on – all you are doing is getting him to stand still with the clippers on and moving anywhere around his body. Pay particular attention to areas where reaction is high – this is usually around the ears. You may have to spend more time here.

Clipping MuzzleSTEP 4

Once the horse accepts the clippers around his head while they are turned on but not touching him, it is time to rub them all over his face and nose, around his ears and poll and over the rest of his body, with the clippers turned on (but with the guard in place). This will create a new sensation since the clippers will vibrate against his skin. If the horse gets frightened, just keep rubbing the clippers around the area he is uncomfortable in until he begins to relax. As soon as he does, turn the clippers off and rub him. Remember, approach and retreat. In the beginning, work on one area at a time. On his head, start with his muzzle and work your way up to his ears. As he relaxes in each area, you can expand the places you are rubbing until you can do it anywhere.


Once your horse is absolutely perfect with all of the previous steps, you are ready to begin clipping the hair on his body. However, if you are still getting resistance from the horse to any of the steps up to this point, you will only make matters worse by proceeding. Actually clipping the hair is another new feeling, and the horse may react to the sensation. Again, don’t start in a sensitive area. When dealing with the head, start at the muzzle, go under the chin, up the face, around the eyes, then onto the bridle path and poll area. Then you can start to work on the ears.

Continue the approach and retreat method when you are actually clipping, it is a good idea to do a little bit of clipping and then go back and rub the clippers over areas that you have already clipped. Find a starting point, clip a little bit and then rub that spot with the clippers for a few seconds, then clip a tiny bit more, then rub. If he gets suspicious or frightened, going back to rubbing the areas already clipped will help him relax, then turn off the clippers and rub him with your hand to show him you’re not trying to shove it down his throat. If you work on these steps a little bit each day, after a week or so you should be able to clip anywhere on his body with no resistance.