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.

IN BRIEF

  • 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 www.theaicentre.co.uk