By: Nicole Salo
Part 1 of 2
- Producing a healthy, lively foal is a task for the non-faint of heart. As many issues are at hand when deciding to breed your mare or stallion. The horse’s health, mental state, fitness level, facilities and many other questions play a role when deciding to breed a mare or stallion. Many of these questions will be covered over the following pages.
Nutrition plays a vital role for both mare and stallion. Both mare and stallion should be of good weight, for breeding purposes and for general good health. During the breeding season the stallion may drop weight in accordance with his work load. It is essential for the health of the stallion and for quality sperm production that he be maintained at an adequate Body Condition Score (BCS). As well, over weight stallions may show general health issues and may be unable to mount a mare. BCS also plays a big role in the catch rate of the mare, mares with a higher BCS show considerably higher conception rates than mares with a much lower BCS. It is also good practice to maintain the weight of a pregnant mare, as her body will use a good amount of her weight to produce nutrients for the fetus and later the foal. Lactating mares can easily drop weight whilst her stores of nutrients are passed onto the ever demanding foal via her milk production. Poor nutrition will affect both the mare and foal. Mares sporting low BCS while pregnant may abnormalities of the developing fetus, decreased birth weight and prolonged gestation. Overweight mares may be prone to uterine inertia and dystocia.
- Monitoring and adjusting feed as necessary (for both mare and stallion)
- Healthy BCS of non-breeding stallion: 4-6 (Moderately Thin to Moderately Fleshy)
- Healthy BCS of a breeding stallion: 5-7 (Moderate to Fleshy)
- Healthy BCS of open mare: 4-6 (Moderately Thin to Moderately Fleshy)
- Healthy BCS of a pregnant mare: 7-8 (Fleshy to Fat)
Safe facilities for both mare and stallion should be considered. Special housing may need to be established for keeping a stallion, as they can wreak havoc on a farm if the opportunity were to arise. While the mare does not need as rigorous a set up as the stallion does, safety should be a prominent feature of both set ups. Such features are noted below.
- Adequate safe turnout for both mare, stallion and future foal
- Safe, clean facilities (stall, run-in shed, breeding shed)
- Stallion proof stall (maybe in a moderately busy part of the barn so he can over see what is going on)
- Foaling stall in a quiet part of the barn
- Proper ventilation of all facilities
- Hay, grain and bedding materials preferably stored in another facility close to the barn
- Efficient lighting source all through the barn and working areas
- Easily accessible breeding shed (that may also house a small lab)
- Holding stocks in a practical location for: pre-breeding exams, AI, dental and any other veterinary procedure that requires safe restraint of either mare or stallion
A-I or Live Cover:
Through proper management of both mare and stallion, we can ensure the rate of conception to be relatively high (given the fact that both mare and stallion are healthy, and at a productive, viable age for both sperm production and conception, including a pre-breeding exam for both stallion and mare). Choosing your method of conception can be tricky at first, but is a major factor when deciding to breed your mare. Your method of choice may come down to expenses, time, travel issues and so forth. Here is a brief description of the advantages of both artificial insemination (AI) and live cover breeding methods.
A-I (Artificial Insemination) Advantages:
- Allows mare/s to be bred to stallions from around the world
- Reduces injury to both mare/s and stallion
- Allows injured stallions and mares to reproduce
- Routine semen inspection
- Routine reproductive tract inspections
- Helps to control disease
- Extends the breeding season
- Maximizing pregnancy rates
- May reduce the cost of breeding by use of fixed-time AI
Live Cover Advantages:
- Mimics natural mating (to an extent)
- Cost effective
- Some breed registries require live cover (i.e.: Jockey Club)
- May help keep the gene pool open (reducing the breeding to the same popular stallion)
- Routine reproductive tract inspections
- Reduces dilemmas such as: semen ownership, semen from deceased stallions, fraud
- Does not require the facilities needed to perform AI
- Allows for an easier understanding of the process vs. AI
In the second part of A Viable Pregnancy, we’ll have a look at mare management from choosing a mare, through conception to full term pregnancy.
Nicole Salo is an equine entrepreneur with experience in various parts of the industry, including: training, breeding, management, social media and online content. Nicole currently holds an Equine Science Certificate and Diploma in Equine Studies through the University of Guelph while aspiring to finish her Certificate in Equine Business Management.