Breeding From Your Mare - Things To Consider
Many people who own a mare think about breeding a foal at some time,however this is not something to be entered into lightly - any animal is a huge responsibilty and breeding from them an even greater one.
As a stallion owner/keeper I have been given many reasons for people wanting to breed a foal - for the experience, to make some money, they're cute(!) and so on. This is really what prompted this article which offers some ideas to think about before commiting to breeding a foal.
Reasons To Breed (Or Not!)
For the experience - it is certainly that, but the foal still has to be raised.
To make some money - you'll be lucky! There is an old adage - "fools breed horses for wise men to buy" - don't be fooled, breeding and raising a foal is expensive even when there are no problems. It is highly unlikely that selling a foal or young horse will cover the cost of raising it.
They're cute - not a good reason at all, probably one of the worst.
Nothing else to do with the mare (old, injured etc.) - in my view this is absolutely the worst reason.
Notwithstanding these points, some people really do want to raise a foal and go on to do so with eyes wide open to the possible pitfalls, having a lovely baby at the end.
It is important to realise the likely costs involved in breeding a foal. These include the following:
Stud fees - several hundred pounds, whether you have your mare covered naturally or by artificial insemination. If your mare goes to the stud there will be keep fees to add to this as well.
Vet fees - pre-covering swabs, scans, artificial insemination costs, vaccinations and bills for any other treatments that crop up. Foal check after birth, emergency call out if needed at foaling, foal vaccinations
Care of the mare in pregnancy - livery if needed, feed and the usual ongoing costs of keeping horses.
The birth - foaling down costs if you are not experienced, more vet fees for foal checks and vaccinations. (See above.)
Foal care - feed, weaning facilities, ongoing care costs.
Experience & Facilities
If you do not have the experience or do not have the confidence to foal the mare down alone, do you have a knowlegable, willing and available friend to be there for you? If not, you may consider sending your mare back to the stud or to a foaling down yard - this can be expensive as many studs/yards will want you to send your mare to them about six weeks before foaling. This gives her and her immune system a chance to acclimatise to her new environment.
You will need a large stable or very secure paddock (and reliable weather!) for foaling, plus running water, electricity, somewhere to stay at foaling time if you do not live on site, safe turnouot facilities for the mare and foal. Your turnout must be close to the stable, it just isn't feasible to lead a mare and loose foal across a road for instance. It will be a while before you can lead the foal.
In an ideal situation there will be other mares and foals - this helps the mares not to become too "foal proud", not allowing you anywhere near and socialises the babies. A point to note is that some mares are just naturally foal proud and they can be difficult to deal with when they are over protective.
Another thing you will need is plenty of time - for the extra work and the fact that foals are terrible timewasters when they are playing!
The mare should have good conformation - the perfect horse probably doesn't exist but you should breed from the best you can find so as not to continue breeding faults that can effect health and wellbeing.
She should have a good temperament - the foal learns a great deal from his mother. It is debatable whether temperament is bred or made but I think both are relevant and it makes sense to start off the right way.
She shouldn't be elderly, i.e mid to late teens, for her first foal. Apart from possible fertility implications, it is hardly fair in my opinion.
Choosing the right stallion is crucial. Take as much time as you can researching horses of your choice - visit the studs but don't decide on the first one you see. Again, conformation, temperament and ability (depending on what you hope to breed) are extremely important.
Once you have looked at all the possibilities, you may decide that you do not want to breed after all - but if you do, I wish you the best of luck because it is an incredibly rewarding experience and even after all the years I have foaled mares for myself and others, nothing compares to the feeling of being at the start of that wonderful new life.