My degree at University is focused on breeding and stud management. During my first two years there I have had it drilled into me the importance of a good breeding aim. This is vital as there are already loads of mediocre horses in the UK, many of which are ending up in rescue centres or not being sold by breeders/owners. Therefore I have put together this little guide for if you think you want to breed your mare.
First things first!
The first thing you have to consider is why do you want to breed? You’re mare going lame and needing time off is not a good reason. You wanting a year out of riding (for any reason) is not a good reason either. Especially if you will want to sell the foal. You need to give yourself a clear aim in your breeding. You want to produce something better than your mare or for a certain discipline.
The second thing you really need to consider, is do you have the money to fund the process. There are vet checks, stallion fees, stud boarding, disease tests and extras if there are complications. Once the foal is born there are further vet fees, passports and general upkeep costs. How long do you intend to keep the foal? Can you afford to keep a horse for years when it’s not in work? It is also important to remember that lots can go wrong from conception to when the horse is ready for backing. You could end up with no foal or an un-ridable, lame animal.
If you have decided you have the money to fund a good breeding aim, there are several things to consider next. The first of which is to make a list of the good and bad qualities of your mare. This should include both conformation and temperament and will enable you to decide which things you want to improve. What I mean by this is, if you have a particularly fiery tempered mare, you may choose a stallion with a good temperament. Or if you have a dressage mare, but want an eventing foal, you would choose an eventing stallion..
If the mare is a maiden mare (never had a foal), my next step would be to get a vet out to perform a reproductive exam. This will tell you if the mare has any conformational defects that may prevent her from having a foal or cause serious complications. When it comes to the breeding season you wish to breed, you will need to have another repro exam for all mares, to make sure there are no temporary conditions such as cysts or infections which may cause subfertility. I would also get swabs done at this time to make sure the mare is free from venereal diseases, such as; CEM and EVA. You will need to be clear from these to board on many studs and if you use natural covering.
My next step would be to register your mare with a stud book. These tend to be breed based, however, many studbooks accept thoroughbred mares. Similarly, if you register your Hanoverian mare with the Hanoverian stud book, many stallions of other breeds are registered or recognised by this stud book.
Why should you register your mare with a studbook? Simply it means your foal can be registered to the same studbook and sometimes it can increase the worth of the mare and foal. You can also get your mare graded with a stud book. This process involves looking at the mares conformation, movement, competition history and any progeny. Some stallion may offer better deals to mares with a higher grading as they are better quality mares.
Choosing a stallion
The next step is the exciting bit, choosing a stallion. To get a feel for it you could go to a stallion parade or request stallion catalogues. You can also visit stallions standing at stud. But there are lots of stallions out there, so where do you start looking?
Go back to what you want the foal for. Obviously, if you want a race horse, you look at racing stallions. However, if you want an eventing, dressage or show jumping foal, you will look at sports horse stallions. It is important to remember, that sometimes, if you want a dressage foal, you might not want a dressage stallion. It all comes back to what you want to improve in your mare.
Once you have an idea of what sort of stallion you want for your mare, you have to consider how much you want to spend on a stud fee and what terms different stallions offer. (I will do another post about stud fee terms soon.) You also need to consider which stallions are recognised by your stud book and what type of semen or covering the stallion offers.
When you have chosen a stallion, you will need to complete and send off a stallion nomination form to the stallion owner.
There are lots of questions you need to ask yourself about the process. Where will the mare be during different times in the process? Will she be at a stud or at home? Stud livery can be expensive but vet fees are often lower and have plenty of experienced staff. You can move her around too. Do you want her inseminated and give birth at stud, but want her home for the time between. You will need to consider cost and your own experience with breeding horses.
Next steps if you want to breed your mare