Read This Before Breeding Your Mare
If you’ve ever had a mare that you just absolutely loved, then you’ve probably had the thought I should just breed her and make another one! If you are interested in breeding your mare, you are wise to take the time to research the process before diving in. Breeding, while a natural process that has been happening since the dawn of time, can also be very complex.
Should you breed your mare? There are many factors to consider when thinking about whether or not to breed your mare, including your mare’s health, your plans for the foal, the traits of the mare and of the stallion, and your budget.
While breeding can be quite rewarding, the decision is not one to take lightly. Horse breeding can end up costing a lot of money, whether done correctly or not. There are always financial risks involved. To help you make the decision on whether you should breed your mare, I have written this article about the process.
How Much Will It Cost To Breed Your Mare?
Between vet fees, stud fees, and extra care, there are many costs incurred when breeding. Here are some things to consider:
Vet Fees for Horse Breeding
Vet care is a significant variable when it comes to breeding. To start the process of breeding your mare, a breeding soundness exam can cost anywhere from $500 – $700.
If you decide to go the route of artificial insemination, the vet fees for each insemination can be anywhere from $300-$600.
Once pregnant, your mare will require frequent examinations when in foal, as well as a series of vaccinations at specific intervals. Most mares have, on average, four ultrasounds and exams throughout their gestation period.
Once the foal is born, it is recommended that the foal receive an exam and lab work within two days to check overall health. This is all routine; if your mare requires more than the minimum, your vet costs will increase. I would encourage you to talk to your vet about estimated overall costs and then add a good chunk of money to that amount to have on hand in case it is needed.
Stud Fees for Horse Breeding
The stud fee will be entirely dependent on the stallion – you can get a live cover from a neighboring horse for free, or you can spend six digits on a proven sport horse. You should plan for at least $2,000 for good measure. If you are using artificial insemination, estimated to spend at least $500 on collection fees and an additional shipping fee if the horse is not local.
Make sure you have a very clear understanding of stud fees and the contract. Things to look at would be if the stud fee is just covering one breeding session or if it is covering the whole process until your mare gets pregnant.
Likewise, if you have opted for artificial insemination, you may have to pay the stud fee for each insemination rather than the fee covering the whole process. It may take a few times of being artificially inseminated before your mare gets pregnant, so this could quickly rack up your overall expense.
Other Expenses to Consider When Breeding Your Mare
Of course, the pregnancy itself is not the only expense. Mares will require more feed after the 8th month of pregnancy and while lactating. Pregnant mares can’t be out on fescue grass; this means you may have to spend money to purchase special hay and extra feed. A horse can eat up to 2% of its body weight a day, so if you have a 1000-lb horse, that’s 20 lbs a day!
Once the foal is born, there’s a lot that goes into caring for a baby horse! To get some tips on how to train young horses, visit my article How to Train a Young Horse: Everything You Need to Know.
Is Your Mare Physically Sound Enough To Breed?
This is a complex question and one that must be considered from all angles. How is your mare’s body condition? A mare that is too thin will not cycle regularly, while a mare that has too much body fat will have a harder time conceiving. How is your mare’s overall health? You don’t want to pass on diseases or other health complications. How is your mare’s conformation? A foal with poor conformation may not be able to do the things you would like to do with them, or it may be harder to sell.
When I went to Iceland and learned about Icelandic Horses and how they were bred, I was surprised to learn just how strict the breeding practices had been in the country. In order to keep the breed fit for survival in the Icelandic landscapes, many Icelanders refused to breed horses that had a hint of any health condition.
That’s the way it’s been for years. Because of this, Icelandic Horses tend to be very hardy and low maintenance. This is something to keep in mind when considering if you should breed your mare.
Breeding Soundness Exam
I highly recommend you get a breeding soundness exam from your vet if you would like to breed your mare. This will include an ultrasound of the mare’s reproductive tract, an exam of her perineum, and uterine cultures.
I would also get your vet’s opinion on whether they think it’s a good idea to breed your horse. Vets will have your horse’s best interests in mind and should share their thoughts if they have any concerns.
To learn more about what goes into horse breeding, visit my article How Do Horses Mate? Horse Mating Guide.
What Stallion Would You Breed to Your Mare?
As far as genetics are concerned, your mare is only half of the equation. Do you have a potential stallion in mind? If so, get as much information as you can about his health. Visit him if he is local to assess his temperament. Keep in mind that he is a stallion; his behaviors may exhibit that. But how does he behave away from mares? Is he friendly? Is he manageable?
If you are breeding your mare to a stallion of the same breed as yours, find out about registration responsibilities. Learn as much as you can about the policies of the stud farm, as some will require specific testing of your mare before agreeing to a contract.
Breeding Your Mare Through Live Cover Or Artificial Insemination
If your selected stallion is not local, your choice will be easy – you’ll need to have semen shipped to you, and your veterinarian can perform artificial insemination. You will choose between fresh, cooled semen, or frozen semen (the latter being more likely if the stallion is not local).
If you choose live cover with a local stallion, it may be easier to leave your mare at the stud farm for a time rather than attempt to perfectly time your trip at ovulation – mares only ovulate for around 24-36 hours each cycle and mating as close as possible to ovulation will increase your chances of success.
What Are The Risks Of Breeding To Your Mare?
Breeding is not without risks, and there are several to go around. The age and experience of your mare will make a significant difference in these risks.
- If your mare is a maiden (having never been bred) and is older than 9 or 10 years of age, you may find her cervix is harder to relax, and she will be more challenging to breed. This is the same for a mare who has not been bred for seven or more years. Older maidens also have a slightly higher chance of suffering from a uterine artery rupture.
- Mares who are in their late teens to early twenties will also come with more risks. As is the case with humans, the older the mare is, the older the eggs are. Older mares have a higher risk of pregnancy loss.
- Both the artificial semination procedure and the routine exams carry a risk of causing rectal tears in the mare. These tears can be serious and can even be fatal.
- Mares who are bred through live cover incur the risk of sexually transmitted diseases. This is another reason it is important to inquire into the health of the stallion.
- Foals that are not positioned correctly can have catastrophic results for both foal and mare unless there is experienced intervention.
These are not the only risks associated with breeding a mare, which is why it is important to have a vet perform a thorough exam on any mare being considered for breeding.
Why Do You Want To Breed Your Mare?
Another way to ask this question is – what are your plans for the foal? There are two ways to answer this – either you sell the baby, or you keep the baby.
If you want to breed your mare so that you can sell the foal, you will need to carefully consider the marketability of the offspring. Look closely at the health and behavioral traits of both the mare and the stallion to make sure you are giving the foal the best chance at a successful and long life.
If you are breeding to keep the foal, you will need to consider the additional cost and time it will take to raise the baby into adulthood and also to train them. Training (either formally or as socialization) begins on day one – if you work with the foal for the first couple of months and then leave them turned out without daily interaction, you will end up with a feral young horse.
Many people want to breed their mares because they love riding and working with them, and they want another horse like them. One thing I always tell people to consider is that if you breed your mare now, there will be changes in her body that will probably affect her for the rest of her life. She may not be able to jump like she used to or compete. Also, just because she may birth a foal, that doesn’t mean that the horse will be just like her.
You could not breed your mare and get a good ten more years of riding and work out of her, or you could breed her, set her back physically, and potentially have a foal on your hands that isn’t the exact same horse as your mare. This is what I tell people to think about before they make a decision.
Making The Decision To Breed Your Mare
Deciding whether or not to take the plunge into breeding your mare can be challenging, as there are several factors to consider. My advice would be to look at your budget first – if you do not have the financial resources to care for a pregnant mare, then it doesn’t matter how lovely your mare is or how badly you would like a foal out of her.
If you determine that you have the funds necessary to breed, I would advise making an appointment for a breeding soundness exam as the next step. You will find out whether your mare is a good candidate physically for breeding, and you can ask your vet all of the questions you have at that time.
Once you are armed with this information, you can make further assessments. While my intention is not at all to turn you away from breeding, I do think it is important that you consider all angles before taking the next step.
If you’re going to breed your mare, you’re going to have to tell when she is in heat. To learn some things to look for, check out my article How to Tell if a Horse is in Heat: Complete Guide.