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Breeding Horses: What to Expect and How to Prepare

For purebred horses, careful selection of the male parent (the “sire”) and the female parent (the “dam”) is essential to successful breeding. From conception to foaling, horse breeding today is carefully managed through modern technology. Whether you are breeding horses for racing, equestrian competition or the family farm, a firm understanding of the breeding and foaling process will ensure a successful outcome.

Horse Breeding 101

While wild horses typically breed and foal in mid to late spring, domesticated breed for competition requires horses to be foaled as close to January 1st as possible for maximum competitive advantage in the Northern Hemisphere. To help stimulate the ovulation process during winter, keep your mare under barn lights to mimic a longer day.

Once an egg is fertilized, it will remain in the oviduct for 5.5 days before descending into the uterus; fixation will occur on day 17. Therefore it is important to check for twin embryos by day 16 with trans-rectal ultrasound.  A second check for a heartbeat can be done after day 25 with the ultrasound.  After day 30, rectal palpation is effective at determining if the mare is still pregnant. The entire gestation process is approximately 11 months.

Advanced planning will make the foaling process go as easily as possible for both you and your mare.  While the majority of mares will foal 330 to 340 days from breeding, some may foal as early as 320 days. Mares should be immunized four weeks in advance of foaling with vaccines specifically approved for pregnant mares. These vaccines will stimulate the mare to produce antibodies, which will be passed to the foal in the mare’s colostrum.

Prior to foaling, prepare a foaling stall. Foaling happens quickly once it begins, so closely monitor your mare in the days leading up to the expected foaling date. Wrapping the mare’s tail will make it easier to see underneath the body prior to foaling. Following foaling, a mare will lick the foal to clean it and stimulate circulation. A new foal should be able to stand and get milk from its mother within an hour of birth.

If you are considering breeding your horses, talk to your veterinarian to learn more about what to expect and how best to prepare.  At our clinic, we can provide artificial insemination packages for your mare with both cooled and frozen semen.  For well trained stallions, we can assist with collection.