How to prepare your mare for breeding
By Jessica Dane
Tuesday 07 February 2012
Ensuring that your mare is correctly prepared to carry a foal well in advance of the desired time of breeding can save you not just time and money, but also your mare’s health. A horse’s natural breeding season runs through the longest days of the year, but certain breeds have operational seasons from February to July, so whether you’re opting for the natural route or early conception, it’s vital to get it right.
It’s a good idea to have your mare checked over by a vet a few weeks before you intend to attempt to put her into foal, especially if she’s a maiden mare – one who hasn’t been bred from before – because it’s important to familiarise yourself with her optimum breeding condition. A vet will also be able to inspect the mare’s reproductive organs manually and by performing an ultrasound, checking for infection, fluid and any physical problems, such as cysts or damaged cervix.
A mare must be in the best possible condition so have her teeth checked, get her vaccinations up to date and conduct a worm count. She must also be at a good weight, not under or over, as manipulating her diet while trying to get her pregnant can decrease the likelihood of conception and lead to complications if she does fall pregnant.
You should familiarise yourself with your mare’s oestrus cycle, which is usually a 21 day cycle. She will have four to six days during which she will be receptive to a stallion. Due to horses being long day breeding animals it’s most likely that your mare won’t be ovulating at the beginning of the operational breeding season. If this is when you wish to breed introduce artificial lighting over the winter so as to trick the brain and hormones into believing that it’s summer and therefore time to start ovulating.
Alongside light therapy it’s common to inject a mare with hormones, commonly progesterone, which is produced naturally by the ovaries and placenta, readying the uterus for a fertilised egg. A blood test can highlight if levels of progesterone are low, but injecting this hormone is very time consuming.
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