HOW TO BREED YOUR MARE: A BRIEF LOOK AT WHAT IS INVOLVED
How do I breed my mare? We get a lot of mail from people with this very question along with many other questions. So, we have decided to post the information we have acquired over time from our own personal experiences in breeding horses. None of this information is intended to replace medical advice from a licensed veterinarian. Again, this is from our own personal experience and is only meant to be used for informational purposes.
For this discussion I will try to give you some information on the following topics from questions we are asked frequently:
1. I have never bred a horse before. What do I need to do?
2. What is the first step I should take to get my mare bred?
3. I live far away from where the stallion is located. Thus, I would have to use shipped cooled semen, but I have never done that before. How does that work and what would I need to do?
4. Do I just have to breed my horse one time, or more?
5. How much does all this cost?
6. Can I breed my older mare?
I'll tell you the procedure I will go through with my mares, since it would be similar to what you might do. The first thing I will do, and as soon as possible either shortly before the beginning of the year or right after the beginning of the year, is take my mare to the vet. She will get her immunizations out of the way before breeding. When a foal is born it is born without immunities. It receives it's immunities from the mare's first milk. So, it is important that your mare has time to build up the immunities to disease before the foal arrive. Thus, immunization come first.
The next thing I will do is have the veterinarian take a uterine culture and palpate the mare's uterus to make sure everything is OK inside, no lesions, tumors, plenty of space for a foal and other such thing that the vet can explain. The uterine culture is very important. It checks for any minor or major infections within the uterus. If there is an infection, the mare probably isn't going to get pregnant or not carry the foal to term. That can be very costly. So, a small test in the beginning is worth it. I know, I've been in that situation. If an infection is found, it can take a few weeks of treatment to clear it up. That's why you want to check early on, not last minute before breeding. If the mare does not have an infection, and the uterine palpation is good, then she is ready to breed! This is what I will do with my mares at the beginning of the year.
If you are going to breed using artificial insemination, this would involve you taking your mare to a veterinarian who is experienced in breeding with this method or to a breeding facility that can also do the insemination procedure. I have mostly worked with my vet in this area, but also have a great breeding farm that will handle it all this year. Timing is key to almost everything here. When your mare comes into her heat cycle is when she needs to be at the vet's for artificial insemination. When the mare is near ovulating, the vet will insert the stallion's semen (which is sent to your vet) into the mare. We all cross our fingers and let the magic happen. We hope she gets pregnant.
Then there is the option of sending your mare to the breeding farm where the stallion will be available for breeding. There are fees for boarding the mare while she is there, usually reasonably priced, and fees for the breeding of the stallion to the mare, checking to make sure she is pregnant before she is sent home, and possibly some other fees like veterinary tests if she isn't getting pregnant, etc. The breeding farm can give the prices of all the on-site fees.
Many people like to use artificial insemination if they live far away from where the stallion is. Roman is a product of artificial insemination. His sire was located in Ohio at the time and I was not able to take my mare there and go back and get her. Roman's half brother was created the old fashioned way. I took the mare to the breeding farm, left her there until she was confirmed "in-foal" and went back to get her because the stallion was in Texas. That was a drive I could handle.
There is generally a higher success rate when a mare is sent to the breeding farm than with artificial insemination (AI), but a good vet and the right timing can get the job done well. Costs can be less, equal, or the same depending on the distance you would travel and time at the breeding farm versus how many times you would have to go to the vet to try with artificial insemination.
The stallion's breeding fee, usually with a non-refundable booking fee, covers the right for you to breed your horse to the stallion. Specifics vary with each stallion and are written in a breeding contract. For example, with many contracts you would also get a "live-foal guarantee" which basically means when the foal is born, it should stand and nurse within a certain time frame listed in the contract. This is important and gives you the right to breed your mare again the following year, if the foal doesn't survive in that time period. Some breeders of horses don't include this, most Quarter Horse breeders tend to include some kind of guarantee. Read each stallion's breeding contract to find out what your rights are.
Also, one, two, three, or maybe no shipments of semen are included with the breeding fee. This varies greatly. What this means is when your vet determines your mare is in heat and ready to breed, a call is made to the stallion owner requesting semen to be shipped to your mare. The semen is cooled and kept at a certain temperature for transportation to your mare. If your mare does not get pregnant after the semen arrives and is placed in her, then you would go through the same procedure on her next heat cycle. There will probably be a charge for the next shipment of semen to be sent to you. This charge includes what is sometimes called a "stallion collection fee" or "chute fee" and the cost to ship the semen to you. There is labor and handling involved in getting the semen from the stallion, analyzing it, packaging it, cooling it to the proper temperature, and quickly getting it to a courier. The semen needs to reach it's destination as quickly as possible, usually within 2 days or it will lose it's viability.
Now, there is something that I have to mention about older mares. This is about mares around or over 20 yrs. old. You need to find out if the mare has ever had a foal and when her last foal was born. AQHA members can look up registered offspring of AQHA registered horses on AQHA's website. Older mares tend to be more difficult to get in foal. Also if a mare has not had a foal ever and is older or has not had a foal for several years and is older it can be harder to get her in foal. A veterinary examination can also help you determine if there might be complication in that area. Some mare have no trouble getting in foal at that age. It is a good question to ask your vet about!
Our stallions, like Roman, live here, at home, with us. They doesn't live at someone else's breeding farm. When someone wishes to breed their mare to Roman, they would sign a contract and send the breeding fee along with a copy of the mare's registration papers as instructed in the contract. For breeding via the AI method, the mare's owner/vet calls me to let me know their mare is ready to breed. I take Roman to my breeder. They handle the semen collection, evaluation, packaging, cooling, and shipping. If someone wants to send their mare here instead, the mare will stay at the breeding farm. When she is ready to breed, the breeding farm will call me. I'll bring Roman over there and they will handle the horses for the breeding. The breeding farm will make sure she is in foal before sending your mare home. If not they will keep her until her next cycle and try again.
I think that sums up the procedures involved. It sounds like a lot sometimes, but if you have an idea of what is going to happen and what needs to be done, it isn't so bad. And the rewards in the end are priceless! In the meantime, if you have any questions, I'll be happy to try to answer them. Anything concerning medical advice you will have to consult with a licensed veterinarian.
B.S. Animal Science
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