Breeding Horses: Horse Care and Reproduction Facts

Learn Horse Breeding Techniques and the Pros and Cons of Breeding Your Mare

Man with his horse

Breeding and caring for a pregnant mare, not to mention a new foal, is a big decision and responsibility. There are many things to consider after you have made the decision to breed your mare. For example, it helps if your horse has been properly trained so that she is easier to handle.  

If you have not had experience in this area, it is best to seek professional assistance with the breeding and have someone that can help answer any horse information question or concern that you may have. Some of the things that need to be taken into consideration even before breeding takes place are:

  1. The time of year - Before considering breeding techniques, you need to know some important horse facts about mares. Mares have regular "heat" cycles during the spring and summer months, ceasing during the fall. These "heat" cycles are triggered by the warmer weather, which stimulates the brain to produce the reproductive hormones. With some thoroughbreds, artificial light and heat are used - such as electric lights in stables - so that the mare will breed earlier and deliver as close to January 1st as possible (the official birthday of all thoroughbred racehorses). But ordinarily, the most common months for a mare to deliver are from May through July. So knowing that a mare's gestation period lasts eleven months, the best time to have the mare covered (or bred) is from June through August.
  2. Pros and cons of breeding - While there are benefits to having your mare bred, there are negatives as well, and one thing for certain is importance of general horse health. Most mares will not have any trouble having a successful gestation and delivery but sometimes problems arise. When thinking about breeding your mare, you need to make certain that you have the time for the hard work it requires and that you have special facilities, such as a separate area in order to wean the foal. Breeding purebreds can have a financial benefit where cross breeding doesn't offer much financially, although it has been known to produce nice foals. With stallions, you don't have to worry after the deed is done, but there are incidents that could happen during the breeding that could cause damage, such as the mare kicking.
  3. Age for breeding - Most mares are able to be breed from their first "heat" cycle, about 18 months of age, up until they no longer have "regular" cycles. Most breeders like to start at age four because the mare is finished growing at this age. Sometimes the mare can breed into her late teens. With stallions, or studs, most breeders try to do training, such as breaking and manners, when the stallion is two years old, so that he'll be easier to handle when they start breeding him at three or four. Don't start breeding your stallion too young or you'll never get anything else accomplished.

So if after considering all this, you are still wishing to breed your horse, then congratulations. Having a new foal is always exciting! You will also continue a great bloodline with the attributes that convinced you to breed your horse in the first place. There are three basic ways that horse breeders use in order to impregnate a mare:

  1. Artificial Insemination - This form of horse breeding is more commonly used in the high dollar horses. Artificial insemination allows for you to pick and choose what characteristics you wish to breed for although it can be quite expensive to obtain semen. The semen is taken from a stallion, as he is mounting a "fake" mare and ejaculating into tubes. The upside to this breeding is that most samples are checked for fertility.
  2. Open Range Breeding or Uncontrolled - Most of the time the handler of either the mare or stallion will trailer his horse to the other handler's stables, where the mare and stallion are turned out together and allowed to breed naturally on their own. This is the most natural procedure and proves to be quite successful although it may take several tries, depending on the horses.
  3. Monitored Breeding or Controlled Breeding - This is where both handlers are on site with the horses. They usually have them haltered and on a lead, and the stallion handler may have a lounge whip or other device so that he can keep the stallion under control. This is one of the more dangerous ways to breed because you never know how the mare or the stallion will react and this puts you in the middle, so to speak.

Once breeding is completed, wait at least one month (about the time the mare is usually in "heat") to make an appointment with your veterinarian. The veterinarian can confirm whether your mare is indeed pregnant or not. Most breeders do offer guarantees, so that if the mare doesn't "take," you get to try again until she does. Once the breeding is confirmed, it is safe to continue exercising and riding the mare. Most can be ridden up until they are scheduled to deliver, depending on the mare's health.


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