By: Marta Davis-Tetrault Powers, D.V.M
“Nearly everybody gets twitterpated in the springtime.”
– Owl, Bambi (1942) Walt Disney Company
There is almost nothing more heartwarming than a newborn foal as it stands and nurses for the first time. For a horse owner, watching a foal grow, learn, and develop a personality can be one of the most satisfying experiences associated with caring for horses. The desire for this experience inspires many to contemplate breeding a mare.
With that in mind, it is also vital to realize the path to the birth of a foal can also be fraught with exasperation, irritation, financial commitment, and sadness. There are many things to consider, learn, and prepare.
One of the most important things to contemplate is your expectation for the experience. Breeding a mare, having a healthy pregnancy, and the birth of a viable foal is not always as simple as throwing a mare in with a stallion for a while. Success can be influenced by many factors not readily visible to even the most observant eye. Additionally, it is important to remember every horse is an individual and what works for one mare may not work for another. A young healthy mare’s likelihood of conceiving is far greater than an older maiden mare with medical issues. Because of this, working with your veterinarian can help avoid many frustrating moments, vexing expenses, and disappointment.
Before diving into a breeding program, your mare must be up to date on core vaccinations, be on a balanced diet, and have her teeth examined and floated if needed. You want your mare in optimum health to give her the best chance possible of conceiving and carrying a foal to term. Once you have decided to breed a mare it is important to schedule a pre-breeding examination. The goal of this appointment is to identify any current or potential problems your mare might have that could negatively affect her fertility. Potential complications can be treated or prevented and a more accurate prognosis for conception and pregnancy can be discussed. When you arrive for your mare’s appointment it is useful to bring any questions you have as well as her medical history including vaccinations, prior illnesses or surgeries, current medications/supplements, and breeding history. During the general examination your mare will be assessed on body condition (ideally a 5 on a 1-9 Henneke scale), dental health, health of coat, muscling, conformation, and musculoskeletal health.
Additionally, a specific reproductive examination will be performed during the pre-breeding appointment. This exam will include an evaluation of your mare’s perineal region, vulvar and vaginal conformation, mammary anatomy, as well as palpation and ultrasonographic imaging of her cervix, uterus, and ovaries. Depending on the examination findings, further diagnostics and treatment will be discussed during the appointment.
If you are thinking of breeding your mare, please call and speak to your veterinarian today.