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Questions to Ask your Vet before Breeding

Deciding to breed your horse is a big step, and chances are you have a few questions that you want answered. Whether this is your first or fiftieth time, you don’t know it all. So here are some of the most commonly asked questions- and answers that we have found in our own breeding adventures. It is important to remember that every horse and situation is different, so ask your vet about your own specific case.


At what age can I breed a mare?

Typically, you should wait at least 2 or 3 years to breed your mare. An examination by your vet will be able to determine the probability for a successful pregnancy.

 
How long is a mare’s cycle?

Typically the length between one ovulation and another is 21 days. There is a conception window of about a week that you will need to make contact in to ensure the best results. Your vet can help guide you in the right direction to help you determine how long your particular mare is in heat.


Can I breed a mare after they have had vaccines, or do I have to wait a certain period of time?

There are certain vaccines that could actually be damaging to a pregnancy- so most vets would recommend that you wait at least 6 weeks before attempting conception. Discuss this with your vet at the pre-pregnancy check up to find out if this is the case with your mare.

 
Should I try for natural conception or artificial insemination?

This particular question depends on the location of the mare and stallion. To try for a natural conception, they will both need to be in the same place at the same time for a certain period of time. If you plan on breeding your mare to a male out of state, then artificial insemination is going to be your best choice. Of course AI is going to cost you more than a natural conception, so make sure to factor that into your budget. In any given cycle a typical mare/stallion pair has a 50% shot at conception the natural way and a slightly higher chance, about 10-15% more using AI.


How can I tell if my mare is pregnant?

If you are in tune with your mares heat schedule, you may be able to tell as early as 21 days. If they fail to go into heat again, then a possible pregnancy can be suspected. Your vet can also determine pregnancy via palpitation or ultrasound. Most vets prefer to wait at least 15 days before performing an ultrasound, just to make sure that there is actually something to see.


How long does a mare gestate for?

Just like with humans, there is no set gestation period. The typical pregnancy ranges from 320-370 days, but this can be more or less depending on your mare. The longest pregnancy on record has been 417 days, while the shortest is about 300 days. If the fowl is born before 300 days, they will likely not be viable. If the fowl stays in the uterus for longer than 370 days, they may begin to suffer from growth retardation and actually end up smaller than their full term counterparts.


What tests should be done prior to attempting conception?

The better prepared you are for mating; the higher your chances are for success. A typical mare can be pregnant for 11 months, which can put a great deal of stress on her body. So, it is important that you get a complete checkup, and do all that you can to make her as healthy as possible prior to conception. Discuss with your doctors vaccines, feed, and medications that your mare may require throughout the course of her pregnancy. A physical exam should also take place to help pinpoint any problems early on. Your vet will likely examine the external genitals and feel the cervix, uterus, and ovaries to make sure they are healthy. Many vets will also order an ultrasound examination to make sure that everything is in working order. While it may cost a bit more up front, it could save you a great deal of time and money in the long run. If your vet finds anything out of the ordinary, they may order additional tests to determine the likelihood of conception.

The stallion should also get a complete checkup complete with sperm analysis. This will help ensure that you are able to have a healthy conception.


What is the best time of year to breed my mare?

This depends on your particular type of horse. Generally, horses are seasonal breeders and are usually ready for conception in the spring months. So- aiming to breed your horse between May and August will lead to the best possible results. If you have a horse that will be used for racing, you may want to actually breed your mare earlier in the year to gain an advantage. Early breeding may require the use of lights (see next question)


Should I put my mare under lights, why? And when should I do this?

Your mare doesn’t have an actual clock that tells them when to start ovulating. The trigger is the amount of sunlight that they are exposed to. In the spring the days get longer, thus triggering her internal biological clock. If you want to breed your mare earlier in the year- like January or February then you will need to start exposing her to a total of 16 hours of artificial sunlight a day starting in November or December. Approximately 60 days later, your mare will begin to cycle. Discuss your options with your vet.

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