Breeding and Reproductive Health
Horse breeding is a multi-million dollar international industry, and some breeders earn millions in sire rights by breeding award-winning male horses. For purebred horses, careful selection of the male parent (the “sire”) and the female parent (the “dam”) is essential to successful breeding. From conception to foaling, horse breeding today is carefully managed through modern technology. Whether you are breeding horses for racing, competition or the family farm, a firm understanding of the breeding and foaling process will ensure a successful outcome.
Horse Breeding 101
Before breeding your mare, be sure she is insured. Many equine mortality policies offer major medical insurance for an additional premium. This is a smart investment should complications occur during foaling. In the unlikely event that you lose your mare, this emotional loss will not be compounded by financial loss.
While wild horses typically breed and foal in mid to late spring, domesticated breed for competition requires horses to be foaled as close to January 1st as possible for maximum competitive advantage in the Northern Hemisphere. To help stimulate the ovulation process during winter, keep your mare under barn lights to mimic a longer day. A mare signals that ovulation is occurring by urinating in the presence of a stallion and raising her tail to reveal the vulva.
Once an egg is fertilized, it will remain in the oviduct for 5.5 days before descending into the uterus; fixation will occur on day 16. By day 21, the embryo will be visible on a trans-rectal ultrasound, with a heartbeat detectable by day 23. The placenta will form around day 40 to 45 of pregnancy. The sex can be determined using ultrasound on day 70. The entire gestation process is approximately 11 months.
Advanced planning will make the foaling process go as easily as possible for both you and your mare. While some mares can handle foaling on their own, it is best for you and your veterinarian to be present in order to offer assistance if needed. While the majority of mares will foal 330 to 340 days from breeding, some may foal as early as 320 days. Mares should be immunized four weeks in advance of foaling with vaccines specifically approved for pregnant mares. These vaccines will stimulate the mare to produce antibodies, which will be passed to the foal in the mare’s colostrum.
Prior to foaling, prepare a foaling stall. Foaling happens quickly once it begins, so closely monitor your mare in the days leading up to the expected foaling date. Wrapping the mare’s tail will make it easier to see underneath the body prior to foaling. Following foaling, a mare will lick the foal to clean it and stimulate circulation. A new foal should be able to stand and get milk from its mother within an hour of birth.
We at Sound Equine Veterinary Hospital are happy to help you coordinate this important event and provide quality medical and reproductive care for your mare during the process. We have established a breeding package which includes most of the diagnostic and medical procedures necessary for successful conception.
Our breeding package includes:
• Multiple diagnostic ultrasounds and palpations to evaluate follicular development and ovulation once mare has been admitted
• Coordination of semen collection and delivery with the stallion agent
• Artificial insemination
• Boarding during insemination
• 14 days post ovulation pregnancy check
An initial physical examination with rectal palpation and diagnostic ultrasound will be performed by our licensed veterinarians to determine where your mare is in her heat cycle. At that time, your mare may need additional time or treatments to prepare her for ovulation. Near the expected time of ovulation, your mare will stay at our facility for daily monitoring of her cycle and follicular development. We will coordinate collection and delivery of the semen to our hospital to correspond with ovulation of your mare. Within hours of expected ovulation, your mare will be artificially inseminated and a follow-up diagnostic ultrasound will be performed to confirm ovulation.
The breeding package does not include any hormones or medications necessary to manipulate the heat cycle, additional laboratory diagnostics, or additional in-depth examinations or procedures. After the 14 day post ovulation pregnancy check, subsequent ultrasounds to confirm development of the fetus are not included in the breeding package.
Please call our office at 360-779-5557 for current prices. Our breeding package is quoted for one heat or estrus cycle. Note: Some mares may require more than one heat cycle to become pregnant.