WRANGLING ON THE RANGE #160
10 QUESTIONS ... to ask before breeding.
Prepare for breeding season with these discussion topics.
By Laura Stevens
When spring arrives, so do foals, bringing with them promise and
the potential of a new Paint Horse partner For first-time
breeders or even experienced "pros," just the thought of breeding
a special mare might seem overwhelming. Tanis MacDonald, D.VM.,
offers these talking points to consider with your veterinarian
1. How can I estimate the cost of breeding my mare?
It's no secret that breeding is time consuming and often
expensive, so Tanis recommends mare owners discuss the fees
associated with pregnant mare care with their veterinarian
upfront. This can help eliminate "surprise" fees later, she says.
"I think a lot of people are focused on just the stud fee, which
is often the cheapest part of the whole breeding process," Tanis
said. Farm call fees, ultrasounds and shipped semen can add up
fast. Have a candid discussion with your veterinarian to
determine if breeding is a viable financial choice.
2. Does my mare require a breeding soundness evaluation?
Before you pick out that dream stallion, you'll want clearance
from your veterinarian that your mare is healthy enough to
withstand the breeding process. A basic check-up, including blood
work, can assess her overall health, but your veterinarian might
also suggest a closer look at her reproductive abilities. A
typical breeding soundness evaluation will examine the
conformation of a mare's vulva and tailhead, and takes an
ultrasound of the reproductive tract.
Although these can be performed the fall preceding breeding
season, Tanis suggests clients wait until 30 days before breeding
to have their vet perform a uterine culture. That 30-day window
allots time to resolve any potential uterine infections, Tanis
3. Will my mare need extra veterinary appointments?
Your vet should discuss appointments like 90-day and five-month
palpations, plus a pre-foaling vaccine around the 10th month.
"A lot of the vaccines for broodmares take the place of regular
spring vaccines for most mares," Tanis noted. "So it's not
necessarily different for people, it just changes the timing."
4. Do I need to alter my mare's feeding program?
Good nutrition is key in any horse's performance, and a broodmare
is no different. Asking this question before breeding can help to
eliminate any vitamin or mineral deficiencies that could pose a
risk to either mare or fetus.
"It doesn't necessarily mean you have to change what you're
feeding, but discussing your current nutrition program with you
vet is important," Tanis said.
5. What flaws in my mare should 1 take into account when
choosing a stallion?
"You definitely do not want to choose a stallion who has the same
flaws as your mare," Tanis emphasized. "For example, if your mare
has a long back, you should stay away from a stallion who also
has a long back."
6. What strengths might my mare contribute to a foal?
As important as your mare's weaknesses are her strengths, Tanis
"From a veterinary standpoint, we like to see things like
straight legs and short backs things that generally lead to
overall soundness," she said.
Although certain stallions' movement or color might catch your
eye, Tanis urges mare owners not to overlook basic form to
function. Ask your veterinarian to highlight some of your mare's
best characteristics, and choosing the right stallion will become
7. What time of year should 1 breed my mare?
Halter or performance breeders who plan to enter their young
stock in futurities usually prefer foaling dates earlier in the
year, while others might prefer foals to be born in late spring.
"Spring is definitely the natural time for mares to have babies,"
Tanis explained "It just depends on what your goals are."
8. What worst-case scenarios should I anticipate?
For clients interested in breeding their mare, Tanis encourages
them to consider the occasionally unpleasant side of breeding:
illness for either mare or foal and its ensuing expense.
Asking the "what if" questions-and deciding early on your
hypothetical action-might ease your mind.
"You should at least be thinking about how you'd handle the
worst-case scenario financially before you are confronted with
it," Tanis said.
9. How will breeding affect my mare's performance career?
While breeding probably won't end your mare's performance career,
it will put her out of commission for several months-and
rightfully so, Tanis says.
"I always tell people that for the most part, you can ride until
the six-month mark," Tanis said. After that point, girths and
saddle might not fit, resulting in a mare who doesn't enjoy being
10. How should I plan for foaling?
Before breeding, ask your veterinarian if he or she will be on
call during foaling season-this could drastically alter your
horsekeeping plans. Some veterinarians might prefer your mare
live at a vet clinic or hospital toward the end of her pregnancy.
If you're uncomfortable handling foaling by yourself, consider
asking your vet for a recommendation of a breeding farm.
Laura Stevens is assistant editor of the Paint Horse Connection.
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