Broodmares are what people in the equine industry use to refer to female horses that produce foals. Often, breeders will choose specific mares due to their physical attributes or athletic skills. Some may even have admirable coloring, patterns or simply come from a strong line of horses. First, keep in mind that not all mares should be broodmares. There are reasons to breed and also ones not to.
When you decide to breed your mare, remember that it isn’t always a simple process. Yes, you have to breed her, wait eleven months for a foal, then raise it, but it is still a bigger decision than that. There are risks and costs involved in breeding your horse with a stallion. So, before you embark on it, this article is going to shed some light on breeding season and what you can expect.
What Is Horse Breeding Season?
Very simply, breeding season is the time of year when horses are more likely to reproduce. It has everything to do with reproductive timing and as long as you understand that, you should be able to get a clear idea of what breeding season is all about. Horses go into season during the spring and summer. In other words, they are long-day breeders.
When reproductive timing is natural and left alone, horses will have their cycles naturally in spring or summer; however, people do manipulate it. This happens because most want their foals to be born at the beginning of the year. If this is what you want, then you have to start breeding the horse in the winter or fall months. You really have to time out the breeding season when you need the foal to be born at a certain time. It is going to take hard work and diligence.
Why Follow the Guidelines for Horse Breeding?
As we said, there is so much that you have to take into account when it comes to breeding your horse. You can take it on in a series of steps, but there are risks along with the rewards. It is complicated, and as long as you respect that and go through the process correctly, you should not have too many problems. Here are some of the things you will have to consider, however.
If you want to have your foal at a certain time of year (at the beginning of the year, for instance), you have to consider when you are going to breed your horse and how this is going to fit into her natural breeding season. In addition, you have to look into your horse’s health. If your horse is not healthy enough to breed, then you’re only going to cause her distress and possibly harm her.
Additionally, during the breeding season, both mares and stallions can exhibit some aggressive behavior. You need to make sure that you are safe, and so are your horses. For the safety of everyone involved, it is important that you follow some guidelines, especially if you have never dealt with horses during breeding season before. The standards aren’t here to make things more complicated, but instead, to protect you and your animals.
What to Know About Horse Breeding Season
Let’s start with reproductive timing and why it’s so important for you to understand in order to breed your horse. If you cannot identify the key facts or behaviors involved with a mare in heat, then you may not be able to breed her. You have to know what you’re doing, and you have to be very conscious of your animal.
If you think that breeding season is coming or if you plan to provoke it yourself, then you need to go through a few things first.
The very first thing that you need to do before you even consider breeding your mare is to have her checked out by a veterinarian. He or she will have to examine your horse to decide whether your horse is fit to breed. The examination usually involves external inspection and internal.
If your horse needs it, a veterinarian may opt to do a uterine biopsy, an endoscopy or a measurement of reproductive hormones.
The point of this examination is to determine whether or not your mare is fit to breed or if she may have problems breeding or birthing a foal. If there are any limits to her fertility or serious issues, you will find out during the examination. If the vet suggests that she does not breed, then you should always heed professional advice. If she is clear for breeding, then it’s time to continue forward.
Temperament and Purpose
What is your goal when breeding your horse? If your horse performs a specific job, such as hunting, endurance or driving and you want her foal to be able to perform similarly, then you will have to take extra care in the stallion you choose. In addition to selecting a strong mate who will balance out her flaws, you need to think about temperament. Some temperament is genetic. Therefore, you want to make sure that each horse has a good disposition. Are they horses that are easy to work with? Are they timid or confident? Do they scare easily? You need to take all of this into account.
When Is Breeding Season?
Horses come into their breeding season as the days begin to increase in length. Mares are polyestrous and have multiple estrous cycles in the spring and summer. Mares go into estrous due to the changing days. This means that most mares will not go into season during fall or winter. They have light receptors in the back of their eyes. These light receptors signal the brain for the pituitary gland to release hormones that start the estrous cycle. Once the mare reaches her estrous cycle, she will normally be in estrous for about 22 days. As far as fertility is concerned, mares are generally more fertile in midsummer.
This does not mean that people have not figured out a way to manipulate the cycle. In fact, it is common practice to make sure that your horse foals close to the first of the year. One way of doing this is to put the mare under lights. Breeders will add extra light so that it will stimulate the receptors in the horse’s eyes. Usually, 16 hours of light is adequate, and it can be artificial and natural. You need to have a bright light at least 200 watts and make sure to add it at the end of the day. This will make it seem more natural for the horse. Keep in mind that it can take about eight to 10 weeks to put your horse into cycle.
Your vet may also prescribe hormonal drugs that may help. In fact, if you are putting your mare under lights, veterinarians will often give them a treatment to help boost it towards the end of the light treatment.
Breeding Season Behavior
There are two periods involved in the estrous cycle. First, there is the estrus, the time that the mare is in heat, and the diestrus. The estrus lasts for about three to seven days, whereas the diestrus lasts between 14 and 18 days. During diestrus, your mare will not be receptive to the stallion. One of the rules that people go by is to breed their horse on the third day of estrus and every other day until they go out of estrus.
When a mare is in estrus, she will be more receptive to the stallion. She may actively seek him out or stay close to him. During diestrus, the mare will kick out at the stallion.
The signs you should look out for when it comes to your mare being in estrus are as follows:
On the other hand, if she is in diestrus, she will act as follows:
If you’re unsure about where your mare is in her cycle, you can use a teasing stallion. You introduce the horse in a safe environment where the mare and stallion cannot have full contact, not to mention the handler is also safe and observes the mare’s behavior towards him.
When you do breed, it’s important to remember that you are not going to get an exact replica of your horse. No trait is a guaranteed trait.
Conclusion: Horse Breeding Should Be Done Responsibly
Knowing about the breeding season is a huge part of learning how to produce a foal. In nature, horse breeding season is in the summer and spring months. This is due to the light, and the only way that you can replicate it is to use artificial lighting at other times of the year. Keep in mind that this way is difficult and takes time.
As long as your broodmare is fit and you have a clear idea of how to handle breeding season, your foal should be healthy.