The first foal of the season was born at the end of August at one of our studs. That means it’s time to start thinking about breeding your precious mare.
When you are considering breeding there are a few things to think about. Firstly consider your mare. How old is she? It is not ideal to start your breeding venture with an 18 year old maiden mare. She may have difficulty getting in foal and if she does get in foal she may have problems having your precious foal. The risks to both mare and foal over the 24 hours of foaling are high and the worst case scenario is losing both mare and foal. Breeding is not a cheap exercise so you want to give your mare and foal the best chance. A mare that has never conceived may have issues that mean she is infertile or unable to carry a foal to full term.
Then you want to decide which stallion to send your mare to. Do you want a sport horse, a galloper, a barrel racer? What colour do you want your foal? How big do you want your foal? Mares do not often get fetal-maternal disproportion but it may not be the best idea to put a Clydesdale stallion over your pony mare. And a pony stallion may not be able to serve your Clydesdale mare.
The next thing to think about is how you are going to get your mare in foal. There are a few different options. Depending on what stallion you have decided to use will often determine the method of insemination. If you want a thoroughbred to race your mare must be naturally served. Some stallions only do natural matings and some studs only hand serve mares, others will let the mare run with the stallion in the paddock. Other stallions only provide fresh semen that needs to be artificially inseminated by a veterinarian. And some stallions are no longer with us but we are fortunate enough to have access to their stored, frozen semen. The fertilisation process involves the egg leaving a follicle and being fertilised by a single sperm. Depending on the stallion and the state of the semen, the sperm will survive in the uterus between 6-48 hours. Frozen semen survives for a much shorter time than fresh semen so the process of deciding when to inseminate is much more involved. Timing is everything in the insemination process, ideally we would inseminate the mare just as she is ovulating so multiple scans are often needed to decide when to inseminate.
Safety for your mare, yourself and the vets during the scanning and insemination is also a high priority. Rectal scanning has risks for your mare that we try to minimise by using a vet crush and sedation if necessary. We have a double crush at the clinic so a mare and foal can be contained together or two mares can be next to each other. We will not scan your mare unless she is bought into the clinic or if we have viewed and ok’ed your set up.
Once the insemination has occurred it is time to keep your fingers crossed until day 15-16 when we pregnancy test. At this stage we can identify if your mare is in foal, and if there are twins (or even triplets). Multiples in mares are extremely dangerous. The foals almost never survive to full term and if they do then the mare will almost always have trouble foaling as the foals get caught up. At day 15-16 we can squeeze one embryo, popping it and allowing one foal to get to full term. Every so often a heart-felt story about twins surviving pops up in the news but this is definitely not something you want to happen to your mare.
Ideally a day 16, day 28 and a day 42 pregnancy scan should be done to assess the viability of the embryo. After this stage the chances of losing the embryo decreases rapidly.
If you are considering breeding from your mare get in touch with Andrew, Sam or Sophie to have a chat about the process.
Pictured below are Emma and Sophie scanning a mare at the RVC clinic and a 16 day pregnancy scan.