Breeding performance horses is a complex business. And an expensive one.

In Australia, it’s not unusual for owners of mares to pay ‘service fees’ of up to $200,000 to have them mated with or ‘covered by’ stallions.

The average stallion may cover 30 mares in a season but the more prolific ones could cover as many as 200 between September 1 and late November.

Like any purchases of that size, it demands a lot of research and a great deal of care to protect your investment.

Consideration needs to be given to your choice of female (broodmare) and male horse (stallion).

Examine their lineage, their bloodlines as well as their racing record.

Many horses are owned by syndicates so you’ll likely need the approval of more than just one individual.

In simplistic terms, you’ll want to pair the best possible broodmare and stallion to produce the highest quality foal for racing and later breeding.

But genetics has shown to be responsible for as little as 25% of a horse’s achievements.

The rest is attributed to other factors such as training, nutrition and the intangible – that dash of luck or magic that some horses have and others don’t.

Crossing lineages has also proven to be beneficial in reducing defects in foals and improving their attributes.

Here are the key tips to consider if you’re thinking about breeding horses.

Horse breeding: Thoroughbreds vs Standardbreds

Thoroughbred horses are bred for racing because of their superior speed, power, spirit and longer legs than Standardbreds which are suited for pacing, trotting and equestrian competition.

Strict rules about their breeding methods dictate that thoroughbreds must be bred through ‘live cover’ or naturally occurring mating.

Conversely, Standardbreds may be artificially inseminated.

The breeding season begins in Australia on September 1 with the normal period of gestation being 11 months.

Your Mare

When considering a mare for breeding, explore her dam line and determine whether her dam had any other successful foals.

This will likely add value and demand for your future foal.

Having your mare examined by an equine veterinarian to evaluate her health and a recommendation for breeding is a must.

Your vet will ensure she is mentally and physically fit as well as examining her reproductive health, her feet and teeth.

They can also assess your mare’s key attributes and advise on the type of stallion best suited for mating.

Mares must be at least 18 months to breed but ideally at least four years old by which time they have reached maturity.

Choosing a Stallion

First, think about the kind of horse you want to breed, considering colour, size, discipline and temperament.

Wherever possible, personally visit the stallion as well as some of the horses it has sired.

Talk to other breeders about their experiences with this sire and check their records.

Examine the potential sire’s dam line for past successes as well as his fertility rate at stud.

Learn as much as you can about the potential suitor and have a vet conduct genetic testing and a thorough examination to identify any genetic disorders or health issues.

Nutrition for healthy horse breeding

Broodmares need nothing but the best.

That means premium feed with all the vitamins and minerals to keep them and their foal in peak condition.

Don’t overfeed them in the first trimester and ensure they have sufficient fresh water (up to 30 litres per day).

Your vet can help you create a nutrition plan to follow.

Exercise through the breeding period

Keeping your broodmare fit and healthy with regular pasture activity will increase the chances of an incident-free foaling.

This maintains muscle and joint health as well as mental wellbeing and guards against obesity and boredom.

She may be ridden periodically up to nine months but should be allowed to rest beyond that time.

Disease prevention during horse breeding

Your vet will need to administer the equine herpesvirus-1 vaccine after five, seven and nine months of gestation as well as the tetanus and herpes vaccines at 10 months to protect the foal.

Quarantine any new horses from your mare to prevent the spread of any infectious diseases and ensure all of your facilities and equipment are properly sanitised.

Contact us today

It is often cheaper to buy a foal than to breed one.

But if you are determined to enter the breeding game, you’ll want to make every post a winner.

That means engaging the services of an experienced equine veterinarian to help you and your broodmare every step of the way.

From assessing the suitability of the dam and sire to pre and postnatal visits, your vet is your most important ally in any breeding exercise.

At Newmarket Equine, we provide a dedicated service to the thoroughbred racing industry, Australian polo as well as private horse owners, with a long and proud history based around the excellence of our staff.

Our vets are experienced in all matters including medical, reproduction and quarantine procedures.

We always use state-of-the-art equipment including digital radiology, digital ultrasound, shock wave therapy, video endoscopy and IRAP processing. 

Contact us today to book an appointment.

The information contained in this article is general in nature and does not take into account your horse’s individual needs. You should consider whether the information is appropriate to your horse’s needs, and seek professional advice from a qualified vet.

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