It is an important factor in today’s horse ownership to think
about responsible breeding. With
the market the way it is right now, over breeding is a major problem.
People talk all the time about “Unwanted horses”, well I
personally believe that there are no true “unwanted horses”, just
horses who were unlucky enough to be born at a time when the market is
down and people don’t consider what to do with the babies they produce
every year. So what factors should we consider when breeding?
What are ways that we can be responsible about breeding?
I will do my best to help shed some light on this subject.
If you have recently bought a mare or stallion, the question of
whether or not to breed your horse will come up.
There are many factors to consider when this question arises.
I will go through each one and make suggestions to help you make
The most important thing you need to do when deciding on whether
or not to breed a stallion or mare is to find out as much as you can
about your horse. You need
to know whether or not he/she is registered, whether there are any
genetic anomalies in your horse’s bloodlines, and what his/her
temperament is. In my
honest opinion, horses that are not registered should not be bred unless
there is a very valid reason (i.e. world champion in their discipline,
etc). Most buyers
specifically look for horses that are registered.
It is a sad truth that many wonderful grade horses are over
looked because of their lack of bloodlines.
Bloodlines are not everything, but a horse’s future is much
brighter if they are registered. You
should also never breed a horse with a history of genetic defects, or
one that is a carrier for genetic defects.
Such genetic defects include:
HyPP, HERDA, OWLS, major conformational defects, etc. Horses with
these disorders often lead a shorter, miserable life, if they live at
all. Testing of the horse
should be done to be absolutely positive that they are clear of as many
of these disorders as possible. That
leaves us with temperament. Horses,
like humans, pass on their temperament to their offspring.
If you have an evil-tempered horse, you do not want to bring an
equally evil tempered or worse tempered horse into the world.
A horse with a bad temperament is very hard to place because
people do not and cannot trust them.
Now it is time to consider is whether or not to geld a stallion.
Stallions come in a variety of temperaments and one of the first
issues that arise is trying to find lodging for them.
A stallion with a wonderful temperament can be a valuable asset,
but many stables do not have the fencing and arrangements to handle
stallions, even the best-behaved stallions. Stallions need a very secure pen, often higher than a normal
horse’s pen, because many will go to great lengths to reach a mare in
heat. They also need people
who are aware of how to handle stallions around at all times.
Many boarding stables just do not have the manpower to have
someone on staff just for the stallions.
They also have to consider the mares that belong to the other
boarders at the stable. One
mischance could ruin their reputation.
If you will have to board your horse, it is better for everyone
involved to have him gelded, unless the stable is set up to handle
The next thing you must
consider is if your stallion is made to be a producing stallion. You need to have a great conformation, bloodlines, attitude,
and meet all the requirements of a breed registry.
Stallions who do not fit the requirements for their breed should
be gelded. You also have to
decide what your plan is for your stallion.
A breeding stallion can be shown, but sometimes a stallion has
trouble focusing on his job in the show ring, especially if there is a
mare in heat somewhere on the premises.
You will have to decide if you would rather have a good show
horse, or a stallion with limited showing or lower scores, both of which
can lower your stallion’s breeding fee and the quality of the mares
that owners will want to breed to your stallion.
You will also have to consider your breeding schedule, fees,
housing for the mares to be bred, the number of mares to be bred,
contracts for breeding, and the reams of paperwork that go with breeding
a registered stallion. You
must remember that a stallion will not bring in large amounts of money
until his offspring begin showing and proving him as a sire through
their earnings and number of wins.
If your stallion does not have something that stands above the
rest, you will be just another back yard breeder struggling to break
Mares are slightly easier to make decisions for.
They usually do not have the drive to breed that stallions do.
Although on occasion you will find a mare that has that same or
similar drive to breed. With
mares, you can also consider one of the ways to temporarily, or
permanently, change their breeding cycles.
Mares can be given shots to control their heat cycles, have a
procedure called marbleling done (a sterile glass marble is inserted
into the uterus to mimic pregnancy in the mare. This
is a short-term procedure that must be repeated.), or the mare can be
spayed (Spaying a mare is a much safer procedure than it was in the
past. Today when a mare is
spayed, sterile zip ties can be used and smaller incisions are made,
making the surgery less dangerous to the mare.
Spaying typically runs around the $3000 price range depending on
where you live and if your local vet is set up to do the surgery.).
You still have to consider some of the same issues as stallions,
such as, registration, bloodlines, conformation, temperament, breeding
fees, and whether or not you plan to show your mare (mares are often
retired before they are bred.). The
extra issues you have to consider are where your mare will have the foal
(you must have a large enough foaling stall for the mare), special care
and feed for your mare and foal, and the future of the foal (will you
keep it, sale it, etc?). You
also need to consider the age of your mare when you are deciding whether
or not to breed your mare. You
don’t want your mare to be too young (horses take up to five years to
reach their full growth. Breeding
before their growth is completed is like asking a child to have a
baby.), or too old (breeding a mare after the age of 20 is like asking a
woman in her 40s or 50s to have a baby, it is difficult on the mare and
the foal and many complications can occur.).
How can we be responsible about breeding?
After considering whether or not your horse is suitable for
breeding, you need to determine what you can do to breed responsibly. You want to make sure that whatever foal you bring into the
world, whether it belongs to you and your mare, or is a result of
breeding your stallion, has a home.
Do not breed unless
you plan to keep the foal for the remainder of its life, you plan to
have a contract that states that you will take the foal back at any
point in it’s life, or if you have a guaranteed forever home for the
foal. This will protect the
foal from slaughter and most likely from neglect.
If you have a stallion, limit the number of breedings each year
and limit those to the best possible matches of mares.
Chose only the best stallion for your mare.
Be selective and breed for quality rather than quantity.
More than anything, be sure that you are breeding for the right
reason, for the continuance of the individual breed and the breed
Remember, breeding your mare or stallion is a huge
responsibility. You are
responsible for the life of your foal.
If your foal ends up in a neglect or abuse situation, you are
ultimately responsible because you chose to bring that foal into the
by Brandi M. Qualset, 2007