Everybody loves a foal and many horse owners want the experience of breeding their mare and raising a baby from the ground up. But, like any animal, breeding horses must be done responsibly. The goal is to produce a foal that has conformation, athletic ability, and a good disposition. If you don't have all of these elements, the foal's chances of finding a loving home for life are decreased. Before you breed, do your research and make sure you are making the right choices for yourself and your mare.
Q. What is HYPP and why does my mare need to be tested for it?
A. HYPP (hyperkalemic periodic paralysis) is a genetic muscular disorder causing muscle weakness and tremors, sweating and difficulty in breathing. Horses may collapse and even die. To date, it has only been found in horses with the stallion Impressive in their pedigree, so if your mare carries this bloodline, she needs to be tested. A horse who tests H/H for HYPP will pass the disease on to 100% of its offspring and is no longer registerable with the AQHA. A horse who tests N/H will pass the disease on to 50% of its offspring. The only way to stamp out this genetic defect is by limiting breeding to horses who test N/N - who do not carry this dangerous gene at all.
For this reason, all of our horses - without exception - are HYPP N/N. They do not carry the gene for HYPP, nor will their offspring. We strongly recommend that you do not breed your mare if she has not been tested and determined to be N/N.
Q. How do I determine if my mare is breeding quality?
A. Many factors come into play. The first thing to look at is conformation. Does your mare have the basics - straight legs, a nice hip and shoulder, and an overall balanced look? Some faults, like a plain head or a thicker than ideal neck, can be corrected by choosing the right stallion. However, other faults, like an upright shoulder or a very long back, are difficult to overcome and usually mean that the mare should not be bred.
Educate yourself about conformation. A mare doesn't have to be a halter winner or halter type to produce a terrific foal, but serious flaws should not be bred on.
Next, look at the mare's abilities. Does she have a show record, or has she shown significant talent in another athletic discipline, like foxhunting, polo, or team penning? Is she a good mover? Does she have a good disposition? One of the worst mistakes new breeders make is breeding a mare "to settle her down" because she is difficult to ride or handle. A mare like this doesn't need a baby - she needs hormone therapy. A mare with a poor disposition will usually produce a foal with a poor disposition. Don't take that chance.
Finally, look at the mare's pedigree. A grade (unregistered) horse should almost never be bred. The exception is if she has an outstanding performance record and this has created a market for her foals. Most people want to purchase a registered horse who can be shown in breed competition. The best candidate for breeding is a mare who has a pedigree chock full of show winners in the first two or three generations. A great resource for finding out more about your mare's pedigree is All Breed Pedigree. If you join, your search results will display show and race record information.
Q. What is the best age to breed my mare for the first time?
A. No mare should be bred prior to three years of age, even though they are physically capable of doing so. If you have an older mare (15+) who you are considering breeding for the first time, have a vet examine her to check for any issues. Like older humans, older mares have more difficulty getting pregnant and you may have additional costs as a result, but it certainly can be done.
Q. I have a mare who isn't sound to ride anymore. Is it okay to breed her?
A. The first question to ask is why is she lame? A mare with navicular disease should not be bred. The conformation faults that contribute to this problem will almost certainly breed on and produce foals who will similarly go lame at a young age. Conversely, a mare who is lame solely because of a performance injury, such as a tendon injury, or a mare who has been injured in an accident, can be an excellent broodmare. As to whether a pregnancy will stress your mare's lame leg unacceptably, only your vet can answer that question. Sometimes an injury that needs a year or more of time off can mean a perfect time to breed your performance mare. The mare gets the time off that she needs, and you get a baby without interrupting her career unnecessarily.
Q. What does it really cost to breed a mare and foal her out? What are the risks?
A. Like the question "what does it cost to own a horse," this varies greatly and luck is a big factor. You may have a mare who has an easy pregnancy and birth and requires no special care, or you may have a mare who has a lot of difficulties. Some mares are wonderful mothers from the start; others reject their foals or do not have enough milk. Foals, like human babies, can be born with physical problems requiring immediate veterinary care, up to and including surgery. It is important to set aside a substantial sum for possible veterinary costs before you decide to breed your mare.
It is also important to accept that your mare may miscarry, or you may get a foal that is stillborn or does not survive for very long. Mares can and do die foaling, although it is becoming less common due to advances in veterinary care. We do offer a live foal guarantee so that if your mare miscarries or produces a stillborn, you may get a return breeding at greatly reduced cost. However, the emotional impact of losing a foal or losing your mare is something you may not want to risk. If you simply want a baby to raise, love and work with -- we have many available for sale that are already here, alive and thriving. Think about which option is best for you.
PLEASE think about all the unwanted horses that are homless or are having to be euthanized each year before you decide to breed. As sad as it is, there has been a need for horse slaugter houses beacuse of the overpopulation by unresponsible breeders. There are to many horses out there and not enough homes for them all! Are you going to contribute to horse overpopulation or help to enhance the horse world by breeding your mare!