Preparing Your Mare for Breeding Season

While your mare may not be in her breeding cycle at the moment, the care you provide today will play a significant role in ensuring a successful conception in the months to come. As we anticipate the upcoming breeding season it’s prudent to engage in preparations if you’re considering breeding your mare this year. Even if your mare appears to be in good health, undertaking a breeding soundness examination conducted by a veterinarian is highly recommended. Detecting any issues well ahead of the breeding season provides ample time for corrective measures. Regardless of whether your mare has previous foaling experience, your veterinarian will meticulously assess the reproductive tract for any injuries or vulnerabilities. If your mare is advanced in age, the vet might suggest a uterine biopsy to ascertain the uterine lining’s suitability for sustaining a pregnancy.

The breeding soundness examination is typically performed on your premises and seldom necessitates sedation. However, it’s imperative that the mare remains under appropriate physical restraint throughout the process. The veterinarian will scrutinize the mare’s external genitalia to rule out any factors that could predispose her to infections. Common issues include conformational anomalies that lead to a tilted or inclined positioning of the vulvar lips, rather than perpendicular to the ground. This misalignment can result in vulvar contamination, potentially causing infections in the vagina and uterus. Additionally, certain mares tend to draw air into the vagina during movement or accumulate urine on the vaginal floor, both of which can contribute to uterine infections.

To mitigate the risk of infections, a straightforward surgical procedure known as Caslick’s suture is often employed. Under mild sedation and local anesthesia, the upper portion of the vulva is sutured shut to prevent contamination. This procedure is performed after addressing any existing infections and confirming the mare’s pregnancy. As the foaling period approaches, the veterinarian will reopen the sutured area.

Following the visual examination, the veterinarian will conduct a rectal exam to palpate the ovaries, uterus, and cervix. Given that the mare isn’t cycling during late fall and winter, ovarian activity will be minimal. Nonetheless, this examination allows for the detection of abnormalities such as tumors, an enlarged uterus (indicative of infection), and any deviations from normal cervical length and size. The assessment also considers the cervix’s mobility and absence of scarring that might indicate prior damage.

Ultrasound imaging of the ovaries, uterus, and cervix can also be carried out by inserting a small ultrasound probe into the rectum. This provides a detailed grayscale image, resembling an X-ray, displayed on a screen, akin to human fetal ultrasounds. This advanced imaging aids in gaining a comprehensive view of the organs and their internal conditions. A speculum exam of the vagina might also be conducted to examine urine pooling, inflammation, and the condition of the cervical opening.

Furthermore, the mare’s udder should undergo an evaluation to ensure the absence of teat or gland injuries, inflammation, infections, or scarring—factors that could impede effective nursing of the foal.

If the breeding facility necessitates a uterine culture to confirm the absence of infections, the veterinarian might return closer to the breeding time, coinciding with the mare’s return to cycling. In cases where the winter examination indicates an infection, the veterinarian might administer medications to induce cycling earlier. This approach facilitates cervix dilation, enabling the necessary cultures and treatments to resolve any issues before the breeding season commences.

The Role of Nutrition

Optimal nutrition significantly influences fertility and normal cycling. During the fall and early winter, it’s advisable to maintain your mare’s body condition slightly lean (though not underweight). As late winter approaches and spring draws nearer, gradually increase her feed to promote weight gain. It’s worth noting that mares prone to obesity and easy weight gain can encounter fertility challenges.

Selecting a Suitable Stallion

Utilize the winter period to meticulously assess potential stallions. Once you’ve identified one or more suitable candidates, communicate with the breeding facility to fully comprehend the requirements for incoming mares, including vaccinations, health certifications, uterine cultures, and Coggins tests. Consult with your veterinarian to schedule any necessary tests and vaccinations well in advance of your desired breeding timeframe.

Timely Preparations and Contract Review

Should your mare require vaccinations beyond the routine, it’s likely she’ll need two injections spaced two to four weeks apart to complete the series. Waiting times for culture results and the occasional delay in Coggins test outcomes necessitate allowing sufficient time for all preparatory steps before the breeding phase.

Thoroughly review your breeding contract, paying careful attention to terms and fees. Most contracts stipulate payment of the stallion fee only upon the successful birth of a live foal. Nevertheless, the criteria for a live foal’s definition may vary. Some contracts deem any breathing foal as a live one, while others require the foal to both stand and nurse successfully.

Certain contracts might involve a non-refundable booking fee, even if the actual stud fee becomes due upon foaling. Alternatively, the breeding fee might be payable at the time of breeding, with the option for a refund in the absence of a live foal or the opportunity for a free rebreeding attempt.

Furthermore, it’s vital to fully comprehend any additional costs associated with the mare’s breeding process, including ultrasound charges and related fees.

By diligently following these preparations, you’re taking essential steps to enhance the likelihood of a successful breeding season and a healthy foal in the future.

By Staff writer