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FAQ Getting Your Mare Pregnant by Jamie Anderson

How much will it cost to put my mare in foal?

This depends on a number of factors, and is very difficult to put a figure on. You should always budget for 2-3 cycles of attempts, rather than just a single cycle. Even with fresh, fertile semen, on a young, fertile mare things do not always go to plan.

Expect basic costs of £280-£400 per cycle, and budget for at least 2 cycles.

Is my mare in foal?

It’s not possible for anyone to tell for certain from a photo, or even from seeing the mare in person for an external examination. A blood test and/or ultrasound scan are the only things that will confirm the mare’s pregnancy status for you.

Try not to ask friends, family or post photos on forums asking this question. It will not provide you with any useful answers and may wind you up if you are told something you were hoping not to hear!

My mare is difficult/chronically lame, should I put her in foal?

You should discuss this carefully with your vet. Difficult behaviour and chronic lameness may be due to your mare’s genetics, in which case she is probably not a good candidate for breeding.

Is my mare too old to have a foal?

This is extremely difficult to answer. Mares’ fertility declines from around 12 years old, but unlike humans, equines do not go through a “menopause” or anything similar.

Generally we do not recommend putting mares in foal past their 17th year (foaling in their 18th) although a number of people breed from their mares well into their 20s.

Get your stud vet to give your mare a thorough breeding examination and general health check, and talk through the options with them. This will give you the answers you need to make a sound decision.

Is my mare too young to have a foal?

Although many fillies are fertile from 6-8 months old, they are not normally physically or psychologically mature enough to carry and raise a foal until they are 3 years old. Some 2 year old mares may be mature enough to be bred, but it will be extremely dependant on the individual mare.

Consult your vet and ask their opinion.

Is my mare too fat/skinny to get in foal?

Mares that are underweight or overweight will be more difficult to get in foal. Fat mares are often more difficult than skinny mares, although neither condition is ideal for a broodmare. Body condition score should be maintained at around 5-6, but no more than 7.

Please consult your vet if you are worried about your mare’s weight/body condition.

My mare can only get pregnant via natural covering

This is one of the many breeding myths. Mares put into this category generally suffer from delayed uterine clearance (DUC), a condition that requires minor veterinary treatment when the mare is not being exposed to the breeding stallion.

Judicious use of an exogenous hormone called oxytocin will generally help these mares get in foal.

Why should I use artificial insemination (AI) rather than natural cover?

AI is safer. Removing one animal from the breeding operation removes 4 legs and one set of teeth. It requires fewer handlers, and generally results in a calmer and safer experience for handlers and horses alike.

AI gives you a wider range of stallions to choose from. AI allows you to use stallions from anywhere around the world without your mare having to leave home.

AI helps to prevent disease transmission. The whole process becomes cleaner and more controlled, and the semen can be treated with antibiotics before being inseminated. This reduces the chance of fertility-affecting diseases like CEM being transferred compared to natural cover scenarios.

AI is more effective. A well managed AI programme will produce higher pregnancy rates than a natural cover mating. Semen can be analysed prior to being inseminated allowing problems at the stallion’s end to be identified and managed well before they would be in a natural cover scenario.

How long will she have to stay at stud?

This will vary tremendously depending on your mare, and the fertility of semen that is being used to get her pregnant.

From time of arrival to insemination will be approximately 1-3 weeks. You can then take your mare home, or leave her at the stud for her 14 day scan onwards.

If you take your mare away from most studs, and she is not pregnant, you will have to get a new set of blood tests and swabs done before she can be readmitted. So it may be a false economy to take her away before the 14 day scan.

How often will she be scanned when she is at stud?

This will depend on the individual mare’s requirements. Normally in the first few days, your mare will be scanned every other day to establish where she is in her cycle. As she approaches ovulation she may be scanned 2 or even 3 times per day in order to inseminate at the ideal time.

For frozen semen inseminations even more regular scanning may be required, and your mare could be scanned every 4-6 hours over a 12-24+ hour period.

Should I go for fresh or chilled semen?

The vast majority of stallions have semen which chills well. As long as the stallion’s semen is being handled properly by a well trained technician practising high standards, then the difference in fertility between fresh and chilled semen from any one stallion will be minimal.

Some stallions have semen that chills poorly, and for these stallions using fresh semen is the best option. The stud should be able to give advice on the stallion’s suitability for having his semen chilled.

Just remember that fresh semen has a very short life outside of the mare – and needs to be inside the mare within 4-6 hours of being collected and extended.

What do I need to do when I get my mare back from stud?

Depending on which point you bring the mare back from stud, you may need to get some more scans done. Ultrasound scans should be performed at 14, 28 or 35, and 50-60 days from the date of ovulation. These will help to monitor the embryo’s progress and ensure that any twin pregnancies are dealt with.

Beyond scanning, consult with your vet with regards to vaccinations, worming, exercise and nutrition.

How soon will the vet be able to see the pregnancy?

Early stage pregnancy should be visible by ultrasound from 14 days onward (10-11 days with a high quality scanner and an experienced vet).

Pregnancy can be palpated by an experience vet from 18 days onward

When should my mare be scanned?

14 days, 28 days, and 50-60 days are the normal scanning dates for pregnancy detection and twin management. If twins are detected at 14 days, then additional scans and treatment may be necessary.

When will I be able to see the foal’s heartbeat?

The heartbeat starts to become visible from 24 days onward.

Why is it so important to detect and deal with twin pregnancies?

The equine uterus is not designed to carry multiple pregnancies. If a twin pregnancy is allowed to progress then in most cases it will cause pregnancy loss. In fact, twinning is the leading cause of late-term abortion and the second biggest cause of embryonic loss in the early stages of pregnancy.

Twin pregnancies must be dealt with by day 28 after ovulation, as after that stage it is likely that both pregnancies will have to be terminated, and the mare may not cycle again until up to 100 days later which could mean missing the whole rest of the breeding season.

Does artificial insemination produce the same quality of offspring as natural covering?

The method with which semen is put into the uterus has no bearing on the quality of the foals that are produced. Which sperm reaches the egg first is a fairly random process, and is not affected (positively or negatively) by the breeding method.

Of course, AI has a number of distinct advantages over natural covering, and so you may prefer artificial insemination for these reasons.

Do I really need to get my mare scanned/ultrasounded?

Yes. The most reliable way to detect pregnancy is via an ultrasound scan. Scanning will also allow you to detect twin pregnancies which, if not dealt with, have the potential to cause severe complications later in pregnancy.

Why do I need to get my mare EVA (Equine Viral Arteritis) tested?

EVA can cause enormous problems when transmitted to pregnant mares and stallions. All mares and stallions entering studs should be EVA negative or EVA vaccinated (annually) in order to ensure that EVA is not introduced to the resident and/or visiting population at a stud. It is a notifiable disease under UK law, and farms/studs found to have horses with EVA will be quarantined by DEFRA.

Why do I need to get my mare swabbed for CEM (Contagious Equine Metritis)?

The recent CEM outbreak in the United States shows just how difficult life can become if CEM gets into a breeding population. It can cause fertility problems and potentially abortion in mares, and can be difficult to eradicate from stallions, who become carriers of the CEM organism. It is a notifiable disease under UK law, and farms/studs found to have horses with CEM will be quarantined by DEFRA.

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