There is a real science to foaling that takes into account available breeding partners, seasons of the year, breed and the career of the much desired foal.
Let’s start with the basics. The gestational period for a mare is 11 months, give or take a few weeks. While that seems like a lot of time in which to get organised the majority of planning needs to be done before your mare is impregnated. We’ve broken it down into the top three categories below to help you determine when the time will be right.
Prior to your mare’s impregnation take the time to give your girl an all over health check-up. Have her cleared for worms, parasites and make sure she is not too much on the lean side. She is of course going to spend the better part of the year pregnant.
Seasons throughout the year have a major impact on when your mare falls pregnant. Given that the gestational period is just under a year and your mare may not fall pregnant on the first cycle you will need to be working several months ahead of your ideal period for gestation. If you aren’t breeding for any specific career or eventing calendar then you can let nature take its course and have your mare foal in spring. This gives your foal the majority of the year to grow before their first winter. A winter born foal requires experience by the owner or stable team and access to a vet or vet hospital should any complications arise. The last thing you want is a distressed mare in labour and bad weather to keep any assistance at bay. Summer lends a different hand of issues with a mare heavily pregnant in the heat. This not only increases her discomfort but you will also need to consider if she foals outdoors, then you will need to provide plenty of shade for the new foal and ensure that flies don’t become a problem for both new mum and her foal.
Managing a pregnant mare during the different seasons of the year will also require changes to her diet and supplements to maintain a healthy size and condition. Additional vitamins and hay may need to be increased during the last 90 days of the gestational period to assist the foal. A mare that in on the thinner side will have a slightly longer gestational period whilst a mare who carries too much additional weight can have problems with milk supply.
Your Foals Career
So depending on the intended career of your foal to be you will need to actively manage your mare’s gestation on your eventing calendar. Most foals born for a life of racing are born early in the year (Northern Hemisphere) in time for the horses birthday which is January 1st and through to February. This ensures that come key eventing and racing calendars they are at the ideal age. Take into account however that if you do live in the Northern Hemisphere you may need to manipulate your mares cycle to encourage her heat phase. Your veterinarian can assist you in helping simulate that spring time heat feeling. In the Southern Hemisphere August 1st is the horses’ birthday so spring is very much in favor for Mother Nature and a little human intervention to do their thing.
So how do you find your mares’ perfect match? Starting at the beginning it’s all about the future of your intended foal, your budget and location. Is your mare from good bloodlines and registered? When it comes to registries choosing a stallion from the same registry will ease registration of you foal at a later date. Much like a human partner try and pick a stallion that will have the genetics to improve any of your mares lesser attributes. This is a great way to build a bloodline and strengthen it. Equally if you are after a great racing or eventing horse then having the opportunity to mate with a natural born athlete will go a long way in ensuring your foals success.
Depending on the stallion you plan on selecting first check with the owner on availability times throughout the year. Many stallions are still competing throughout the year so your gestational calendar may be affected by this. Booking in advance with a stallion owner may not only secure you a discount but can help you time and plan around your mare’s heat cycles. Giving yourself adequate planning time also ensures the best match possible between stallion and mare and more importantly you won’t be rushed sorting out contracts and paperwork between owners.
Artificially inseminating (AI) your mare with frozen sperm is becoming more and more common. This may be due to the stallion you intend to breed with not being local or even their competing schedule. Double check with the stallion owner prior to signing a contract if they ship semen and how to go about it. The last thing you want to do is find your semen bailed up in shipping or customs.
Lastly, ensure you have an experienced veterinarian if you are going to go down the AI path. This will not only guarantee you experience and advice but can be cheaper in the long run as opposed to using a veterinarian that is doesn’t do it very often in their day to day work.
So even through the gestational period of a mare is quite lengthy there is so much leg work to get through prior to your mare becoming pregnant and so many different scenarios to weigh up. If you are a novice with both foals and pregnant mares then seek advice from someone and be prepared the additional work. Once you have experienced a few then you will feel a lot more confident with breeding down the track.
This article brought to you by Abler, Affordable because we focus only on horse medication