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Questions about breeding? Read/Share/Post/Update here!
well, i don't have answers, but i do have a lot more questions that i wish everyone would ask themselves before horses were bred. i'm going to share my thoughts based on what i have learned from working with the folks at Welcome to Avalon Equine ~ Quality Performance Sport Horses (i have a Mannhattan baby out of my TB - now OLD NA Main Mare Book mare) and Equine Reproduction - one of the top reknowned breeding resources in the world.
if the mods like this thread - and again i encourage ALL opinions in an intelligent discussion on breeding - i'd love to have this made sticky
people when planning on breedings tend to look at what they hope/want their horse to pass on - and then plan on a stud to compliment that. what i try to ask is what is the worst x worst combo you can get and plan on THAT as your worst case scenario. look at ALL the options. if the worst x worst of dam and sire is still a relatively well put together horse then i say proceed to the next set of breeding question. if not - well then pass.
if the worst possible outcome is still a pretty solid equine specimen (within reason - i do know that this is all hypothesis and breeding and genetic theory but all stuff i wish everyone who bred was familiar with as we'd have a lot less unwanted / poorly bred horses imo... /soapbox rant...) then i say ask yourself these questions. do you have the $$ for insemination including vet fees, shipped semen, collection and so on on TOP of stud fees? do you know how/when to time when your mare is in heat and when she is ovulating and when she needs to be inseminated or do you need the vet's help with that - and what are the associated costs? do you have the means to transport back and forth to the vet, can the vet come to you, how much per visit, per insemination, per ultrasound to check for ovulation, and so on? what about follow up ultrasounds to confirm she caught? 15 days? 45 days? to make sure there aren't twins? what if there are twins? are you financially prepared for another series of appointments to have one pinched off, then a follow up to confirm that there is just one remaining and that the disruption didn't cause the mare to lose both? what if she doesn't take on the first try? second try? third try? what if she doesn't take this season and you have to try again next season?
what is your vet's conception rate for getting mare's pregnant? what is the stud's rate? is the stud UTD on vaccinations relevant to breeding as well as basic/standard vacc's for the area? is the mare UTD on vaccinations relevant to breeding as well as standard vacc's for the area? are you also prepared to do all the follow through for the mare re: vaccinations and so on?
i ask all of this because i had a friend who wanted to breed her mare, and after 2 different vets and many many attempts, her bills were OVER $2,000.00!!!! and guess what? mare still wasn't pregnant. and now she had to take a season off to get the mare's hormones regular again (and mind you she's a pretty regular mare who just didn't catch bc her ovulation was tricky to time). and then try again next year. also note - that $2k was JUST semen collection and shipping, ultrasound for ovulation, hormone injections and vet care while checking for ovulation and insemination attempts. that's IT. not incl stud fees OR transport fees to vet as she did not have her own truck/trailer.
she now has spent $2k plus stud fees near another $1k for a baby she doesn't have. by the time (assume mare takes first try and no twins, simplest possible procedures - that's ANOTHER $1k when you add in vaccs and vet follow ups bc that is what my mare was yay smooth sailing) she has a foal, that's a $4000 foal just to be born. period. more $ if it is not a simple pregnancy, takes more than one try, or so on. definitely food for thought.
also do you have the facilities for a mare to foal? for a mare and baby to be turned out? are you or someone you know familiar on what to expect in foaling? what if there are complications? will your vet need to be on hand regardless or only if there are complications? do you know how to check for a retained placenta or again do you need the vet? what if it is a breech birth? how far is your vet and can your vet get there fast enough if there are complications? what about foal watch? do you know when she is going into labor? will you check every hour or so when she gets close to her due date? will someone else check? if you do not keep your horse at home but board out, what are the additional costs for foaling, foal handling, training, care, and so on?
then after the baby is born....
daily handling of baby and mom for at a minimum the first 3 mos. though longer is better. and i mean halter on, off, on, off. grooming, standing. leading. picking up feet. with my wb colt, before we went out of the stall he had to pick up all 4 feet quietly. then before we went into his field we had to do the same. then same before we left the field to come back in, same before i took the halter off and he came into the stall. every. single. day.
now at 20 mos, he will ground tie, stand for the farrier, load and unload in the dark, daylight, anything, clip, x-tie, bathe, etc. because i put the work into him from the start. i hear all too often people say oh i'll halter break them then when they are a long yearling (or older!) will start working with them on everything else. that always makes me cringe. bc if i need to establish dominance or have a battle of wills with a greenie, i'd much rather it be a 3 mo old than an 18 mo old!
and of course what about registration? even if you never plan to sell, what happens if you lose your job? your farm? your house? your main income? are injured and can't work or can't care for the horse yourself? or worse - what if you die (morbid but still something to consider) what will happen to the baby as well as any other horses you own? a registered horse has a better chance at being rehomed than a non registered one. a registered horse that has been handled regularly and has a good foundation has an even better chance. again no one wants to or enjoys thinking about the worst case scenario, but it's part of being a responsible horse owner imo.
there's a LOT to think about! i don't have the answers - just the questions i went through and asked myself before breeding my mare so that i was prepared for anything that may arise. if you choose to breed - good luck and god bless!
Those are all great points to keep in mind when breeding, for sure. Thank you for that. Jos and Kathy are great and I've taken their reproduction course. They're the best.
Aside from the procedures and cost of breeding, I'd like to mention a few things before we ever get to the procedures and costs. I do agree with you that there are far too many poor quality horses out there, produced from matings that probably shouldn't have taken place. I am of the belief that the only reason to breed is toward breed improvement. That should be priority one with any responsible breeder. If a breeder can't subscribe to breeding toward breed improvement as their number one goal, then they probably shouldn't be breeding at all. Whatever it is they wanted to breed for probably already exists out there, and in huge quantities. Breeders have a responsibility here, and it shouldn't be so self-serving as "I want a foal from my very first horse who has the best disposition ever." If you call yourself a breeder, you have an obligation to the breed.
When looking at any potential breeding prospect, we should ask ourselves, "Does this horse stand out and rise above all the others bred just like him/her in terms of individual quality?" If not, then it's probably not a top breeding prospect. It is a fact that at least 50% of the horses from any given bloodline aren't breeding quality, so you can't choose a breeding prospect based on pedigree alone and hope to do right by the breed. You have to consider the horse's quality as an individual, and that quality must be held up to his peers, and the breed standard or ideal. This applies to mares and stallions. They must be of good type, and they must be at least, better than the average quality of their breed.
Those are a few of my thoughts for the sake of a good discussion.
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