By the AHS Education Committee
The one Golden Rule in breeding is to plan ahead, and it may be the single most important factor to getting your mare in foal.
First, establish a dialog with the stallion owner or manager before you return the breeding contract. You need to be certain you are aware of, and understand exactly the terms of the breeding. Stallion season terms vary from stallion to stallion and from season to season--so use this check list for every stallion.
Terms that vary in every stallion season purchase: Please do not take any of these terms for granted, check on all of them so you are clear.
- Is the stallion available via cooled or frozen semen?
- What are the opening and closing dates of the stallion's breeding season?
- Are there any dates during the breeding season that the stallion will be unavailable - shows, clinics, etc?
- Is there a Live Foal Guarantee?
- How does the contract define a Live Foal?
- Is there a guarantee or not?
- If so, how long is the guarantee good for and what are the terms?If shipped/chilled, what is the fee per collection?
- What are the Shipping Fees?
- Is there s Shipping Container Fee/Shipping container deposit?
- Collection days-
- What days of the week is the stallion collected on, and what type of advance notice do you need to give before the stallion is collected? **Please take note here of time zones and how this may affect communication
- What is the preferred method of communication with the stallion owner, and for you as the mare owner?
- Will the breeding manager ship again if the mare does not get in foal? Is there a limit to the number of collections/shipments (or doses in the case of frozen semen) per season or in total for the contract?
- Must the breeding be used in the current breeding season?
- What can I do to increase my chances of success?
What you, as the mare owner, can do to increase your chances of conception. Once again: PLAN AHEAD!
- When do you want to start to try to breed your mare, knowing that it will most likely take more than one cycle unless all the stars align.
- Have your mare in optimal health (weight, teeth attended to, and vaccinations current) prior to breeding.
- As early as possible, start watching your mare's cycle so you are familiar with her behavior and patterns. Talk with your vet about what time of year you hope to have your mare conceive. Mare cycles are influenced by many things, including the amount of daylight. If you want to breed early in the season (say in March), talk to your vet about putting your mare under lights at night to "fool" her into thinking it is later in the year than it really is. Many start this around December/January depending on what part of the country you live. Your vet can make any recommendations to help you plan your program.
- Plan on ultrasounding your mare a complete cycle prior to your planned breeding cycle. This will help you and your vet determine her follicle formation and pattern. It is always cheaper to add a few extra ultrasounds and know when to breed the following month than to miss a cycle. This may help reduce breeding expenses in the long run. Tracking your mare's cycle the month prior to the intended breeding date will also allow you to give the stallion owner a "heads up" as to timing. Even if you are not ordering semen yet, contact the stallion manager after tracking her cycle to let them know how she progressed.
Throughout this guide you have frequently seen the phrase, "talk to your vet." A good reproduction vet is important. Someone who understands and is experienced in equine reproduction will help you navigate any difficulties you encounter. If your current vet has not done much breeding, ask who they recommend. Other breeding farms in your area may also be able to recommend someone knowledgeable. If you're in a remote location and only one vet is available, there are two options: Send your mare to a breeding facility and board her there throughout the breeding procedures, or, make sure that you and your vet have a good equine reproduction specialist to consult with during the process.
Once you know the stallion terms, have selected a vet, and are familiar with your mare's cycles, you are well on your way to success. Just remember that communication with the stallion manager or owner throughout the breeding process is paramount. As the mare owner, both you and the stallion manager or owner want the same thing: a successful breeding and healthy foal. With careful planning, great communication, and a little luck, it will happen.