What You Need to Know Before Breeding Your Mare

What you need to know before breeding your mare

Broodmares and foals
Image:John P Kelly/Getty Image

A broodmare is a female horse used for producing foals. They often are chosen in hopes of passing down their outstanding physical or athletic attributes or desirable ancestry. Not all mares should be used as broodmares. But, if you have a mare there are a few things you should consider before breeding her. 

Breeding a mare and raising a foal isn't just a matter of taking your horse to a stallion, waiting eleven months and then welcoming the newcomer.

Along with the rewards of raising a foal, are a lot of responsibilities and expenses, some risks, as well as a few things to consider before you even start shopping for the perfect stallion. This article will sound like a series of warnings. It's not intended to dissuade you from breeding your mare, but to make you aware of some of the things that are entailed in the process.

Things to Consider Before You Breed Your Mare

If you've had any exposure to the horse world, you may be aware of the fact that there are many unwanted horses languishing in foster homes, rescue farms and sadly, somewhere on a truck headed for slaughter. Right now, there are more horses than homes. There are a few different factors for this, but the bottom line is, you have to ask yourself, does the world need another horse?

Having your mare produce a foal sounds like a cheap way of getting another horse. Nothing could be further from the truth.

A breeding to a quality stallion will cost several hundred to several thousand dollars. There are veterinarian costs before and after breeding. Many stud farms charge for mare care. If your mare doesn't 'catch' the first time around, you will pay for an extended stay and perhaps more vet costs such as hormone injections.

While breeders do everything they can to ensure the safety of the mares during the breeding process, there is a small risk of injury, which of course could lead to more vet bills. Especially if you consider the cost of raising a young horse from birth to four years, for the same price, you could buy a fairly expensive well-trained horse.

Responsible Breeding

Each mare that is bred and every stallion used for breeding must be worth reproducing. Breeding poorly conformed mares to the un-gelded two-year-old next door is not a responsible way to produce foals. As Dr. Bob Wright, formerly of the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, Veterinary Branch maintains, a mare and a stallion must earn the right to reproduce. This means that any broodmare must have proven themselves as pleasure or performance horses, and have desirable traits, physically and mentally, that can be passed on to produce a quality foal.

Breeding Isn't Cloning

Many people, who love their mare, think that if they breed it, it will produce a foal just like itself. Again, this is another myth and there is no guarantee that a foal will have the same color, size, personality, conformation or other attributes you value in your mare.

Choosing the right stallion will go a long way to ensuring you'll get what you want when the foal arrives, but there are absolutely no guarantees.


Carrying a foal and the birthing process does entail some risk to both mare and foal. Many things can go wrong during the time the mare is in foal, during the birth, and after the foal is born. Most of these problems can be solved by a timely call to the veterinarian. You will have to be well informed to recognize a problem before it advances and be willing to pay for more veterinary care. Looking after a sick mare or foal will require extra time as well.

Broodmare Care During Pregnancy

Seeing a mare through a pregnancy does take extra consideration. When she is about half-way through the gestation period she needs to be fed in a way that supports her own health and the growth and health of the foal.

At this point too, you will need to lessen her workload if she is being ridden regularly. After about nine months, she should be ridden very lightly, and shortly before her foaling date, not at all. She needs to be checked by a veterinarian who will advise you of when certain vaccinations should be given. Early in the pregnancy, she should also be checked internally for twins, infection or other abnormalities.

If you don't already have a place for your mare to foal, she'll need a large stall, at least 12'x12', that is deeply bedded and safe for the foal. This means that the stall has been checked for safety hazards that a foal could get hung up in, or hurt on, and constructed in a way that is sturdy and safe. She also needs to be safe from other horses that might harass her or steal her feed.

As the foaling date arrives, the mare will need careful monitoring. You or someone else will need to be there for the birth if possible, or at least, very shortly thereafter. Most births proceed normally, but if there is a problem, someone needs to know how to recognize it, and call the veterinarian.

Considerations Following Foaling

After your mare has foaled, There are things that need to be checked and done. You need to be sure the foal is whole and healthy, and if anything looks awry, the vet should be called. The mare should be checked for signs of injury during the birth, to ensure the placenta has been expelled within about three hours and to make sure the foal is healthy. Foals too, need to be watched in the days following birth for signs of dehydration and infection from bacteria or viruses. In short, you need to be informed and prepared for any possible expense.

Once the foal is safely on the ground, it will take years of expense and training before it can be used. Many things can go wrong in the intervening time. Illness or injury can add to the basic costs of raising a foal. Foals must be handled too, so they require a commitment of time to ensure they are trained to be 'good citizens' with acceptable basic manners.

And, if anything happens to you, you need to think about what will happen to all of your horses, should you be unable to care for them. We think our lives won't change, but life does hand out bad deals sometimes and requires us to make a lifestyle change. We owe it to our horses to ensure they are healthy and well behaved so that if we can't own them, someone else will want to, and they won't end up at a rescue, or worse on a stock truck headed to a slaughter plant.