If you've ever owned a particularly talented or head-turning mare, you might have imagined breeding a carbon copy of her so you could continue enjoying those qualities and bloodlines. I turned a similar dream into reality eight years ago when my buxom, "red-headed" hunter Alice suffered a career-ending injury at age 9.
After Alice suffered a career-ending injury, I decided her traits and bloodlines were worth perpetuating.
Photo: Courtesy Alexandra Beckstett
The unexpected end to our partnership was difficult to accept. Alice and I were just hitting our stride together, and I had lofty visions of where our future successes could take us. So either out of sympathy or ignorance, my nonhorsey parents suggested we continue having fun with Alice by breeding her. After all, she was a beautiful, long-strided Brandenburg with droolworthy gaits. Why not perpetuate those traits? (And yes, we were first-time "breeders.")
Eight years ago I set out to produce a show hunter to replace Alice, yet I am just now nearing that goal with Hannah, seen here.
Photo: Alexandra Beckstett
Well, three years and two offspring later, I could no longer justify breeding good ol' Alice, lovely as she was. Breeding fees, veterinary bills, 11 months wait to find out if I have a healthy foal, more veterinary bills, years of groundwork and training the foal, and today I'm just now starting my remaining homebred's competitive career. That neat idea we had eight years and thousands of dollars ago is only now paying off with what I originally set out to produce: A show hunter to replace Alice. What part of this makes any sense?
Well, for those who make breeding their passion or profession, I'm sure it's a different story. The breeding gurus out there have developed streamlined systems for producing young sport horses and sending them through the proper channels for sale or show.
But for us riders and owners who dream of breeding the next great grand prix jumper or world champion reiner out of our beloved show mare, there are things we might not consider before embarking down that path.
Here are some suggestions Jeff Cook, DVM, an ambulatory veterinarian at Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital with a focus on reproduction and preventive care, has for transitioning the sport horse mare from show ring to breeding shed:
- Something to consider as a possibility while the mare is still showing is an embryo transfer. In simple terms, the mare is bred, seven days later the vet performs an embryo flush, and the recovered embryo is placed in a recipient mare. This can all take place with little interruption to the mare's training and showing schedule. Mares can also continue their show career during the first three to four months of pregnancy with little to no risk.
- Have a veterinarian perform a breeding soundness exam, including an ultrasound of the ovaries and uterus, a visual exam of the cervix, and an evaluation of the mare's perineal conformation.
- Consider the mare's age. Mares older than 12 might have an extremely tight and long cervix if they have never had a foal. This will likely require careful attention before and after breeding to ensure the mare can expel fluids following breeding and does not get a uterine infection.
- Finally, consider the mare's soundness. Both acute and chronic lamenesses can lead to difficulty getting a mare pregnant and maintaining pregnancies.
So, have you ever bred one of your mares? How did that turn out?