Five things you can do this fall to get yourself and your horses ready for breeding season
Breeding season starts on February 15th and runs until June 15th. This only gives your mare a certain amount of time to conceive a foal. We want your mare to have the best chance possible to conceive and get an early baby and save you, the owner, time and money. All of these recommendations are for open (not pregnant) mares.
- Take care of their non reproductive needs! This includes annual vaccines (Rabies, EWT), the semi-annual vaccines (Flu/Rhino, West Nile Virus, Strep), and annual dental floats. Sometimes their teeth can be so abnormal that they can have difficulty gaining or maintaining weight due to pain associated with their mouth or a mechanical inability to digest their food properly. We want both our mares and studs to be at their absolute best when we are breeding them, which includes being current on vaccines and not having a painful mouth. It’s also important to get your horse to a good weight! This means if your horses have multiple ribs easily showing, now is a great time to get weight on them. This can be accomplished by increasing their caloric intake, via concentrated food or via forage (hay or grass). Sometimes this can be accomplished by changing feed to a higher quality, more nutrient dense feed. And if your horses are so fat you cannot feel any ribs, this is a good time to cut back on their feed intake and get some weight off of them. Both being underweight and overweight can be detrimental to the fertility of mares and stallions.
- Get a uterine culture on your mare(s)! Uterine cultures are a great way to see if there are any bacteria growing in your mare’s uterus (where the baby will live and grow) that could prevent her from becoming pregnant. It will also show which bacteria is in there and how best to treat it, valuable information for getting your mare ready to breed. Often, it takes at least one cycle to clean up a mare’s uterus. Which means doing a uterine culture in the fall can prevent you from wasting valuable time trying to get your mare bred in the spring.
- If you want to freeze your stud’s semen, now is the time! Freezing semen on a stallion so that it is available for any mare at any time is a laborious and expensive process for the stallion, owner, and the veterinarian completing the freezing. The ideal situation is to collect the stallion for freezing in the fall to give him ample time to recover for the spring breeding season. This also allows your veterinarian to give your stallion the time and training he needs for successful collections of his best semen quality.
- Put your mares under lights on November 1st! This is easily the most neglected step to helping you have a successful breeding season. Mares are seasonal breeders, which means that they physically do not cycle properly or ovulate a follicle (“egg”) when they are not in season. With our crazy seasonality in Texas, your best bet for your mare to be ready to breed by February 15th is to have her exposed to light for 14 hours a day. Sunlight starts rapidly declining in October, so supplemental lighting needs to be added to ensure your mare knows it’s breeding time. This supplemental light should be added by November 1st and can be added by automatic timers on lights in a confined area outside or in stalls, or a lighted hood (EquiLume). Lights should be bright enough to read a newspaper in the darkest area of the stall or paddock.
- Choose the perfect stallion for your mare! Some of the most sought after stallions can have a limited number of mares to breed to, and some stallions are not collected after a certain date. It is vital to have a good stallion that complements your mare and her qualities and genetic make up to get you the most valuable foal possible. Don’t make this decision lightly, and plan ahead!
If you have any questions about what you can be doing this fall to get your mares and stallions ready for breeding season, or you would like to schedule an appointment, feel free to give our office a call at (979) 324-5822 and we would be glad to serve you!