The breeding season is nearly upon us and many horse owners are thinking about breeding their mares and looking forward to meeting their new foals! If you’re looking forward to foals, take a moment and consider our tops tips for an easy season:
Do you know what services can best help you produce healthy foals, without the risk of twins? At Tableland Veterinary Service, our equine reproduction team can help with a variety of services designed to help you and your mare get the best helping hand this season. We offer:
- Follicle scans to check where a mare is in her cycle and plan the best time for her to be covered by the stallion
- Semen collection, processing and analysis
- Artificial insemination with chilled or frozen semen
- Embryo transfer
- Pregnancy testing to confirm pregnancy and rule out twins (generally a disaster in horses). Scans are advised at 14, 21-24, 35 and 45 days.
- High risk pregnancy management
- “Problem breeder” investigations. There is no need to repeatedly breed a “barren mare”, when simple factors may be at play that can be corrected to increase the chance of a successful pregnancy.
- Foal checks and treatment of sick foals
Preparing for Foaling
A mare’s pregnancy is typically around 340 days. However there is variation in each mare, and anywhere from 320-370 days can be normal. Typically a mare will have a similar length pregnancy for each foal, so if a mare “foals early” at 330 days each time, she’s not really foaling early – 330 days is her normal gestation period! Before worrying that your mare is “overdue”, make sure you have an accurate service date for the correct mare.
The mare’s vaccination and worming should be up to date. We recommend scheduling any vaccination updates around 2 months before foaling. Vaccinations should include Hendra virus vaccination. It is safe to use in pregnant mares and provides the best possible protection for you, your mare, and your vet, should intervention be needed during foaling.
Horses have very powerful contractions during labour, so a normal foaling should take 30 minutes or less. Call us immediately if the foaling goes for longer, or if the membranes that first appear are a bright red colour. This is called a red bag delivery. It is not normal, and the bag must be ruptured immediately so that the foal can breathe. In a normal foaling the membranes are transparent and thin. It is possible to see the foal through normal membranes.
Foals should stand, suck, pee and poo quite soon after birth compared to other species. Different references give slightly different time frames, but simple numbers to remember for your foals are:
Standing within 1 hour after delivery,
Sucking within 2 hours,
First pee by 3 hours,
First poo by 4 fours.
Failure to do any of these, or frequent, unsuccessful attempts may mean there is a problem and veterinary attention may be required.
Breeding and oestrus cycles
Most mares will start cycling in Spring, although 20% of mares cycle continuously throughout the year.
Mares that have foaled will come into season around 7 days after foaling (the “foal heat”) and typically ovulate 10 days after foaling. This may be a good time to breed your mare, but this is best assessed on a case by case basis in discussion with your vet. After that the mare will come into season approximately every 21-22 days.
Methods of breeding
Horses can be bred by live cover or artificial insemination with fresh, chilled, or frozen semen. Each technique has advantages and disadvantages, but we are experienced with each method and can talk you through what best suits your situation.
Often the most important factor is choosing a stallion. Once you have chosen a stallion, the method of breeding can be narrowed down to one or two options. We also work with local stallion owners and are involved in semen collection and processing.
If you are looking forward to foals this season, get in touch with us and we can talk you through comprehensive options for you and your mares!