Equine Breeding For Beginners
by Ron Petracek
You've got it! That beautiful stallion or mare that is the perfect example of everything a horse of its breed should be. It's got great conformation, a perfect temperament, and has performed well in its chosen discipline. You know this horse could benefit its breed by passing on its progeny.
You've made the decision to breed your horse.
So, now what? Do you follow the old adage and "breed the best to the best and hope for the best?"
Well, while that advice is actually tried-and-true, and certainly not the worst advice in the world, you are going to have to take a few extra steps to make sure the resulting foal is everything you hope it will be. Because the foal will be a blend of both the sire's and the dam's genetics, there are a few things to consider when choosing a good mate for your horse.
• Consider the goal of breeding your horse. In other words, what kind of horse are you breeding for? Do you want to produce a horse for dressage, hunting, cutting, reining, endurance, driving, or one of the other many disciplines? Knowing what kind of horse you want to produce will help you narrow the field as you consider mates for your horse.
• Look at your horse's conformation. No horse is perfect! Take a good look at your horse, and make notes about his good points, as well as what needs improving. Now do the same to the mates you are considering. Eliminate any horse who have weak points in common with your horse, and lean toward those who correct your horse where he is weak.
• Consider the temperament of potential mates. A horse who is easy to work with is just as valuable as a horse with perfect conformation. Because disposition may be genetic, be sure to evaluate the mate's personality. What kind of temperament are you looking for in the foal? Is the mate nervous or confident? Timid or bold? Calm or jumpy?
• Look at prior progeny. If the mate has other offspring, take a good look at them. Did the mate pass along its good traits to its progeny? Did any congenital defects crop up? You can investigate ancestry even further by contacting breeders with the same line. Did the dam, sire, and siblings of the mate you are considering produce successful individuals?
• Investigate the health of the mate. Is the mare or stallion in good health? Look for the normal things, like bright eyes, a shiny coat, and an alert expression. If the animal is under or overweight consider carefully, especially if it is a mare. Mares who are not in good body weight can sometimes have difficulty getting in foal. Make sure the horse is sound and moves correctly. Be wary of horses with injuries, as certain weaknesses can be passed to offspring. You should also make sure the horse has received good veterinary care, including regular deworming and current vaccinations.
• Do a breeding exam. A mare should always undergo a breeding exam before you commit. Maiden mares will need rectal and vaginal exams, while proven mares may need more extensive examinations.
• When you think you've decided, think again! That's right. Before you sign any papers or contracts, make sure you know what breeding entails, including the costs involved. And always, always make sure you have a valid reason for breeding your horse. It is not something to be done lightly! In the end, if you've determined that your horse can contribute the betterment of the breed, you well understand what financial and health risks you'll be up against, and you've found a good mate, go for it!
About the author
Ron Petracek is the current article director for a rapidly growing equine social network community. He was raised in Southern Idaho with a beautiful jet black morgan as his adventure companion, and the Snake River within a easy ride. Horses and the outdoors are a solid part of his life. For more great information and FREE equine classfieds! Everything from horses to trailers & tack please visit.
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