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Let’s Go Ridin’ – for Feb. 12, 2009

Ever thought of breeding your mare? Maybe you have, or maybe you’re in the breeding business, so you know all of the options available to you nowadays. But if you are considering it for the first time, it can be an overwhelming project.

The first step is to objectively analyze your mare for her breeding potential. Conformation, disposition, pedigree, age and reproductive soundness are all important factors in your evaluation. Once you have made the decision to breed her, the next step of course is to choose a sire for her baby.

Factors affecting your choice of sire could include assessing your target market, the discipline your horse is involved in, and proximity of the stud, to name a few. Are you looking to raise replacements for your broodmare band? Maybe you want to raise barrel horses, ranch horses or jumpers, the list goes on and on. With today’s technological advances, the stud you want to use could be as close as your phone.

Time was if you wanted to breed a mare and you didn’t own a stud, you would have to haul her to a stud farm for service. But with the advancement of artificial insemination and embryo transfer, world-class genetics are now more accessible than ever. Many breed associations are now allowing the use of this technology, and while embryo transfer may still be out of reach financially for a lot of folks, the use of A. I. is becoming quite common.

A. I. in horses involves the use of shipped semen. This means that you can book your mare for service to a stud in a neighbouring town, province, country or even continent, through the use of shipped semen. Cooled semen is generally shipped on the day you need to breed your mare and must be used within a matter of hours after collection, while the use of frozen semen gives you a wider window for breeding as it can be stored indefinitely.

The process of A. I.’ing your mare involves working closely with a vet or certified technician, to ensure the mare is bred at the optimum time. She must be palpated several times to determine where she is at in her cycle, and inseminated at the proper time. Palpation can also help to identify potential problems that could inhibit conception, such as inflammation or infection. Once bred, the mare can be ultrasounded as early as 14 days after breeding to determine whether or not she conceived.

Conception rates using A. I. run around 70 per cent, compared to live cover at 90 to 100 per cent. But the added advantages of keeping your mare at home for breeding, and not having to keep a stud around, make it attractive to many mare owners.

So if you want to breed your mare, my advice is do your homework. Talk to people with experience in this field – other breeders, your vet, etc. – for advice on proper nutrition and management of broodmares. Then, make an informed decision, and go for it.

Till next time, stay in the saddle, and never say whoa in a bad spot!

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