Believe it or not, breeding season is here again! I know it still seems like the dead of winter on the polar ice caps this year, but it’s mid-February and best to just act like life is semi-normal. Hopefully, if you wanted to get a head start on the breeding season, your mares have been under lights since the end of November and are cycling along well.
If you’re not into January babies, don’t worry, the rest of the world tends to breed later anyway. Healthy mares will cycle on their own by late February/early March, giving you plenty of time to get a nice spring baby when the weather is a bit more tolerant. Either way – here are a few things to think of and get a handle on before things get too far along.
1. Have your mare checked via rectal ultrasound to determine if she’s cycling and how her uterus looks (fluid, cysts, etc.) Based on those findings you’ll want to have a uterine culture done (if she’s cycling) to see if she needs any pre-breeding treatments to get her cleaned up from the off season. A uterine biopsy may be indicated for aged mares or ones with a history of difficult conception or abortions.
2. Pay close attention to perineal conformation of the mare. Weight loss is a primary cause for creating a conformation that predisposes mares to contaminating their vulva when passing manure. A simple Caslick’s procedure can prevent this, while still allowing access for artificial insemination.
3. Have as much routine veterinary work done as the horse requires, i.e. vaccinations, dentistry, lameness issues addressed, etc. so the potential stress/side effects of these procedures do not have an impact on your mare’s cycle. They are all relatively innocuous procedures, but no one wants to get a vaccine reaction when you’re waiting on a 14 day preg check. Key point here is to manage your risks outside of breeding season.
4. For mares currently pregnant just hang tight until junior shows up. The “managing pregnant mares” talk is not today, but the rebreeding one is. Assuming a normal, uneventful foaling — I like to do a good exam on the mare a day or so after foaling. Even in uncomplicated births, you’d be surprised how many have hematomas in the broad ligament, developed uterine cysts, or cervical tears that can be much easily dealt with when the cervix has not yet involuted.
These are just a few of the basics of horse breeding season, but often get overlooked for the fun stuff like picking out stallions, visiting breeding farms and eating kolaches along the way there. It is best to deal with them now and try to minimize your risk and surprises along the way.
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Dr. Justin High is a veterinarian and partner in Reata Equine Hospital in Weatherford, Texas. He graduated vet school from Texas A&M University and completed an internship at The Littleton Equine Medical Center in Denver, Colo. High’s years of practice focuses on the Western performances horse. Send any comments or questions to [email protected].