Breeding Miniature Horses
Deciding to Breed
When you decide to breed your miniature horse there are several things to consider before you actually breed your mare. Breeding miniature horses carries a certain amount of risk for the mare, the stud, and the foal. If you have a very dear pet then the chance of losing it or the foal during breeding may not be worth the risk. You should also consider the quality and pedigree of your miniature horse and what you are breeding it to. There are to many "backyard" breeders adding miniature horses that are not well bred and have several health problems to add more to the already over populated miniature horse population. If your horse does not have good confirmation, health, or cannot be registered then you should not breed it. There are to many other foals that you can adopt and raise.
Once you have decided to breed and have quality horses to breed you need to do your research on the breeding process and risks associated with breeding so you are ready for anything. There are a number of things that can go wrong during breeding and it is better to be prepared then have the worst happen.
When choosing a mare there are several important things to consider. Most importantly the mare should be healthy and free of any genetical issues that may pass on to the foals. When picking a mare for breeding you should pick out a mare that is as close to a perfect specimen as you can find. Now we all know that there is no such thing as a perfect miniature horse but when breeding that is what you want as a main goal.
The typical gestation period of a miniature mare is about 330 days give or take fifteen days. Some mares will foal ten months and some will care for a full twelve months. The abnormality of the foaling length is a characteristic of each individual mare. Some of these foals may need special care. A premature foal will be smaller and need special attention but the overdue foal may have joint problems and need assistance to walk properly. The heredity factor will determine the maturity of each of the foals and a 10 month and a 12 month foal may be the same size after six months.
A mare can foal anytime during the year but most commonly between March and June. This is due to the fact that their cycles are dependent on the number of light hours. This makes their heat cycles stronger during the summer months resulting in spring foals. When the mare begins to cycle regularly there is a short period were the mare will accept the stud for breeding. A typical heat cycle will be between 5 and 7 days once every 21 days and a mare will begin to cycle about a week after foaling. The most unique aspect of the mares heat cycle is that she only ovulates about 24 to 48 hours before the end of the cycle. In order for the mare to conceive seaman must be present at the time of ovulation. This makes breeding more difficult to get the timing right to make sure that the mare settles. Also an individual mare may cycle every 21 one days or only have a 3 day heat. You must know the mare in order to breed her and have a better chance of the mare conceiving. Most mares when in heat will urinate frequently and stand holding her tail to the side. When a mare is in standing heat she will back up to the stud. It is very useful to tease the mare with the stallion or a gelding to track her cycle.
Once the mare is bred it is crucial to have a health maintenance program. The mare should be wormed regularly and it is very important to have a reliable vet that can give you advice when needed or is available if something goes wrong. If you are taking a mare to a different stallion to be bred the stallions owner will let you know what vaccinations are necessarily and what preliminary measures you will have to take before the breeding. If you choose you can have the mare pregnancy tested 14 days after breeding but a positive pregnancy test does not insure a live foal. Many things can happen over the course of the pregnancy.
A bred mare will begin to show about 8 months after breeding. Some mares will be more noticeable and some may keep their figure for a majority of the pregnancy. During the last week of the pregnancy the foal will drop into the abdomen. This change in position is very noticeable. A mares bag will begin to develop about a month before birth and "waxing" will start about 12 hours before birth. There is some discrepancy about whether a miniature mare actually "waxes". "Waxing" is when a mare starts to drip colostrum or milk and it crystallizes on her nipples giving it the appearance of wax. At about 12 to 24 hours the mare will become agitated and show signs of distress. She will most likely stay away from the other mares and may kick or bite at her flanks. At this point the mare should be watched regularly and placed by herself in a stall or corral. Many people have opted to have wireless cameras installed in the stalls so they can continually watch the mare and check on her throughout the night without having to get up and go outside every couple of hours.
During the birth the mare prefers not to have any human contact and you should quietly observe from a distance or watch on the camera and wait. It is best not to disturb the mare until she is finished foaling. The foaling process will take from 5 to 20 minutes. A balloon like sack will appear first and break letting the fluids out. The foals front feet should appear first, then the head and shoulders. If the mare is having difficulties or a back leg is coming first you should call your vet immediately. Most mares will handle it well and nature takes over and they know exactly what to do. However some mares will not get the sack off the foal and you will need to assist in tearing the sack so the foal can breath. If the sac has torn and the foal is breathing leave the mare and foal alone. The foal should start to stand in about 15 minutes, sometimes before the mare, and the umbilical cord and sac should break once the foal starts trying to stand. If it does not get some string and tie it off about one and a half inches bellow the belly and cut it with scissors and disinfect the umbilical cord with iodine.
The foal will immediately try to nurse and will usually nurse within the first two hours of birth. It is crucial to make sure that the foal has nursed as it needs the colostrum that contains anti-bodies necessary for its immune system. It is best to leave the mare and foal away from the other mares until they have accepted each other and the foal is moving around well. Some mares will attempt to steal another mares foal.
A lot of care should go into picking your stallion. Many people will start with a hand full of nice quality mares and one stallion so the stallion should be exceptional. It is ideal to select a mature, proven stud so you know how he is going to turn out and possibly what some of his foals look like, however, these studs are much more expensive to purchase. A good option is to get a yearling or weanling to start with. It will take a couple years for him to mature into a breeding stallion but they are usually much cheaper and you can still pick out very high quality lines. Also if the young stallion does not develop into a breeding quality horse you can geld him and use him in shows, driving, or sell him and start over.
Another thing to consider when picking out your stallion (and mares) is what is going to be your main goal for breeding. Are you going for under 34", color, or other traits such as driving prospects? It is very important to decide this prior to purchasing your first breeding stock because it can become expensive to change your direction once you have a heard built up. Also make sure your mares and stud complement eachother. Since you are striving for profection if your mare and your stud are both pigeon toed then chances are the foal may be too.
Studs are far more aggressive then mares or geldings and can be a handful if not properly trained. It is important to have the proper stalls and paddocks that are safe for your stud and free of anything he can get caught up in if a mare is on the other side of the fence. With proper handling and training many studs become very docile and willing to do what is asked of them. Many studs go to shows and perform with mares with no problems but you have to always take the necessary precautions so your stud or other mares are not hurt when showing or breeding.
Health is a vital factor for a breeding stud. He should be free from any diseases and parasites. Make sure if you are allowing other mares to be bred to him that they to are free from any health issues. The stud should have his regular vaccinations and a regular worming schedule. It is also a good idea to supplement the stud especially during the height of the breeding season as they often lose weight worrying about the mares. Exercise is also very important for the stud, especially if he is stalled as the pent up energy and frustration can make him hard to handle. A good way to exercise a stud is to let him run in a safe paddock for thirty minutes to an hour and he will entertain himself. Once he has run the excess energy off work with him for another thirty minutes in training.
When it is time to breed you can either hand breed or pasture breed. Some studs will breed either way and some will do better one way or another. Also the mare may factor into how you choose to breed. If you are booking mares it is probably best to hand breed so the mare or stud do not hurt each other since they are not use to eachoter. If you have several mares you can pasture breed and allow the stud to run free with the mares for a certain amount of time, usually in the late spring to mid summer. This allows him to be with the mares for a couple heat cycles and does not allow for any winter babies, unless you are prepared for the extra care. It is a good idea to start scratching his belly and handling his sheath so that he is use to it before you breed as you will most likely clean it before hand breeding, especially if you are booking other peoples mares.