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Breeding the Older Mare
by Marci de la Torre 2005
(Reprinted with permission from
Marci de la Torre's post to the
Foundation Arabian Horses Mailing List
December 26, 2005)

Click to view larger image of Galana Zi (84861 bytes)Many of you know that I have built my herd with old horses ~ some of which were classified as no longer fertile or very hard breeders. There is a lot of persistent work that goes into these horses, and the rewards are great.

Some tips for success I can give you are as follows:

I think older mares should be given a reproductive exam before you try to breed them, especially if they are open and have not produced in some years. This will rule out infections, cysts, etc. If you have a mare that you have not bred before, this exam will help you to become familiar with her uterine tone and the construction of her vaginal tract. Make sure that any conditions are treated before you start to breed. You always want to start with a clean slate.

You might want your vet to check progesterone levels to see if putting her on Regumate is in order. Some people swear by this. Personally, I do not use drugs unless I have had problems with mares reabsorbing or aborting.

I also believe that mares should be kept trim ~ too fat can hinder the reproductive processes ~ just like in people.

Treat each mare as an individual. Tease them individually, not as a group. Each one has their idiosyncrasies, likes and dislikes. For example, If they don't show heat by walking the stallion around to the mares pasture, walk the mares up to the stallion's pen and let him tease them a lot. I tease every day so I can calibrate the mares' behavior. I also keep diligent and accurate breeding and teasing records so I can refer to them in subsequent years. If a mare is silent when you tease, many times they may give you small hints ~ ears up, not fighting, etc. Have the vet palpate her then. I have had mares who were just standing quietly, who were sitting on an ovulation. It really pays to be VERY observant so you won't miss them .

Ultrasound your mares at 18 days. A pregnancy is readily identified and, if you have twins, one can be pinched off. There is about a 50% success rate with pinching one off compared with almost nil if you let her carry twins. We did not diagnose twins in one of my mares and one of the twins died in utero at about 5-6 months and mummified. It started to decay and turned toxic. The remaining foal aborted at 10-1/2 months ~ a terrible loss of the foal and of the year lost with an older mare.

The critical time with mares that have been checked in foal is around the 4-month period. The fetus moves and the placenta needs to attach to the uterus. I use the lab B.E.T. Labs in Kentucky to run a blood test for complete progesterone and estrogen levels, and that can tell you with 99% accuracy whether your mare is sustaining a pregnancy. This test costs just $20 ~ a great savings over the vet.

Make sure you vaccinate for Equine Viral Rhinopneumonitis (EVR) at (at least) 5, 7, and 9 months. Many vets are now recommending vaccinations at 3 months and also at 11, but only if the mare shows no sign that foaling is imminent. It is really cheap insurance against this virus that will cause a pregnant mare to abort. I use the the vaccine, Pneumabort; it is a killed vaccine.

In my experience with older mares, it is the observation, patience, perseverance and plain ol' common sense that pay off. And, in preserving these old and important lines, it is well worth it.

Good luck to you. Let us know how things progress.

Marci de la Torre

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