Your First Foal: Horse Breeding for Beginners (Bringing You Closer)

Your First Foal: Horse Breeding for Beginners (Bringing You Closer)

by Karin Kattwinkel

ISBN: 9780857880031

Publisher Cadmos Publishing

Published in Professional & Technical/Engineering

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Sample Chapter



Stable and environmental requirements

Conventional stable yards, particularly those designed for riding horses are not really suitable for brood mares and foals. This is because, in the last third of pregnancy, the mare needs a quieter environment and an undisturbed retreat. She should also not be exposed to new horses on a regular basis as there is a risk of infection from them. For the actual birth, she needs a clean separate area with plenty of straw somewhere where the foaling can easily be observed. Even native breeds may require assistance and a muddy shared paddock is not suitable.

Foaling outside is ideal for hygienic reasons but it is difficult to observe. Mares, particularly maidens with a first foal, fiercely protect their newborn from other horses and people. A spacious stable gives them the necessary peace and quiet during this important bonding phase. However, locking up a mare used to living in a herd in a stable without visual contact with other horses is not a good idea. It causes far too much stress!

If you cannot offer your mare a suitable area for foaling and for the first few weeks after the birth, it is better to take her to an experienced breeder to foal down. Your foal will then also have playmates to grow up with. Understandably, every owner would like to see their 'once in a lifetime' foal being born and grow up and have it all to themselves. The welfare of mother and foal, however, should always be more important than the fulfilment of your own dreams. If you really do not wish to send the mare away for foaling a possible compromise is to alter your stable layout to suit her needs. Perhaps you could do it together with another local single-mare-owning breeder? Whatever arrangement you choose, the most important requirement is a large, high-quality pasture. A young foal should be turned out during summer, day and night! For this reason alone, most riding stables are not ideal for breeding.

What will your foal cost you?

Because the ever-rising costs of everything from hay to vaccinations vary from area to area, and because the needs of a native pony broodmare and her foal are somewhat different to those of a thin-coated Thoroughbred or a finely-tuned Warmblood, it is impossible to give an exact figure in answer to this question. However, you must know your own accurate costings before you make the decision about whether or not to breed from your mare, so use the checklist below to help you compile the relevant costs.

Up until the time of weaning, you have to expect the following costs:

Insurance for mare and foal Feed

• Hard feed, 1 ton

• Hay, 1 ton

• Straw, 2 tons

• Food supplements, 50 kg

Pasture (fencing, fertiliser)

Covering (stud fee)


Electricity, water

Farrier for mare and foal

Breeding society membership and registration fees

Veterinary costs

• Swab

• Follicle check and ultrasound

• Pregnancy test

• Vaccinations

• Examination of the newborn foal

• Worming mare and foal

• Contigency fund for veterinary costs

Contingency fund for other additional costs

Professional breeders also have to consider:

Value of the mare

10 years of use


Staff salaries and National Insurance contributions

Maintenance of buildings

Employers and third-party public insurance

Unexpected costs such as illness or injury can increase the total significantly.

Selling your foal

If you want to sell your foal you should chose the mare and stallion especially carefully. A foal that fulfils your expectations regarding looks and conformation can usually be sold just through word of mouth. Other options are advertisements on the internet or in dedicated magazines and specialist selected auctions are also an increasingly popular choice. Your breed society (which is almost certainly listed in the addresses section at the end of the book) can usually give you information about these.

Assessing your mare as a breeding prospect

Only the best is good enough

Try to be as objective as possible when deciding whether your mare is really suited to becoming a mother. You and your possible buyer will certainly enjoy owning a sound, talented and trainable animal much more than one that is unsound, unrideable or unmanageable as a result of a poor breeding decision.

The potential broodmare should have a friendly personality and should not display vices like weaving, crib biting, or kicking. This is not only important because these vices could be hereditary, but also because the mare would be a bad example to her foal if she showed them. There is also always the risk that the mare could hurt her foal if she became very ill-tempered in its presence.

It goes without saying that the mare should be physically healthy. If your mare can no longer be ridden for health reasons (e.g. it is lame or has a chronic cough) you must consult your vet first to find out if these problems might be hereditary. If they are, you should abandon the idea of breeding from her.

If a mare has had to retire due to mismanagement or an injury that is not the result of a conformational defect (e.g. a non-hereditary problem, the vet should establish if pregnancy and birth would be too demanding for her. If the mare has already had a foal when younger, using her again for breeding at a later stage is certainly an option. She should, however, not be older than 16 years when having her first foal.

In order to establish her sexual health, you can examine the mare's udder and her genital area initially yourself. The udder should be symmetrical and have two equally sized teats. Check the position of her vulva (indication of possible problems with the uterus) and its alignment (a gap increases the risk of infection). However, the examination of the internal organs has to be carried out by a vet (the first of many costs that you will encounter). Immature mares often give birth to small and weak foals.

Also, young mares may not have had time to develop properly themselves and their immature bones will be under a lot of stress from the weight of the foal /including the placenta) and also from insufficient calcification, as the growing foal is given a higher priority. Unfortunately, these processes cannot be compensated for even by optimal mineral supply in the feed and the consequences only show up later in life when the mare is being ridden and then shows early signs of wear and tear. You should therefore not cover your mare before she is three years old. Breeds that mature late should really be given another year before being put in foal and some stud books – especially those of the native pony breeds – refuse to register foals born to mares below a certain age to ensure that this happens. On the other hand, experienced sport horse breeders sometimes cover very tall mares at the age of two years old, as the pregnancy will usually stop their excessive growth.

How to find the right stallion for your mare

When choosing the future sire of your foal you should consider the following:

1. Do not just choose the stallion because you like him but visualise how you want your new foal to look at maturity and what purpose it should fulfil. Is he suitable for your mare or are both so fundamentally different that the result could be a mismatch?

2. Compare the pedigree of the stallion with that of your mare. Although some world class show jumpers and dressage horses appear to be quite closely line-bred, this is a very skilled operation and not for the amateur breeder. In general, therefore, mutual ancestors should not appear earlier than the third generation.

3. The stallion should have his strengths where the mare has her weaknesses. It is by no means always the case that the foal will then be an equal mixture of mother's and father's influences but the possibility is higher in a case where the stallion has the same weakness as the mare.

4. Observe the stallion's character and temperament as well. Choose a calm and relaxed stallion for a nervous mare. You should never consider a stallion with a difficult character or vices.

If at all possible, go and see the stallion yourself. Only then can you form an opinion as to his conformation, temperament, charisma, behaviour and ridability. If he is too far away ask at least for some video footage. It is also recommended to check out some of his offspring.

Some pre-potent stallions pass on their characteristics strongly, even when using very different mares. Others produce foals that always look like their mothers. Some have a good mixture of foals. By looking at his foals, you can gather important information about this, which will help you to decide which stallion to choose if you want to correct small faults in your mare or if you want a close image of her.

Choosing a stallion with an elegant, small head can compensate one single fault, for example, a heavy head of the mare. Many faults, however, cannot be balanced out by choosing a suitable sire. A successful breeder will therefore always prefer a horse with one big fault but many good points, rather than a horse with lots of small faults. Such judgements should be left in the hands of the experts. They require a lot of experience and the right intuition.

When visiting the future sire, use the opportunity to check out the stud. Are high standards of care and good hygiene for your mare guaranteed? Do not hesitate to ask questions and check out the mare's stable, covering area and paddocks. A responsible stud manager will understand your concern. For that reason alone, a visit to the stud is worthwhile: at least you will not turn up with your mare on the trailer and ask yourself whether you should turn around and leave straight away!

If your mare is registered with a breed society and you also want your foal to be registered you need to choose a stallion that is approved for breeding with them. The breeding society in question can advise you where to find a stallion. A growing number of studs also hold the British Equestrian Federation (BEF) British Breeder's Quality Mark award which ensures that the stud is run to a high standard of safety for your mare and her foal. Details of these studs are available from the Breeding section of the BEF at



What do you want your foal to be?

Even if you have no intention of selling your youngster it is sensible to have proper papers for it and equine passports are now compulsory throughout the European Union. You cannot know how your circumstances may change in the future and you may be forced to sell your foal, in which case pedigree papers and a passport will be essential. More positively, perhaps you want to affiliate it in order to compete, but in either case you can only apply for pedigree papers for offspring from registered parents approved for breeding.

Breed societies and stud books

There are well over 40 different breed societies in the UK and all of them have different requirements for registration. Of these at least 10, chiefly Moorland and Mountain breeds such as the Exmoor Pony Society and the Shetland Pony Stud-Book Society, are mother stud books and are vital sources of long-term breed histories. Mother stud books are recognised as the foundation stud books of the breed and all other recognised stud books for the breed elsewhere in the world are termed daughter stud books and must follow the breed standards and registration procedures laid down by the mother stud book as closely as possible within the legal framework of the relevant national breeding laws.

Stud books in the UK generally fall into one of the following groups listed below.

The international hot blood breeds

There are two major pure-bred hot blood 'light horse' stud books in the world, namely, the Thoroughbred (registered in the General Stud Book maintained by Wetherbys) and the Arab (the pedigree records of which are kept by the Arab Horse Society).

Unique amongst stud books in the UK, the General Stud Book, which is primarily designed for race horses, requires no licensing or veterinary inspections for its stallions or mares. It is the international arbiter of Thoroughbred pedigrees in the world and all other Thoroughbred breeding organisations (such as the French and American Jockey Clubs) are subject to its rulings. Pedigree authentification is done by a combination of covering returns, identity diagram and DNA testing and no further qualification is required as pedigree records go back undiluted by unproven crosses for over 250 years. However, there is also a part-bred section, known as Wetherbys Non-Thoroughbred Register. This is open to non-Thoroughbred mares that have been covered by Thoroughbred stallions, to non-Thoroughbred stallions that have successfully passed a thorough vetting inspection and also – in due course – to the parentage-tested offspring of these stallions and mares. Many top class eventers have what are known as NTR papers as a high percentage of Thoroughbred blood is considered desirable for this sport.

The Arab Horse Society was the first stud book for purebred Arab horses in the world. It is also a founder member of the World Arab Horse Organisation (WAHO) and its pedigree papers (which are DNA-tested for parentage verification) are therefore recognised world wide. Licensing of stallions is by veterinary inspection, although there is also an optional Premium Performance Scheme for competing stallions. There are also thriving Anglo Arab and part-bred Arab registers, which ensure that a considerable number of competition animals are also registered in them.

Native pony breeds

There are 11 native pony breeds unique to the UK and they are often referred to as the glory of the British horse world. These breeds (Dales, Dartmoors, Exmoors, Fells, Highlands, New Forests, and four different breeds of Welsh) all have very strict policies on stallion licensing and approval to ensure that the bloodlines and true native type of the breed are preserved. Only progeny of fully licensed stallions out of mares also fully registered in the stud book are eligible for pure-bred papers (now in the form of an equine passport with a verified pedigree) and some breeds (such as the Exmoor) will only provide these to pure-bred foals after they have been individually inspected and approved according to the physical requirements of the breed standard. Numbers registered each year vary widely amongst the stud books with some (Dartmoor, Exmoor etc) being officially recognised as Rare Breeds, whilst others have extensive part- bred stud books for animals by or out of one fully registered parent which helps to swell the numbers. The native pony breeds of the UK are not only unique but they also have outstanding qualities of soundness and good temperament and as a result many have also developed a strong following overseas where many daughter stud books exist for specific breeds.

Other pony stud books

These include more general pony stud books such as the National Pony Society and the Sports Pony Studbook Society, plus those (usually daughter) organisations that register foreign pony breeds such as the Caspian, Icelandic and Norwegian Fjord. All licence stallions with some form of inspection and some (such as the Sports Pony Studbook Society) also insist on inspections for mares wishing to enter the stud book.

Warmblood and sport horse breeds

There are currently about a dozen of these operating in the UK and all have comprehensive systems of inspection, licensing and approval (grading) of stallions and mares based upon conformation, paces, performance (own and progeny's), pedigree and veterinary inspection in line with the standard procedures encouraged by the World Breeding Federation for Sport Horses (WBFSH). Four of the breeds are home grown, namely the Anglo-European Studbook (AES), the British Warmblood Society (BWBS), the Scottish Sports Horse (SSH) and Sport Horse Breeding Society of Great Britain (SHBGB), originally the Hunters Improvement Society, then the National Light Horse Breeding Society before it became IDHS (GB) in 1999; all of these organisations inspect and approve across a wide range of sport horse and warmblood breeds destined for competition in the three Olympic disciplines of dressage, eventing and show jumping although in general the BWBS is best known for dressage, SHBGB for eventing and the AES and SSH for show jumping. The remaining stud books are daughter stud books of foreign breed societies and usually follow the grading and registration rules of their mother societies to the letter – the British Hannoverian Horse Society (BHHS) is a prime example of this – although some (such as the Irish Draught Horse Society of Great Britain (ISHBGB) have increased the importance of their part-bred (sport horse) sections to reflect the interests of British breeders. Interestingly, the Cleveland Bay (sometimes erroneously described as the original warmblood breed of Britain) was once bred solely as a carriage horse but despite the popularity of driving is now the only UK riding horse breed that is also a Rare Breed. However, it is popular as a source of show jumping blood and the part-bred Cleveland Bay (usually a Thoroughbred X CB) is often to be seen performing at the highest levels in this sport. The increasingly rare Hackney horse is also in this category.

Excerpted from "Your First Foal: Horse Breeding for Beginners (Bringing You Closer)" by Karin Kattwinkel. Copyright © 2013 by Karin Kattwinkel. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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