Tuesdays with Tony:
January may not be a time when you humans think about the birds and the bees. But believe it or not, soon the horses are going to start getting all twitterpated. Along with breeding season comes some responsibility. I know baby horses are super cute, but trust me, they all grow up to be big horses, and not everybody wants one of those! The docs and I have seen it happen here at the clinic time and time again. So, before you decide to breed your little pride and joy, ask yourself these questions to make sure it is a good idea:
1) Is my horse registered as a member of an actual breed? Hint: a Quarter horse/Belgian/Lusitano/Mustang is not a breed.
2) Does my horse have good conformation? If your horse’s knees stick out in front of his toes on a side-view, your horse does not have good conformation.
3) Is my horse nice? Make sure you also ask this question about the horse you are breeding to. Personality is definitely an inheritable trait. My personality, for example, is exquisite.
4) Is my horse pretty? Believe it or not, breeding a pretty horse to an ugly horse almost always results in an ugly horse. It is a myth that breeding a mare with no hindquarters to a stallion with massive hindquarters will “fix her.” The same applies with breeding a short horse to a tall horse; the foal will not necessarily be medium-sized. Obviously I am extremely handsome, and they didn’t even breed me!
5) Do I have potential buyers for the foal? It is a really good idea to find out about this before breeding, rather than when the foal is a scruffy yearling with no training on board. You may be surprised to find that the market for your little nugget is already saturated. I know in my species there are more kittens at the shelter than Dr. Lacher could ever adopt- although she tries.
6) Has my horse had a breeding soundness exam? If not, we can help you with that! For a mare, this entails at a minimum a transrectal ultrasound to see if the ovaries are cycling and make sure the uterus is free of cycts. For stallions, this entails a collection with sperm count and evaluation of sperm motility and morphology. I will watch from the sidelines…those stallions can get pretty scary when they have only one thing on their mind.
7) Do I have a lot of money, time, and patience? Breeding a mare will require several ultrasounds (slightly different from cat scans), hormone administration, cost of the insemination, recheck ultrasound exams, pregnant mare vaccines, foal watch, assisted delivery, newborn foal treatment, foal vaccines and boosters, extra grain and hay for the pregnant/lactating mare, etc…. And that’s only if everything goes right the first time!
If you answered yes to all of these questions, then congratulations! You are a responsible breeder! Definitely come visit me here at the office to discuss our all-inclusive breeding package, which is a very smart way to alleviate some of the money/time/patience part of horse breeding. For the rest of you, hopefully this provides some food for thought. Speaking of food…I’ll catch you next week!
Tuesdays with Tony: