Basic Broodmare management guidelines
Now that your filly has been retired from racing it is time to evaluate her next career. Most fillies with a quality pedigree and successful race record are whisked off to become the dams of the next generation of racehorses. To prepare your filly for a successful breeding career there are some important guidelines to keep in mind.
A filly just off the track is considered a maiden mare - similar to when she began racing, the filly was a maiden until she won her first race. A maiden mare is any female horse prior to being bred for the first time. Once she is bred she is no longer consdered a maiden. It’s important for veterinarians, broodmare managers and stallion farms to know if your mare is a maiden. Many maiden mares take to their new routine in stride. However, some require special attention as their new careers involve procedures that are foreign to them and may cause the maiden mare to resist.
Each year around Thanksgiving maiden mares and barren mares are put “under lights” to extend their daylight hours. We place mares under lights to mimic increasing day length that is seen in spring months to induce cycling of the mares. This brings mares through their periods of transitional estrus to ready them for the start of the breeding season. This generally takes about 60 days under lights to achieve the desired results. Mares that are not put under lights generally will fail to cycle and will come into heat about March or April of the following year.
Prior to the opening of the breeding season, your maiden and barren mares should have a breeding soundness exam performed along with a uterine culture test. Early preparation for the upcoming breeding season enables you extra time to perform any additional maintenance with your mares. The old adage, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure applies here. Time lost after the breeding season kicks off can be costly in the short-term and long-term.
Another basic management guideline is to continue feeding your maiden and barren mares quality feed and hay throughout their new careers. Having a mare at her physical peak prior to and after breeding is preferred to help insure a successful breeding and foaling. Every mare is different and special attention should be paid to each mare’s dietary needs. Don’t skimp in this area. A strong healthy mare produces stronger and healthier foals.
Prior to being bred, a mare should be examined by a veterinarian to determine if she is nearing the prime-time to be covered by the stallion. The vet will perform a rectal exam to determine the size of follicles on each ovary, whether the cervix is open and ready for breeding and any other physical signs such as uterine tone, fluid or edema. After the mare has been bred a follow-up exam is performed within 48 hours to determine if the mare ovulated. If she did ovulate, 14 days later a pregnancy exam is scheduled. If she did not ovulate, a return visit to the stallion may be in order.
Once your mare is pregnant she should be examined again at about 25 days to determine if a healthy heartbeat is present. Another exam at either 45 or 60 days lets you know that your mare is safely in foal and with a little luck and proper care she will deliver a healthy foal at about 11 months gestation (340 days).