Tips for horse owners with problem mares
Sometimes you’re just hit with the feeling of powerlessness, nothing really works even if you’ve tried everything. If you find yourself amongst experienced horse breeders, I bet you know the struggles of trying to impregnate the so-called “problem mare”. Maybe you already own a problem mare without even knowing it? In that case, what signs should you look out for if you want to identify the problem mare, and what options do I have to increase the chances of getting a foal from her? In this blog post we’ll specify the things that people with problem mares should look out for, but also share some tips with you about things to consider before you buy semen for insemination or book live cover for your mare.
In my opinion, the description “problem mare” is a bit exaggerated, because it indicates that the horse e.g. stubborn and annoying, or in other words – a problem. That couldn’t be further from the truth, even if some of the adjectives fits the description of your mare 😉 To all the veterans and breeding experts out there that thinks I’m stupid. “Problem mare says itself and makes perfect sense”. Sure – but you’re forgetting that I’m relatively new in the horse industry and probably share my uncertainties about horses and descriptions of horses with many other inexperienced horse breeders out there. In truth, this blog post written to those that does not understand why their mare isn’t with foal yet – even after several attempts.
What is a “problem mare”, and why is it a “problem”?
Well, there’s several reasons why a mare could be described as a problem mare. Firstly it could be – despite numerous heat cycles – that the mare haven’t gotten pregnant after attempts with insemination or live cover. There’s a rule of thumb saying that a mare is defined as a “problem mare” when it has skipped three heat cycles and when attempts of reproduction has taken place each time. The reasons why a mare can’t get pregnant include:
- All mares react differently when they’re inseminated with semen because it is perceived as foreign substance in her body. When insemination is used to impregnate a mare, a chemical reaction starts in the mare’s uterus and healthy or “normal” mares are able to clean themselves from this state in approx. 6 hours. On the other hand, the problem mare will have trouble cleaning herself from this state and trying to inseminate her again will oftentimes end in failure.
- Likewise, infection in the mare’s uterus due to bacteria also decreases the chances of impregnating her. An infection can typically run its course without any symptoms or the mare showing pain which makes it even harder to identify and treat.
- A third reason why the mare is difficult to impregnate can be due to her feeding habits, shape and form. If the mare is over- or underweight then you will in most cases struggle with getting her with foal – which is the same case with us humans. And if you find yourself in a position where your mare is either over- or underweight it is too late if you enter the reproduction season with her being in a bad shape. If you try to fatten or put her on a diet then her body will focus on that, rather than on getting pregnant.
- With time – and as the mare gets older – her ability to get pregnant will also decrease. Typically, this is seen with older mares that have had many foals or struggle with giving birth where the uterus and internal organs starts to wear down.
How do you impregnate problem mares?
Like humans, horses are unique and very different from each other. This is the case from mare to mare as well. What might work for one particular mare, might not work for the other. Nevertheless, it’s not an impossible task to impregnate your problem mare. Don’t forget that many horse owners before you have been in the same situation as you’re in right now. You just have to arm yourself with a lot of patience and a different approach, that’s all.
- As I mentioned earlier, the physical condition of the mare plays an important role when trying to maximize your chances of getting a foal from her. There needs to be a balance between proteins, vitamins and minerals in the mare’s body. If you wish to get your mare in the ideal shape for reproduction then preparation is the key-word you’re looking for. If you keep your mare on a balanced diet that is good for her then you will also increase your chances of success.
- Remember to be patient with your mare. As mare owners we sometimes forget to control our excitement and expectation to our mares – especially if the only thing we’re thinking of is getting that foal next year. However, the owner is oftentimes ready before the mare is. Many people thinks that if you start to inseminate your mare early in the season then that will increase your chances. However, that’s just not always the case and you have to remember that you’re mare and her body works in mysterious ways. In fact, the first time you inseminate her is when you have the biggest chance of her getting pregnant. Which is also why you want the first time to be the right time for her and when she is ready.
- If you struggle with getting your mare pregnant you can also consult with your veterinarian. Your veterinarian will be able to tell you when is the ideal time for insemination after checking her. He/she will also be able to tell you if there’s something else that cause the fertility problems.
- If you’ve tried everthing and nothing really works then you can give treatment with hormones a try. Far from every mare needs this treatment, but with some it increases the chance of getting them pregnant. I such a case you should always consult with your veterinarian.
Lastly, it’s also important that you consider what breeding type to use on your mare. If insemination with chilled semen is the right option for your mare, or if you should try with fresh semen instead. The same thing applies if you’ve tried in-hand breeding several times but without any luck, then you could try pasture breeding if the circumstances allows it. Keep in mind that there might be different reasons as to why one stallion owner chooses to use a specific breeding method with his stallion. If you would like to know more about pros/cons related to the different breeding methods then you can learn more here.