When is my mare in heat?
I grew up in a horse environment. During those years I heard different opinions and perspectives about individual rider’s preferences. One of them dealt with horse gender. Many times, I was told that people prefer riding a male horse, instead of a mare. Their main argument was a mare’s changing behaviour. In most of the cases, this is caused by the heating season. Some mares can indeed change their behaviour and be hard to handle during these days. That is why understanding the heating cycle and process of it will help us to understand our mares better, to get ready for the breeding season and to be happy mare owners.
I have researched the mare heating cycle, how to recognise it and what the main characteristics of this process is. I will now explain a mare’s heating cycle and why it is happening. Later I will give you some tips on how to notice it coming and how to track it so you can have better control of it. This knowledge will help you in your daily riding and training sessions as well as manage and prepare the breeding season. I hope that after having read this blog post, you will understand your mare better.
Duration of the heating cycle
Let us start with the description of the heating season. Heating is also known as oestrous. Mares are seasonally polyoestrous, meaning their reproductive cycles occur at certain times of the year. Usually, a mare’s cycling season will start in April and last till November/October. During these months, each cycle will last 18 to 23 days and the mare will be in heat for about 5 of those days (Cook 2012). The duration of the oestrous can be influenced by daily light and the mare’s exposure to it. The time when the mare is not in heat is called dioestrus and can last 14-15 days (Equine9).
Possible changes in behaviour and how to recognise them
If you would like to know when your mare is coming in to heat, you should be looking for the following (Equine9):
- A winking vulva
- Tail raising, frequent urinating and a subsequent wet tail and hind end
- Squatting down, dropping her hips and generally adopting a breeding position
- Increased interest in stallions and mareture geldings
- Squaling, having her ears back, kicking and aggression
- Looser bowel motions
- Being difficult to handle or ride
- Nervousness or anxiety
- Unpredictable behavior
The best step you can do to identify your mare’s heating behaviour patterns is to know the heating cycle and to keep track in a diary of the changing behaviour in your mare (Elliott, 2019). This will help you to have better control of your mare and will allow planning breeding or raiding routines around it.
What to know when considering breeding
If you would like to breed early in the season you can expose your mare to increased daylight, up to 14 hours per day (Cook, 2012). If you are not sure when the heating starts for the first time, it is a good idea to consult with your veterinarian. After tracking the mare’s heat cycle, you should be aware that the ovulation will occur around the fifth day of the heating, or around 24-48 hours before the end of oestrus. For a breeder, it is important to remember that it is necessary to breed a mare before she comes off the heat, as sperm will only live in her reproductive tract for about 24 hours (Equine9).
Message to take with you:
It is always a good idea to consult with your veterinarian if you have any questions about the breeding and the mare’s heating cycle. However, the knowledge presented in this short blog post can help you to understand your mare better and improve the communication between the two of you. There are treaments and medical methods thaat can influence the mare behaviour during the heating period, for that you should always consult with your veterinarian.
And if you haven’t found the perfect match for your mare yet, then Studly is a great place to start looking.