IF you are thinking of breeding from your mare this spring, now is the time to prepare.First, we can start with an assessment of the mare, writes Euan Hammersley of Paragon Vets.

Consider her temperament and whether she is good to handle. This will be important when it comes to foaling and handling her foal.Next assess her health. Does she have any underlying health conditions? If she is no longer ridden, think about the reasons why. Does she have any conformation abnormalities which have affected her performance and are likely to be passed on to her offspring such as toe in front feet? Is she in good general health and carrying a good level of condition? Mares which are overweight will struggle to conceive. Will she be able to carry a foal and be able to provide a new-born with enough milk? It’s important that she is up to date with worming, dental care and vaccinations.If you decide your mare is suitable for breeding, then it is worth having a reproduction examination. This includes an ultrasound scan of the uterus and ovaries to make sure she is cycling and hasn’t got any abnormalities that would make conception or carrying a foal difficult or impossible. It is worth thinking about what sort of horse you are looking to breed. Will you be keeping the foal for yourself or hoping to sell it on as an investment? If you are planning to keep the foal it is a good idea to look at other offspring the stallion has produced and what people are doing with them. If they are all with professional riders it might be that those horses are quite challenging to ride and need to be in a professional yard. Consider the stallion’s conformation and whether his good points counteract any weaker aspects of your mare. Find out in what ways the semen is available, whether it is a natural cover, or chilled or frozen.You will need to think about the availability of the stallion if natural cover or chilled semen is going to be used. You will only be able to get semen at certain times from some stallions that are competing, because of their competitive diary. This needs to tie in with when you want a foal, if you don’t have a lot of indoor space you don’t want to be producing a foal in February or March. Pregnancy in mares lasts 11 months.Importantly this year be aware that you may not be able to get fresh semen from Europe, where a lot of sport horse stallions are based, because of new paperwork under Brexit. Normally we would be able to get chilled semen which is sent the same day, but it will take longer currently, so you will need to use frozen semen instead.The stallion will also need to be health accredited. There are several sexually transmitted diseases that a stallion can pass to a mare either through natural cover or through semen. If you get semen from Europe and it doesn’t come with the health accreditation paperwork, we can’t use it. If you’d like to use a European stallion we would advise you to go through an agent based in the UK and we are happy to advise on this. Finally,breeding horses is expensive and so is raising a foal which will not be ready to be ridden until it is three or four years old.