Mama mare, here you go again

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Breeding from your mare is a step many owners consider – Sara Greenwood shares the pitfalls and her experienced tips to make it work

Poddy as a foal with her mum
All images: Sara Greenwood

Your children have finally left home, and you are left with the lovely mare the whole family has enjoyed riding or competing. What do you do with her? For many, the first answer is ‘let’s breed from her!’
But this isn’t (or shouldn’t be) a snap decision and there’s a lot you need to think about. Consider why you are breeding from her – is it just because you don’t know what else to do with her? Or you want something to sell? Or perhaps you want something for the future? Also think about the practicalities –
have you got the land and stabling required for more horses? Will you be foaling her or will you be sending her away to stud to foal?
Finally, and perhaps this is the most important, consider her temperament. Her conformation. How is she put together, how sound is she? Will any of her bad points come through to the foal? Can you even tell when she is in season?

Lucy on Poddy, Simon on Poddy’s first foal and Sara on her second foal.

No doubt one of the reasons you ever considered breeding from your mare was that you watched a stallion parade and saw a beautiful one. But just like the mare you need to consider his temperament and conformation too. Have you seen any of his progeny? What has he done in his life?

Poddy’s last foal and Sara’s ‘superstar’ Aussi, ridden by Lucy Greenwood

Now – are you going to send her to the stud for natural covering, or will your mare stay at home for artificial insemination? Or perhaps you might consider embryo transfer. Each has advantages and disadvantages, and all need to be researched and considered to work out which is the best option for you and your mare.

Poddy team chasing with Sara Greenwood

The family dynasty
Having read all that, you may be thinking HELP! So many questions to be answered.
I started breeding horses about 40 years ago using a friend’s Thoroughbred mare – who had already had a few foals. I took her to Skippy (a well-known Irish Draught), but before he was famous! All went well and lovely Poddy was the result. I loved the foal so much that my mare went back to Skippy. Sadly, this was without a happy ending – we had a dead foal.
However, Poddy was the start of a dynasty. As a four-year-old she had a foal by National Trust (a Thoroughbred) while I was pregnant. Some years later, having been a wonderful hunter, competition horse and great for leading the children’s ponies from, she had two more foals.They weren’t all successful but the last one, from Relief Pitcher, was my superstar, who took both daughters to BE Intermediate and retired as the family’s hunter.

Sara’s second breeding mare Bally Too with Lucy Greenwood

Since then I have bred five foals with another mare. We lost one to a lightning strike, one was beautiful and enjoyed dressage so I sold him, one is utterly non-competitive but moves beautifully and is a lovely hack, another is tricky but talented and my last one, by a Connemara, is a star – anyone can ride her.

Bally Too’s (and Sara’s )last foal, Tinka

Choosing the match
Having started with Skippy the Irish Draught, I put his offspring Poddy to three Thoroughbred stallions – National Trust, Past Glories and Relief Pitcher.
With the second mare I bred from I deliberately went for the power and movement of the Warmblood, which is what the mare lacked. This was not such a success due to their temperaments – although we still love them, we have to find the right job for them.
Lastly we opted for the Connemara, which definitely produced the best all-rounder. I would have loved to have used Relief Pitcher again, but he had just died and Thoroughbreds only used natural covering then.
This year we are trying to get one of the Warmblood mares in foal to an Irish Draught but sadly it’s not currently happening (watch this space for future breeding programme!).
My conclusion? Breeding is not all happy and easy, but we have so many happy memories. It can be very expensive unless you do everything yourself, and a good vet is the most important thing.

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