Choosing the perfect broodmare

By: Horse Deals

Choosing the perfect broodmare
Choosing the perfect broodmare

Horse Deals’ vet Ed Lyall MRCVS discusses what makes the perfect broodmare and how to avoid common breeding pitfalls

Most mares are selected for their own or their previous offspring’s performance records in whatever discipline they compete.

When selecting mares to breed from, it’s important to try to avoid using those with inheritable defects. An example of this would be osteochondrosis (OCD), a disease that affects the joints of the developing youngster. There is thought to be an inheritable component to the development of OCD, so I would suggest avoiding a mare that had been diagnosed with or treated for the condition.

If the mare is good enough, there are other inheritable problems that might have to be ignored, for example, a parrot mouth. This defect seems to be strongly inherited, but it would be difficult for any vet to advise not breeding from a mare who has a parrot mouth but the talent to complete a four-star horse trials.

There are several inherited traits we usually see mares passing on to their foals. These include umbilical or inguinal hernias, however, as with the parrot mouth, modern veterinary medicine means we can deal with these problems when they arise.

Remember that we are tinkering with natural selection by breeding from mares with imperfections. One good example is that there is an increasing population of mares that require a Caslick’s stitch in their vulva to get or stay in foal and these mares are passing on poor vulval conformation to their filly foals.

Conformation is always a huge factor in broodmare selection. Points such as good feet and the correct hock angles, as well the correct length of neck and back, are important to look out for. However, if there are subtle issues, choosing a stallion that is an excellent example of the required conformation or is known to throw foals with the desired attributes is always the best idea.

Temperament should also be thought about, as there’s no point breeding from a mare that is difficult or impossible to handle or throws unrideable foals. Again, poor temperament may possibly be counteracted by choosing a stallion of good temperament.

Mares can be put in foal from the age of two and I usually advise waiting at least until the mare reaches her second birthday before starting. However, if she’s physically immature it’s best not to breed from her in the two-year-old year.

If a mare is to be broken and then ridden for high-level sport it might not be advisable to put her in foal young as the pelvic ligaments, which relax to allow the birth of the foal, may end up too slack after foaling to help her reach her highest level of performance.