Feral and wild horses breed naturally with no problems, but the selective breeding of purebred horses obviously requires specialist human intervention. The mating of two such horses has to be carefully planned, in order to produce the favorite characteristics required. Human management of horse breeding also ensures healthier pregnancies and a more successful outlet for foaling.
In breeding terms, the male horse (stallion) is known as the sire, and the female (mare) is known as the dam. Each plays an equal part in the genetic make-up of any ensuing offspring, so it is important that both possess the desirable characteristics needed. This is especially important to professional breeders, who wish to produce good foals of a certain breed. It is also possible to mate two different types of horse in order to create a new breed, with its own distinct characteristics.
In horse breeding, there are half-brothers and sisters (horses who share the same mother but have a different father), horses pathered by the same stallion (referred to as 'by the same sire') and ones that share the same mother and father (known as 'full siblings').
A horse owner needs to take several factors into account before deciding to breed the animal, such as:
– Does the partnership partner have excellent genetic qualities?
– Is the animal in good health?
– What purpose will any ensuing foal be used for? Will it be kept or sold on?
– What are the economic benefits for the owners of the sire and the dam?
Furthermore, the owner of a mare will have to take into account the extra added costs associated with seeing their animal through gestation and add to this the very expensive costs of nursing a foal. There are many things to consider, starting with the stud fee. After this, the pregnant mare will require adequate veterinary care throughout her pregnancy, and she will also need proper nutrition – both these things will cost the owner a substantial amount of money. Finally, there is the cost of caring for the foal and mother post-gestation to consider. When taking all these factors into account, it becomes apparent that it is difficult to make a profit from horse-breeding, especially for the mare owner. This is a major factor for horse owners, and many decide not to breed their animals due to the huge expense involved.
A newborn foal is worth approximately three times the cost of the stud fee, and would fetch this if sold immediately after birth. However, if the foal is kept for any longer period of time, the costs of caring for it far outweigh any profits. Sadly, foals bred without careful consideration may end up being sold at a loss, or worse still, being sold for horse meat.
To conclude, horse owners should give careful consideration to whether they wish to breed their animal, what their motivations are and how achievable they may be.