To breed a mare or not? That is a big question that many people ask themselves every spring. Even though breeding is my sole purpose in having a couple of horses, I always ask myself some tough questions each year. Why should I? What is the purpose for breeding the mare? Can I afford it? Each situation is unique and I don't profess to have all the answers to everyone's breeding questions, but for me it really does boil down to some basic questions.
My two broodmares (Bitsy Pine Sun and Maker Miss Ellie) do not get bred each and every year because sometimes I don't like my own answers to those questions. For instance, if I still have a baby or two that I haven't sold yet then I probably cannot afford to re-breed them and also keep those young horses around. I have been fairly lucky in getting my babies sold but there was one year when I had no idea if a yearling filly I had was going to move or not so I elected to not breed the mare back after she foaled again the next year. As luck goes, I did sell the filly that spring but by the time I had her sold, it was too late to re-breed so Bitsy got a year off. If I hadn't sold the yearling and had her new sibling at the same time it would have been hard for me to afford everything plus space would have been an issue.
But, the number one question to ponder is why should any given mare be allowed to reproduce. In this day and age of depressed horse markets it is even more important to think seriously about having a foal. If you have a high quality mare that is already a proven producer, it makes answering that question easier. If you have a mare that is average or sub-standard quality and has not proven herself for whatever use she was intended, then breeding her may not be such a good idea in the current market environment. And, you may be able to purchase a better quality weanling for less money than breeding and raising one to weaning age.
Facilities are critical as well. Do you have a good sized foaling stall? Are your fences adequate and safe for a foal? I know alot of people like their mares to foal outside in the pasture but I put my mares in the barn every night all year round so their stalls become their "safe" place. My stalls are 12 X 12 which is the smallest I would have for foaling stalls but they are adequate. Because they are used to being in their stalls each night, they are comfortable with using them as a foaling place. It also affords me the luxury of being able to monitor the mares closely as foaling time approaches rather than worrying about finding them out in a dark pasture.
Shopping for the perfect stallion is also something to take seriously. Don't just breed to a friend's stallion or one that is "just down the road." Study the pedigree, the conformation, way of going, etc. to pick a good match for your mare. If you are unsure, visit with a professional breeder who knows the bloodlines and can assist you with finding the right stallion. Breeders who have broodmares and foals on a regular basis can be a wealth of information! And, if they are like me, visiting about horse breeding is fun!
So, ask yourself some tough questions, do your homework and make sure you are ready to have a foal around. You will know when the time and circumstances are right.