Foal heating
Foal Heating Breeding -- Is It For Everyone?

Today’s horse industry trends are very much in favor of foals born at the beginning of the calendar year. To get these "early foals", many people express interest and concern with re-breeding their mare as soon as possible. The mare is a very unique animal since she has an estrus period soon after foaling that many people term "foal heat". The mare can exhibit foal heat from the third to twelfth day post foaling.

This foal heat, or incorrectly called 9 day heat, is somewhat shorter that normal heat periods. It is reported that mares bred at foal heat have a lower fertility rate than those bred at regular heat periods. I tend to disagree with these statements. Practice on our farm yields about a 92% pregnancy rate with foal heat breedings. Also at University of Pennsylvania they report 100% foal heat breedings yielding in positive pregnancies in their wild herds of ponies. The point being, if one desires to move up the mare’s foaling date for next year, foal heat breedings are a good solution to this problem.

There are several factors that can reduce fertility and candidacy of foal heat breedings. If these items are present, it is recommended that foal heat breedings be avoided.

1. The presence of fluid in the uterus,
2. Abnormal discharges or excessive tearing in the vagina.
3. Retained placenta after foaling
4. Complicated foaling.

Another management tool is to "short-cycle" mares using hormones. this allows more time for the mare’s uterus to return to normal, yet, she can still be bred earlier than the first regular estrus period.

However, if your mare produced a normal, live, healthy foal without complications, then foal heat breeding may be a viable option for you. One quick suggestion that our farm finds to be quite successful is a uterine lavage with a mild saline solution and Betadine prior to breeding. I don’t feel that uterine lavages immediately following the foaling day is beneficial, but on day 5 and/or 7 (for example) greatly improves the chance of conception with foal heat breedings.

If you feel that it is questionable whether or not to breed your mare in foal heat or the mare can not be properly evaluated, it is best to wait until the first regular estrus period to breed the foaling mare.

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