7 things you always wanted to know about breeding, but were too embarrassed to ask

  • From damsires to covering and AI to gestation period, when it comes to horse breeding for beginners, there is an awful lot to learn. So to help get you started, here are the answers to some of the most common questions that first-timer horse breeders ask.

    Horse breeding for beginners: Q&A

    1. When do you say ‘by’ and when is it ‘out of’?

    The term ‘out of’ is used to describe the mother, or dam. ‘By’ is reserved for the stallion. The easy way to remember this is that foals come ‘out of’ mares, not stallions.

    2. What does damsire mean?

    Damsire is a term used to describe the sire of a horse’s dam. For example, if a horse is by Totilas out of a mare by Jazz, then the damsire is Jazz.

    3. When a horse is said to be by a stallion x another stallion, what does it mean?

    If a horse is described as being by Totilas x Jazz, that is the sire and damsire. Breeding aficionados are deemed to already know the breeding of stallions in general, so the names of the dams are excluded, as saying that a horse is by Totilas x Honeypie gives you no indication of its damline, unless you know the mare Honeypie personally — which most people won’t.

    4. What is a covering and is it the same as a stud fee?

    The stud fee is the price a mare owner pays to use a particular stallion, but that stud fee may include multiple attempts — referred to as coverings — if the mare does not fall pregnant after the first attempt.

    5. How long is a mare pregnant for?

    About 11 months, though a gestation period (pregnancy) anywhere between 320 and 350 days is completely normal for horses.

    6. When does a foal/yearling become a colt/filly?

    Actually a foal is already a colt or a filly, from the moment it is born. From birth to the end of that calendar year the horse is a foal. Once weaned (separated from its mother) it becomes a weanling, then from January it becomes a yearling as all horses’ official birthdays are on 1 January.

    7. What is AI?

    It stands for artificial insemination. This is a breeding technique used to inseminate a mare with a stallion’s semen when she and the stallion are in different geographical locations, the stallion does not offer live cover, or the mare owner does not wish to move the mare. AI can also be used after a stallion has died, using frozen semen. It is safer for handlers as only one horse is ever involved at a time, so some studs use AI even when both mare and stallion are at the same facility.

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