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Breeding a winning native foal

People often comment on how well grown some foals and youngsters in the show ring look. This is no fluke and a well-grown, well-produced youngster (subject to conformation and movement and manners) is always going to be placed above its backwardand sometimes weedy looking competition.

Most importantly, the mare and stallion must be chosen for their temperament, movement and conformation if you want their progeny to be successful in the show ring.

Racehorse owners try to have their foals born as close to 1 January as possible in order to give them more growing time before they reach the racetrack. This is also the secret behind the well-grown mountain and moorland pony or foal. To achieve this, professional breeders defy nature,while few amateurs have the necessary experience or facilities to achieve this.

Most mountain and moorland native ponies are conceived in spring to early summer. The gestation period of 11 months sees the foals being born from the end of Aprilonwards, while foals on the hills can be born as late as early August.

The age-old concept of “grow them on before the winter comes and let them get spring grass inside them” is no fallacy, but the natural conception of mares in their native habitat is dictated by the seasons and their age.

To create the well-developed foal for the foal shows and a mature yearling for the following year, one must intervene with the natural order of nature and this is not always possible or acceptable tomany people.

To get a foal born as early as possible, the mare must conceive during mid-February to mid March – much earlier than she would naturally. A proven mare should be used because maiden mares are too unreliable and their conception cycles can be irregular. Take into account if the mare has historically foaled late or early. Technically, a foal born on 31 December would be classed as one-year-old on 1 January just one day later and all would be lost.

To ensure the mare comes into “season” at the appropriate time, she may be artificially induced by a skilled veterinary surgeon and then covered if the stallion is willing. Many mares do not “cycle” so frequently during the winter months so stabling her near the stallion willhelp to “keep her in the right frame of mind” as long as it does not drive the stallion insane. Do not allow the mare to be covered or run with the stallion until she is ready to mate.

A stocky, well-proportioned foal will always fill the eye better than a weedy, fine type, within the restrictions of the breed. Colour is usually irrelevant but again, must conform to breed regulations.

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