A Guide To Becoming A Successful Breeder


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Nothing beats the satisfaction of breeding the foal of your dreams.

Whether your aim is to breed a future superstar to compete on, or you relish the challenge of producing a quality foal to sell, lots of research needs to be done to find the perfect stallion for your mare.

The internet world is at your fingertips, allowing you not only to consider stallions at stud in Australia, but also worldwide. Artificial insemination means you can expand your research to include international stallions and consider importing semen.

Frozen semen was first imported into Australia in 1989. This has improved the quality of many Australian bloodlines and allowed horses to be more competitive on an international level.

Frozen or chilled semen from Australian stallions can also be used and in fact, many performance horse stallion owners prefer to supply semen rather than risk their horses being injured during live cover.

Be clear about what you are breeding for, whether it's dressage, eventing, reining etc. and focus on stallions who have not only established themselves in their respective fields, but proven to pass their conformation, temperament and unique athletic abilities on to progeny.

Remember that breeding is a long term prospect and it will be three or four years before your future champion can be ridden, let alone start competing. Breeding is also expensive, so you want to ensure your mare and stallion are the best match you can find!

CHOOSING THE RIGHT STALLION

Breeding a foal is an exciting proposition so where best to start? An internet search should be your first area of research, for example Top Horse features a huge range of stallions at stud available to view, each with photos, pedigree and many with video.

Video is the ideal way to get an idea of a stallion's conformation and movement without actually seeing him in the flesh, and most reputable studs include quality video of their stallions on their websites. You can also search YouTube for stallion and progeny videos.

Choose a stallion that compliments your mare's conformation. Be objective about any bad points your mare has and seek out stallions that may balance them. Ask someone whose opinion you trust to assess your mare's conformation and temperament. Be aware though that using a particular stallion won't necessarily 'fix' any serious conformation faults your mare might have!

Be single minded about your end goal...it's preferable to breed one quality foal with competitive potential or viable re-sale value, than five average ones. After all, your foal will comprise 50% of the sire's, and 50% of the dam's genetic makeup, so don't settle for anything less than 100% quality in both!

If you don't own a suitable mare, it's possible to lease mares who have proven themselves in the discipline you are interested in, or have progeny who have gone on to compete successfully.

If the mare has had previous foals, study what she has produced and what good (and bad!) points were passed on.

When assessing stallions, familiarize yourself with their pedigrees and progeny, and also follow the competitive careers of progeny. Visit as many major events you can where the stallions are competing and watch them perform.

Visiting events not only allows you to see stallions in the flesh but also perhaps talk to their owner or breeder. Most are happy to share information about their horse in the interests of promoting their stud's bloodlines.

Event catalogues often list the basic pedigree of competing stallions, so you can mark which you like from watching them perform on the day, then carry out more detailed online research later.

If you see a horse you like at an event and would like to learn more about its breeding, try asking the owners for information.

Also check Top Horse's extensive video section featuring footage from Australia's major equestrian events, many showing some of Australia's top performance horses in action.

Temperament is an important consideration as if a stallion has a difficult temperament, he could pass it on which will affect trainability and derail any ambition you had for the foal.

Don't be tempted to use a stallion just because his stud fee is cheap. Go for the very best you can afford and if a particular stallion is beyond your current budget, try to be patient and save until you have the funds.

Again, when it comes to breeding future equine champions, the first rule is...don't skimp on quality!

When it comes to breeding future equine champions, the first rule is...don't skimp on quality!

A STAR IS BORN

You purchased the semen (or visited a stallion for live cover), your mare has been confirmed pregnant to the your stallion of choice and the agonising 11 month wait begins! Are you hoping for a colt or filly? Chestnut, grey or bay? While you can't control the foal's gender, you will have some idea of the possible colour although this shouldn't be a factor when considering a stallion.

Finally the big day arrives, your mare goes into labour and hopefully your years of planning and expense are rewarded with a healthy foal. Now is the time for that all-important imprinting.

Immediately after foals are born, they bond, or 'imprint' with not only their dam but people handling it. Imprinting is a vital part of training, even at this earliest stage of their life, as it desensitizes them and teaches them that people aren't to be feared.

All foals are born with advanced development allowing them to stand and eat immediately after birth...something necessary for them to survive in the wild. The foals bond with their dam during this vital time, and also with other 'herd' members...in this case, people handling it. Imprinting is done through touch, rubbing your hands all over the foal and should be done daily for the first seven days of his life.

The foal will then associated people in a positive way, not just the person who carried out the imprinting, but all people and this will have a positive impact on later training.

Keep imprinting sessions short...resist the temptation to over handle the foal as that cute, fluffy bundle of joy will quickly grow and your ideas of 'horse play' won't necessarily match a large colt or filly

Your foal needs to learn to be a horse, and will benefit from being taught to lead and tie up before he is weaned. If you aren't confident about doing this, then ask a recommended trainer to do it for you. This early groundwork is vital and will save a lot of heartache down the track.

So what lies ahead for the foal of your dreams?

He or she gets turned out to grow and mature until it's time to commence training....and the next stage of your breeding dream begins!

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