From Bridles To Broodmare: Baby Making

& just like that a new series was born... welcome to the first instalment of "From Bridles to Broodmare".



When I bought Lady in 2015, 11 felt young, we felt like we had years ahead of us, and I remember thinking, "she's well bred, and one day, a very long time from now, she'll make a great brood mare." That's a pretty common statement around these parts, you hear it all the time. In fact, the other day while wasting time cruising Facebook I saw someone comment on a Q&A post saying that geldings are worth more than mares. My jaw just about dropped, not in these parts they ain't. You see it all the time, it's what I think of as  "Baby Mama Inflation"- I love geldings, I'm probably more of a gelding gal to be honest, but the fact is, if they can no longer play the game.. they sit in a field. I have one of those by the way, his name is Jingle, he's a paint horse that looks like they coulda bucked him at the Calgary Stampede, and he's going to live forever, I am sure of it. If it's a mare, and they can no longer play the game... you can breed them or you can sell them as a broodmare, especially if they are well bred. So your gelding is often a lawn ornament, but atleast your mare is a lawn ornament that can produce future lawn ornaments.

Here's Lady, being a boss, this is my favourite picture of her.

The truth of the matter is Lady is a very, very nice horse. She has a bit of a moose head, but aside from that, no one would say a bad word about her. She's got a big old hip on her and she's built to last. She's sweet, and kind, and nobody ever explained to her what "mare-ish" means, so that's very far from her vocabulary. On her back, she's quiet, and she's broke and she's the type of horse i'd put anyone on, any age, any capability, she'll take care of you. Like a toddler could happily ride Lady out in the mountains, that's how nice she is to be around. But... sometimes she didn't really want to play the game in the show pen, and when she did play the game, she'd rather play it for someone who knew what they were doing up there. She was relentlessly unforgiving of my ill-timed kicks, and my nervousness in the herd. She taught me a lot about timing, because, with her your timing had to be right there, all of the time. If you use your off-side leg, she will push up the pen. If you kick her at the wrong time, she will quit the cow in confusion. Anything bad she did, was caused by me entirely, and often she was pretty good, we were on our ways to 70-72's, and then I would completely mess it all up for us both. However, it was a definitely a struggle to watch other riders do the exact same things, and their horses forgive them. The fact of the matter is my nervousness and mental-ness in the show pen didn't translate to showing her off at her very best. I never really got her shown like I wanted too, or could have, if I could have just gotten the -eff- over myself.

& then, just when I was kind of getting it together with her, just when we were at the cusp of something maybe clicking, I discovered the other downside to Lady. If she's sore, at all, even a little bit, she doesn't want to play the game. If she's sore in her hocks, she will push up the pen... every single time. She will not try if she's at all stiff or ouchey. & I know a lot of you may be raising your eyebrows and muttering "this girl was showing a crippled horse and expecting her to cut." I know lots of people do, do that. But I wasn't, I was pouring money down the drain having her checked every three to six months. She was trotting around sounder than any other horse in the pen, and yet she may have felt a little ouchy here, a little sore there, and she wouldn't do do it.

Lady's Baby Daddy
So, after watching my bank account plummet, and my scores consistently not reflect the work I was putting into the game and looking at my beautiful horse who is still in really great condition and is still very much ride-able, but who I truly felt in my heart didn't really want to cut all the bad for me. I decided to retire her to be a broodmare. Which at the time was 45% sad 55% exciting, because my bank account couldn't play the game either, and when you have a good horse sitting in the field, you kind of feel obligated to show it. Now I had the opportunity to embark on a new adventure... I got to be a "breeder", and you see that's pretty special for me, because I love breeding and I love bloodlines and I always have. What was also special for me was I knew the stallion I wanted to breed her too right away, and that's Reys From Heaven. I was lucky to work for his owner for two years, and spend a lot of time with him. I got him ready for Calgary when he made the Mercuria Open Finals. I spent lots of time on his back, but lots of time in the wash rack bathing him (he always smiles when you wash his face), or in his stall cuddling him. He's a phenomenal stallion, he's so sweet to be around, and he literally is a shimmery unicorn, so of course I was going to breed Lady to a unicorn. (He also has a great show record, has talented offspring, I felt his breeding and physical attributes would compliment hers, yadayada most importantly he shimmers.)

Reys From Heaven
So then you have to go ahead and you know... ahem.. make a baby with your mare and your prospective baby daddy. This was my first time playing god and making babies and so I learned a lot, which is partially how this series was born. Many of you will go through the same boat of blinking and nodding and hearing words like "palpation" "insemination" "chute fee", and you will nod but you will not fully understand. I am here to break down my experience for you. You have found your stallion, you will receive a contract for that stallion that you will have to fill out in full. (I am going to get a little preachy here - if you don't receive a contract, that's very questionable, highly suspect, and I wouldn't breed to any stallion that doesn't have a proper contract in place, protects them, protects you.) READ your contract, ask any questions about the contract before you sign it. Then you pay a stallion fee, that goes to the stallion owner, and that is basically the cost of his semen. :) Then there is often a chute fee. Most stallions stand at vet clinics where the vets collect them for insemination purposes. This chute fee goes to the vets, generally it includes collection of the stallion and first time insemination. All other costs, ultra sounding, palpating, any drugs, etc, are then covered by the mare owner. This is not black and white though, some clinics do it differently, some stallion owners do it differently, but that is a basic overview of what you tend to see. If you are considering breeding your mare, read the fine print and ask questions about cost. For example, some stallion fees include the first chute fee, some don't. Live cover (where the stallion gets to actually perform "the sex" as opposed to jumping a dummy at a vet clinic) is a whole different ball game. Don't be afraid to ask questions just like you were shopping for a car, realistically stallion owners or breeding managers are taking your money for their services to you. They owe you explanations, proper contracts, and to be polite and open to answering your questions.

More photos of Baby Daddy being cool.

For me personally, there were a lot of questions, there were a lot of hail mary passes (aka trust the vet is doing what they are suppose to be doing and nod like you agree but you don't really know because this is your first time so you are just going to trust them.) We AI'd (artificially inseminate) my mare at the vet clinic that Rey stands at. For those of you that have never bred a mare before I will give you the cliff notes of this very exciting procedure. Basically you track the mare's cycle, I know Lady's cycle better than my own now, by the way. You do this my bringing her into the clinic, the vet ultrasounds her and you see the black dot on the screen. That's a follicle! The vet measures the black dot and if it is less than 30 mm it needs time to grow bigger. Follicular growth is approximately 3-5 mm per day. So then you play this checking game where you wait for your mare's follicle to grow and bring her back and forth from the vet clinic, hoping they will tell you today is the day to breed her. Right around 35 mm is when the vets can breed on that follicle. Some mares will ovulate right around then, some can go to around 45 mm or more, so you are sort of playing this scientific guessing game of when you should inseminate if you only have the one shot - one opportunity (eminem reference). However, there are many indicators of when a mare is close to ovulation but as many of you know, and I have learned this year. Mares are crazy. Many things affect mares, like I swear the shirt you decide to wear on the way to the breeding farm may affect your mare. Perhaps she doesn't like pink, she's going to ovulate on you early, EVEN though the vet promised she was three days away. There are no promises in breeding ya'll, remember that. Mares are crazy.

Anyways, the first time we bred Lady she was around a 35 mm follicle, Rey got the opportunity to jump on a dummy that day, the vets then collected his semen as he is humping said dummy and then inseminate Lady who was standing no where near him in the stocks with her tail wrapped and tied up. The magic of it all! Like a disney movie. Afterwards they gave Lady a shot of Deslorelin, science: this is a synthetic hormone commonly used to stimulate the release of the pituitary hormones in the mare that cause ovulation from mature ovarian follies. It's use permits the mare to be bred at an optimal time for conception with a higher rate of pregnancy. Basically going back to our Eminem reference, with that one opportunity you want to breed her on her nice big black dot and then you want her to ovulate on it and go to baby making in her uterus. 

Lady isn't so sure about this whole stallion thing
That was May 10. Mares have a gestation length that ranges from 320 to 362 days. Meaning Lady would give birth mid-April which, I felt, was a reasonably time for her to have a baby. Many of you have heard that breeders will try to have babies born in January and February so that they will be as "old" as possible given the January 1st birthday rule in horses. For those of you confused: In the quarter horse world (as well as many other breeds) despite the actual birthday of your foal, ALL horses turn a year older January 1st, so if your foal was born in December, it would only be a month old, but would then technically be one a month from it's birthday given the January rule. This is very important if you show aged event horses, because say your christmas baby goes to it's first futurity... well it's actually only a two year old competing against three year olds. However, Canada is a cold desolate place (not actually, but in the winter, it sure as heck is), foaling in January and February is not something the average person can do. It requires a facility, and it requires your little baby to be inside for most of it's early life given the weather. Or else you blanket the living crap out of it. In Canada, most people aim for April-May babies, praying that it's not some freak winter that lasts far into Spring.

I've also frequently used Rey as a model for my blogging adventures
Then you get to play this SUPER FUN WAITING GAME where you get to wait 14 days to check to see if your mare is in foal. During these 14 days you do a lot of staring at your mare and watching her around geldings/other mares praying you don't see any tail flicking or any signs of coming into heat or just generally ANYTHING that would cause her to look at all like she is not cooking you a futurity champion in there.

Lady & I. <3
Now, the 14 days is upon you, and this my friends is where breeding can go from a little bit expensive to racking up the regular vet bills. Pray for your friends who have mares that are hard to get into foal. You know those people you meet that say it takes them like 6 months of a mare living at a vet clinic for them to get their mares in foal? Pray for them. That shit is not cheap. Because on May 25, we went back... no baby... So then we went back on May 29 and there was a very small, very uncooperative follicle who was still playing the "I don't want to be a baby dance", so we gave her a shot of Bioestrovet, science: this is a synthetic prostaglandin analogue which has the ability to shorten the life span of the corpus lute. Bioestrovet can be used to treat certain clinical conditions which delay breeding, to manipulate the estrous cycle to better fit certain management practices. Basically, my mare's follicle didn't want to play the game, so we gave her some party drugs, so it would come around to playing the game. On May 31 we checked the black dot, and it was arriving to the party but it was that friend that always shows up three hours late for everything. As an aside, my vet bill for the month of May for these four days with chute fee, ultrasounds, and drugs, was around $800.00. For first time breeders that is something to remember and think about. Just because you paid a stallion fee and a chute fee, does not mean you are out of the woods and won't receive more bills in the mail.

Then on June 6 the black dot finally decided it wanted to become a baby, I think we bred her on a 42 mm, maybe even bigger? I'm a bad mom and forget. All I know is we pushed it right to the bitter end, and then I did a ceremonial dance in hopes that she would catch. Okay... I didn't physically.. but in my head I sure did.

& now that this post about sex and babies and unicorns and vet bills has dragged on for much longer than anticipated... ya'll will just have to wait to see what happens next, and if any of you know me, and my track record, it's definitely not "and she was pregnant, the end." ;)

Comments

  1. He sure is a nice stallion, that should be a perfect cross on Lady. I think disposition is at the top of my list with any horse ; the more so, the older I get :0)

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  2. Sure a lot different then my 2 that got bred lol. But same situation ish and one was bred first time the other had a silent heat and got the second time around, but 2 for 2 and I am calling it good :)

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