Article by Ahna Cafaro, Cornerstone Farm
You’ve spent months and months, maybe even years poring over stallion ads, videos, and magazines. You’ve researched bloodlines, talked to breeders and stallion owners, and finally found Mr. Right for your mare. Then comes the biggest challenge....actually getting her pregnant. Fresh or frozen? Timing her cycle, monitoring her daily, ordering semen at just the right time. It’s finally time to breed her!! And now the long two week wait hoping and praying for that precious black dot.
If you’re lucky enough to see that beautiful sight on the ultrasound, then comes the additional ultrasounds to check for twins, the heartbeat, and a good progression of the embryo. If you’re one of the unlucky, ones, you go back to the starting line and try, try again. And sometime, again and again. Breeding, as they say, is not for the faint of heart. So much blood, sweat, and tears goes into just getting a mare in foal. And when you finally do, you’re rewarded with 11 months of worry that all will progress normally until that magic day number 320.
With all that goes into producing just one foal, many breeders are faced with the final decision of where the mare will have her foal. Breeders make that decision based on several factors, and both foaling at home and sending to a foaling professional have their pros and cons.
Personally, I always choose to send my mares out for foaling for a variety of reasons. First and foremost is the fact that due to my job as a trainer, I travel regularly to horse shows. And inevitably, each year my mare is due during the week I’m scheduled to be in Kentucky. Every year, without fail. So far, I’ve been lucky enough to sell my foals in-utero so feel an added responsibility to make sure this foal has the best chance for an uneventful birth.
The other reason I choose to send my mare out is due to my limited experience as a breeder. I’m relatively new to breeding and admittedly don’t even know what I don’t know. I’m terrified that something will go wrong and I won’t know what to do. I have found a fantastic farm in Ohio that only does breeding. It’s a husband and wife team and between them they have more years of experience than I have been on this Earth.
For me, one of the downsides to this setup is not being able to be there for those first moments of that foal's life. I’ve felt that little bundle bouncing around in there for the last few months, and would love to be there when he greets the world. Last year, I was lucky enough to turn on the monitor just at the right time to catch my guy being born, so it was close to being there. That was one of the factors that led me to choose this facility-the ability to log on and check on my mare daily. I know her habits and her routine as she lives at home with me, and it goes a long way towards my peace of mind to be able to lay eyes on her daily.
If you are choosing to send your mare to a farm to foal out, please do your due diligence. Go see the farm, ask for references, find out what vet is on call for any issues. You want to have every confidence that the direct staff and support staff will do everything possible to ensure the health and wellbeing of mama and baby.
Another consideration is to research what the closest clinic available with a NICU is. Heaven forbid you need it, but if something goes wrong with your mare or foal, you don’t want to have to send them on a several hour long trailer ride. When mares and foals are in trouble, things can go downhill so quickly, and if there is a clinic very close, you are at least stacking the odds in your favor.
Typically my mare stays at the foaling farm for a little over a month. I send her there about two weeks before her due date and leave her there to be rebred on the second heat cycle after foaling. So for me, it is very important that the staff be knowledgable about nutrition. I am a fanatic about keeping my mare at a good weight, and she is tricky due to having metabolic syndrome. Last year, she came home in great weight, even with a 4-week old colt nursing at her side.
Overall, each breeder has to choose what route they are the most comfortable with. Sometimes I wish I could do it differently just to be a part of the miracle, but my practical side breathes a sigh of relief knowing mama and the munchkin are in good, capable hands. Especially when I get to bring this home.....
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