During the spring to early fall breeding season, a mare will typically cycle every twenty-one to twenty-three days. There are approximately three to eight days when a mare is in heat that her body would be receptive to breeding. Most mares are agreeable to breeding, it comes naturally to them. Some are shy in the breeding barn, some are not. Some are downright witchy. Caution must be taken to keep the mare and stallion as safe as possible in the process. Even though breeding does come naturally to them, very few are allowed to breed out in the pasture on their own.
What doesn’t come naturally, to the horse at least, is to not allow them to be bred. A mare of breeding age must think we “non-horse-breeding horse owners” have taken leave of our senses. Not taking advantage of their heat cycle goes against all their inherent instincts. They only know one thing when they are in heat. They want bred. And they want bred now! No wonder they’re cranky.
We have a mare that has had four foals and surely thinks having foals is her mission in life. When she’s in heat, and it seems as if she’s in heat every other week, she is miserable. She’s vocal, she’s physical, and she could care less about food. She wants bred. Sad to say, in her case, her breeding days are over. We have another mare in the barn that seems to want to eat more when she’s in heat. She has never had a foal, and was never bred. Both are playing out their natural instincts in their own way. One might be saying, breed me now and I’ll eat later. And the other, must think she’s going to need extra strength to carry a foal and needs to stock up now.
Their behavior is typical of mares everywhere. And as horse owners, if breeding them is not in our plans, we need to try and make life as agreeable as possible for them during these “trying” times.
Riding a mare in heat is not wise. When a mare is in heat, her back can be extremely sensitive. The last thing she needs is a hard ride carrying weight. This alone would be reason enough for added crankiness. If your mare is a show mare or racing, you may want to consult your veterinarian about preventing her heat cycles. There are many drugs on the market such as Depo Provera and Regumate that may work for your horse. There is also a veterinarian administered Marble procedure that is gaining popularity.
Keep your mare comfortable and don’t add fuel to the fire. If you have a stallion in the barn, you’ll want to make sure your mare is not in a nearby stall. You won’t want to be leading her back and forth in front of his stall on the way out to pasture either. This will only stir up those “need to be bred now” feelings. Be cautious turning her out with geldings during her heat period, as some geldings still think they can get the job done. Turn her out alone, or with other mares during this time.
Don’t try teaching a mare in heat new things. Save that for another day. Pay extra attention to her stall. If she is doing what comes naturally, chances are the bedding will be wetter than usual. If she’s prone to kicking the wall when in heat, you might want to hang a rubber mat on the area she kicks the most. It’ll save the stall wall; it’ll save spreading a hind shoe. Don’t antagonize her. A mare can give new meaning to the term PMS. You don’t want to go there. You and she have enough to deal with during these tumultuous “heated” times.
Our mares like baths when they’re in heat. Maybe they think they’re getting spruced up for a stallion. Or maybe they’re feeling as if they are crawling out of their skin from raging hormones, and it’s soothing. Cut back on treats when they’re in heat. They don’t need the extra sugar. They’re already on the verge of being out of control. Talk to them. And if they don’t feel like talking back so to speak, leave them alone. They’ll thank you for it on their good days.