Horse reproduction behaviour

  • Puberty in horses varies a lot with breed. It can occur from 8-24 months.
  • Well fed horses usually reach puberty at around 12 months, but feral horses would be much later.
  • The mare’s oestrous cycle is stimulated by increasing daylight so she is sexually active in spring and early summer.
  • She comes into heat 4-18 days after foaling so the foal can be in a dangerous situation from the stallion during this period in the wild.
  • A mare is pregnant for 11 months.
  • If not mated she will cycle every 3 weeks and she is on heat for 5-15 days.
  • Sometimes you can get prolonged oestrus for several weeks and it can be a real nuisance to the handlers.
  • Heat signs are:
    • Plenty of vocalisation - especially if she sees other horses.
    • Frequent stopping to urinate.
    • Standing with hind legs parted and in a crouch with tail held up.
    • Swollen vulva.
    • Viscous vaginal fluid running from the vulva.
    • Eversion of the vulva called clitoral flashing or winking.
    • Restless - always looking for company.
    • Tail twitching
  • Stud mares are tested for standing oestrus using a “teaser” or small pony stallion who is too small to mate the mare. But don’t believe that as some get very cunning!
  • Mares not quite right on heat are happy to meet the stallion, but will squeal, kick and bite him.
  • They are best tested over a gate to prevent injury to both parties.
  • A mare right on heat will stand firm when the stallion mounts and lean back to take his weight.
  • After mating the stallion will stand around resting and the mare may come and try to stimulate him again.
  • Hand mating can be a dangerous time for the handlers as there is always the risk of being kicked or bitten. Full protective clothing including head protection and body armour should be worn and strangers should be kept away.
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