What is a broodmare? I have heard this term thrown around everywhere. “She is going to be retired from working to become a broodmare” or “My horse used to be a broodmare. Did you know she had 6 foals?” Hearing this term thrown around so much, I wanted to know not only what this term meant, but what makes a horse a broodmare.
What Is A Broodmare?
A broodmare is a female horse (a mare) that is used just for breeding and raising foals. Broodmares are horses that can be any breed and usually will have good conformation and bloodlines making that the reason they are used for breeding. Most broodmares will have around five foals in their time spent as a broodmare, but many have much more than that.
Why Are Broodmares Important?
Broodmares are extremely important not only to the industry that their foals are bred for, but they are also super important to the breed that they are continuing. If it wasn’t for broodmares, many of the breeds we know today wouldn’t be around!
Most broodmares have great conformation, coloration, and bloodlines making them a top choice for a source of genetics to pass onto their foals. If these horses never existed, many breeds would go extinct as most mares in a breed aren’t used for breeding
What Makes A Horse Considered A Broodmare?
A horse, to be considered a broodmare, needs to have the primary job of birthing foals. Broodmares aren’t really used as riding or competition horses as most of the time they are pregnant, nursing, or caring for a foal. Broodmares are just breeding animals, not so much riding animals.
Are Broodmares Well-Tempered?
Because these horses are mainly used to care for, birth, and raise foals, they are incredibly patient horses. Pregnancy is also known to calm horses down as well so having been pregnant so many times in their lifetime, these horses are as mellow as they come. This is why many broodmares that are retired from their breeding careers are used as family horses, lesson horses, general riding horses, and companion animals. These horses are usually very well-tempered and get along well with mostly everyone.
What Do Broodmares Do Once Their Breeding Careers Are Over?
Depending on the age, health, and physical condition of these horses, they end up doing a variety of things once they are done being used for breeding.
The main things they are used for after they are done breeding include:
One of my friends has a Haflinger that used to be used as a broodmare. Now, she is just a general riding horse that is happy to just go on trail rides with beginner-level riders and eat her food.
This is the retirement plan for many retired broodmares. Because of their increased patience and gentleness due to all their years raising and dealing with foals, these horses often make great children’s horses or just pleasure horses in general.
Retired At Grass
Many times, broodmares that carry foal after foal become swaybacked due to the constant burden of carrying a foal. The broodmares that are used up to their later years in life are often really swaybacked and just retired at pasture for the rest of their days.
Honestly, this is one of the better things that these horses could retire to. They have had a long and sometimes difficult life, so sometimes having this retirement is best for the horse’s heath.
Because these horses are so used to being patient and gentle, they make great lesson horses for beginner riders once their careers are over. If a broodmare is retired early, she may have many good riding years left in her.
At What Age Do Horses Begin Being Used As Broodmares?
Most broodmares are used for breeding after they have already made a name for themselves in a discipline. The average age for a broodmare to begin breeding is around seven years of age, though some start as early as four or as late as fifteen. It all depends on the mare, her conformation, temperament, and how good she is at being a broodmare. Some horses are just not made for this.
At What Age Do Horses Stop Getting Bred?
Once a horse hits between 15 and 20 years of age, her breeding career is pretty much over. This is because they are now classified as senior horses and they can start to develop health issues, swayback, and other things that are best taken care of if the mare isn’t caring for a foal on top of her issues. Some mares also have something known as gestational laminitis which is basically laminitis caused from the changing of hormones that pregnancy brings on.
What Is The Average Amount Of Foals That A Broodmare Has In A Lifetime?
This number can change and vary depending on the mare, her age, her bloodlines, and how well she handles being a mother. The most common number of foals that a mare will have is between 4 and 10 though it is usually in the middle of these numbers.
I once heard of a horse that was rescued after carrying 17 foals! That is insane. This horse was bred from the age of four every year up until her rescue.
Can A Horse Get Pregnant Even If They Are Still Nursing A Foal?
Absolutely they can! Though this is not entirely recommended. Mares will continue going into heat once their foal is born meaning that they can in fact be rebred even of they are caring for and nursing a foal already.
This is something done mainly in inhumane breeding circumstances where horses are being overbred.
How Long Are Horses Pregnant For?
Horses go into heat once every month just like people do, but are pregnant for 11 months. These horses will then care for and watch over their foal for the next five to six months before the foal is weaned from them or taken away from its mother to be its own self and not dependent on her.
To learn more about horse gestation and pregnancy, click here!