Last month, we talked a little about the science of breeding in regards to our horses. What we didn’t talk about is how thoroughbred breeders can breed horses whose cycles are tied to daylight. Because of the racing cycle, our horses need to be bred at a specific time of year, but it’s not necessarily their natural reproductive time. Here’s how thoroughbred breeders use light therapy to kick-start the process.
What is Light Therapy
Because of the 11-month gestation time for horses, thoroughbreds shouldn’t get pregnant at just any time like humans or smaller animals because we want to foal as close to January 1 as possible(but not before!). Horses have a breeding cycle based on seasons, specifically when the days get longer in the spring. So, to kick-start a mare’s breeding cycle, experts in the thoroughbred breeding industry use light therapy.
Asking mares to start their cycle earlier than the natural season calls for them to be placed under lights for about two months before being bred. For example, if you’re preparing mares to cycle in February, you need to start light therapy in December. It combines natural and artificial light to expose mares to 16 hours of daylight.
The Timing of Thoroughbred Breeding
So why do thoroughbreds have this kind of planned breeding cycle? Well, it comes down to how horses are classified for training and racing. All racehorses “age up” on January 1 each year. This helps to manage the racing classifications, as you don’t want to race a newly turned 3-year-old against older more seasoned horses. There are many racing categories, allowing straight 2-year-olds to race against each other for their 2-year-old year and then the first half of their 3-year-old season. This helps to level the playing field. With this grouping in mind, it allows yearlings to begin their training program around the same time, sales cycles are the same times annually and thoroughbreds start racing at the same time.
Care of Broodmares
Once your mare is pregnant, they require exceptional care. We talked about it a bit in this blog post. Since horses have a long gestation period of about 11 months, mares bred in February or March will begin foaling in January or February. That means an entire year of caring for a pregnant mare. As we mentioned, the essential aspects of broodmare care include the following:
- The proper nutrition to support fetal development and then to stimulate milk production
- A herd of mares in similar stages of pregnancy
- Trying to maintain a closed herd to lessen exposure to contagious diseases
- Proper veterinary care throughout the pregnancy and after the birth including deworming and vaccination
Happy Mares and Foals
We are excited about our ability to provide broodmare and foal care at horseOlogy through the facilities at GoldMark Farm. To find out more about our services, contact us today.