Thinking of Breeding your Canadian Horse mare?
Consider the following
So you are a Canadian Horse mare owner and you are thinking about breeding your mare. Here are some facts regarding what is going on with the breed at present:
- Foal registrations are at a catastrophic low, less than 150 Canadian foals being registered per year. Keep in mind, that is 150 Canadian foals being born per year in the entire world! At these numbers the breed is simply not sustainable, and will likely die out within a decade or so. At least 500 foals per year are required to be able to sustain current population numbers, let alone to grow them.
- At present, there are currently just over 2500 mares 20 years of age or less, left in the breed. Of this number, probably at least 500 are too old or too young to be used by breeding. This leaves only about 2000 mares in the entire breed that are reproductively capable.
- Recent surveys of horse ownership done in Quebec and BC indicate that nearly 50% of all mares owned, are in homes where they are used as the primary riding horse and where there are no plans to breed them EVER!
- Thus, although breed numbers on first glance may appear ok, the reality of the situation is that the number of reproductively capable mares left in the breeding pool may be as low as a 1000 or so, which may actually contribute to the breed. Of those, very few owners are, or are planning on breeding them in the near future.
- This coincides with declining stallion ownership. Prior to 2008, there were between 20 - 30 Canadian stallions standing at stud in BC. According to a recent survey, there are now probably fewer than 10 stallion owners left in the province who are currently breeding. Of these, the majority are located in remote areas of the province and do not offer shipped semen, so these stallions are not easily accessible to the majority of mare owners. This means that currently in BC, there are now maybe only 3 or 4 stallions that are centrally located and that offer comprehensive breeding services which make them readily available to mare owners. This same scenario is being observed all across Canada.
- Many stallions are aging out of the breed. Case in point, our stallion Zipper. Once he hit 20, his semen quality began to rapidly deteriorate. By the age of 24 we were no longer able to ship his semen as he became infertile.
Sadly, we can't tell you how many people have said to us "Oh, we have ALWAYS wanted a Zipper foal. If only we had known. We always wanted to breed to him but were going to do it in the future!".
Our other stallion Fonzie will soon be in the same position. And we are not the only breeders facing this scenario. Many quality Canadian stallions are aging and will be unable to sire any more foals in the near future. Don't wait to do it in the future. Now may be your last chance as they will not be around much longer and there may be nothing coming up to replace them!
- Mares are getting older. As they age, they become less reproductively sound, and progressively harder and more expensive to get in foal. It is considerably easier to get a young mare (less than 10 yrs) in foal than one that is in her mid to late teens. For those mare owners who keep waiting for "the right time" it may well be that when the time is right for you, your mare will be well past her prime and difficult if not impossible to get in foal. This exact scenario occured with us ourselves in 2017. We had several mares in their late teens/20's that we were trying to get in foal. Despite extensive experience in breeding, fertile stallions, considerable veterinary intervention and considerable expense we were unable to get two of them pregnant. And we ended up with a $10K vet bill. It seems we had waited too long! Devastating for us financially and emotionally. And also for the breed too, in that these were valuable mares with rare bloodlines who simply aged out and became unable to any longer make a contribution to the breed.
SO many valuable mares in the breed are in this position!
- Many breeders (especially those who keep stallions) are getting older and they are not being replaced by an up and coming younger generation. Once these older established breeders and their breeding stock age out of the breeding business, there is NO ONE coming along to replace them!!!
- This situation is echoed in each Canadian province. There is no question that the breed is in serious trouble. Registrations are at an all-time low, many breeders have gone out of business, and the vast majority of mares are in the hands of single owners who have no plan to breed them or to try to preserve their lines in the breed gene pool.
- Victoria Tollman, Executive Director of the Equus Survival Trust very eloquently summed up the situation. She says, “Every worthy mare should be in purebred production and contribute at least two foals (or more if you can support that) back to the gene pool. Every mare should also have a good daughter to replace her in the breeding program when the mare is retired." "Still each person's situation is their own, and they must act accordingly. Only you know what you can support. And if you can't support any [foals] during the breeding life of your horses, I suggest you lease them out, trade them for a gelding or senior Canadian in need of a retirement home, or sell or gift them to breeders who can. You owe that to your breed. So, no ... it's not easy being a rare breed steward. The sacrifices are many. The challenges tough. The rewards? Priceless ..."
- Those of us concerned about the breed’s preservation urge Canadian mare owners to seriously consider Victoria’s suggestions. To ensure that the breed continues, and that every mare’s genes contribute to the gene pool, we hope that all mare owners will consider breeding their mares at least once or twice.
- In order to best contribute to the breed, choose the highest quality stallion possible, and which best compliments the mare. In order to make your breeding count, it’s not enough to choose a stallion based on convenience or the most affordable stud fee.
- Be open to using reproductive technologies such as shipped cooled or frozen semen to produce the best foal possible.
- If you are not in a situation where you are able to breed your mare and raise a foal, consider leasing her out to a breeder who can. There are various Canadian Horse lists (see links page) where you can put your mare's information out there to see if there is anyone interested and suitable.
- Last but not least. We are currently losing a tremendous number of horses from the breed simply because their breed registration information is not being kept up. It may be that we have lost up to a third of the horses in the breed due to their being lost to the breed registry from sellers not doing the paperwork!
- Transfers are not being done with sales, and foal registrations are not being completed. In Canada, the seller is legally responsible for paying for and doing the registration or transfer papers for any horse sold as purebred or registered.
- ALWAYS be sure to register your foals after they are born, and especially before they are sold! It is unethical, not to mention illegal to expect the buyer to have to do this, or even worse, not to bother doing it at all.
- It is unbelievable how many horses have been tragically lost to the breed registry due to their breeders/sellers not following through with these simple steps.
See the top of our page on "Buying a Canadian Horse" for more information on this tragic subject that is slowly decimating the breed.
For more information on this subject, please see a presentation that I did for our CHHAPS AGM last fall:
Canadian Horse Population Statistics
Help to maintain Canada’s beloved National breed before it is too late!
Rare Breeds Canada - Genesis Fall/Winter 2015
Canadian Horse Journal article
Canadian Horse in Crisis, What can we do about it?
Backyard vs Boutique Breeder