When it comes to breeding horses, it is important to take the emotional aspect of these animals into account as well. Breeding viciousness and laziness out of horses is an accepted fact, but is it rooted in reality, or just a projection of our own emotional states?
While your mare, for example, may seem excited to see your face when you arrive at her stall, does she really have any kind of emotional attachment to you, or does she simply connect your presence to the treats you bring?
With horse racing being as popular as it is thanks to the online betting in Australia and the rest of the world, many punters have started wondering about this aspect of the horse as well -do they enjoy the races, do they know they have won?
A Question for the Ages
The question of whether or not animals have feelings is one that has perplexed both philosophers and animal behaviourists for centuries.
Rene Descartes argued that, since it could not be proven that they had any feelings, animals could and should be treated as automatons, subject to mechanical responses.
A couple of hundred years later, a student of Charles Darwin, a Mr George John Romanes, argued the opposite: he stated the fact of injective knowledge, whereby one could infer what was going on inside someone/something else by a careful observation of their reactions to certain stimuli, and comparing this to one’s own.
The Debate Still Rages On
The debate is far from resolved, and continues up until the present day. Behaviour science, however, is no longer subjective. When studying animal behaviour, scientists observe, quantify, and explain particular aspects of behaviour, and strive to steer clear of any personal interpretations.
Two different people, you see, can view the very same behaviour in their horse, and come up with two entirely different sets of interpretations to explain it, since these will always be based on individual life experiences and views of the world.
There’s the Rub for Behaviour Science
This fact, that outward behaviour is subject to individual perspectives, is both the strength and the shortcoming of behaviour science. Only motivations that are provable can be held as legitimate explanations for behaviour when it comes to science.
But while projecting emotional responses onto animals is mistaken, there is nothing to say that this is what is occurring. You may well be reading the situation perfectly correctly!
The Only Two Provable Drives
Thanks to this nebulousness, ascribing any kind of emotion to horses, or any animals for that matter, is considered to be unscientific, and those who accredit the world of science avoid it at all costs.
Most animals’ action is explained by two basic, provable, drives:
- Survival: to stay alive at any given moment, so doing things that will result in the animal surviving
- Reproduction: to breed and then nurture offspring, so as to ensure the survival of the species
Seeking food, water, shelter, and mates can all be ascribed to either one of these drives, either survival or reproduction.
On the other hand, there are unique behaviours in horses and other animals that seem not to be linked to either of these drives, but are not provable either. Since we neither whinny or nicker, and they have not grasped any human language, however, we must simply rely on our gut-feelings, and make up our own minds as best we can!
The idea of breeding from their own mares has a lot of appeal for horse owners. The chance of producing a foal with qualities like its mother, or even better, has a number of attractions.
Horse owners who enjoy the races bookmakers who provide Australian sports betting make available will be particularly interested in this hobby, hoping to breed the next big winner, but prior knowledge about normal breeding behaviour, what to expect at foaling, and how newborn foals should develop and behave is vital.
It is thus best for novices to seek out professional help when mating and foaling from a stud.
When is Best to Breed?
Mares have a natural breeding season. Increases in daylight hours stimulate receptor centers in the mare’s brain, and this in turn triggers the production of the hormones in charge of reproduction. These initiate the patterns of the regularly spaced oestrus, or heat, periods, which characterise the breeding season each spring.
These oestrus periods will keep occurring throughout the summer, and cease when autumn/fall comes around.
Artificially increasing light, by means of electricity, for example, allows breeders to begin the season earlier if they wish to.
This is a prevalent practice in Thoroughbred studs, since breeders try to ensure that foals are born as close as possible to January 1st. In fact this is such common practice that January 1 is the official birthday of Thoroughbred racehorses!
Should You Breed from Your Mare?
Although breeding horses is commonly not too problematic, it is advisable for novices to think very carefully before putting their mares in foal. Rearing foals is additional work, which requires particular facilities, including different accommodation once it is weaned.
If the mare is a purebred horse, however, there may well be financial benefit from proper breeding. Breeding crossbred horses, however, is unlikely to result in financial gain, and the additional outlay will generally outweigh any potential profit.
Is My Colt Worthy of Becoming a Stallion?
Probably not. Very few colts that have been bred at home are good enough to be used as stallions. There are a lot of excellent stallions available commercially, however, and it is always recommended that one of these is used.
Young colts are also difficult to handle, and usually it is a better idea to geld them as soon as possible.
Both stallions and colts need handling by experts, and it can be not only difficult but dangerous for amateurs to attempt to manage them alone.
Is My Mare the Right Age to Breed?
Mares will frequently continue breeding until late in their lives, and suffer no ill effects as a result.
This is even more true of animals that are regularly bred -it is difficult to get an old mare in foal if she has never undergone the process before.
Fillies reach sexual maturity at about 18 months, and can start foaling as soon as they reach two-years of age. However, you must remember that, at two, they are still growing, and it is possible that pregnancy can hinder their growth.
The ideal age for mares to breed is around four, so that they foal at five-years old, although some are put in foal at three-years old.