- Mares are usually bred no earlier than
three years of age out of concern for adequate physical development of
the mare at time of birthing. Some breeders will breed at two years.
It is not uncommon, however, for mares to remain immature until four
- Many stallions are fertile as two year
olds. As with mares, many others are not sexually mature until they
are older. Many miniature horse stallions do not have both of their
testicle descend into the scrotum until they are three or older.
Unfortunately, many veterinarians are unaware of this fact and call
miniature stallions that are over a year old with undescended
testicles "cryptorchids". This is not the case. Miniatures
mature differently than full-sized horses. Foals from stallions
bred before January 1 or their 2nd year cannot be registered; the same
is true for mares that foal before January 1 of their third year.
- Breeding is accomplished by either
turning the stallion out into the pasture with a group of mares. This
is known appropriately as "pasture breeding". Breeding is
also accomplished by introducing the stallion to the mare when she is
in heat and handlers controlling both the stallion and mare during the
breeding process. This method is known as "hand breeding".
WHich method you use will depend on your own preferences.
- The normal foaling window is between 320
and 360 days after conception. It is not uncommon, however, for foals
to arrive earlier than 320 days. Normally foals are not considered
viable if they are born at less than 300 days of gestation, however in
some instances these foals have survived.
- The birthing process under normal
circumstances occurs very rapidly. If there are no complications, the
foal is usually born within 10 minutes from the time that the mare
begins active "pushing" labor.
- There is a significant incidence of
"dystocia" or mal-presentation births in miniature horses.
It is important for those who breed miniature horses to be in
attendance at all foalings to assist if there is a birthing problem.
There are "Breeder Alert" and "Equipage" systems
that assist the breeder by alerting them to when a mare has lain down
in foaling position. Many breeders also utilize barn cameras.
- Foals are generally very strong and
active within a couple of hours of birth. They usually nurse
vigorously from 4 to 7 times per hour.
- If foals are sick, they will be listless
and not nurse vigorously. It is important to seek medical attention
promptly within the first day after birth in these cases. Sick foals
can go "down hill" very quickly if not attended to. It
is critical that they are vigorous within hours of foaling and nursing
well. They must nurse within the first 24 hours to receive the
necessary colostrum; foals who do not nurse or are unable to must be
given this colostrum by hand.