One of the most exciting aspects of breeding is the selection of a stallion for your mare. Victorian breeders have access to the best stallions in the world through the use of fresh, chilled or frozen semen. A listing of Victorian stallions is listed on the HRA website but a more in depth profile is available in the annual Australasian Standardbred Stallion Guide (published by HBV every August), and on stud websites. Many studs also send out annual catalogues and will have a mailing list you can add yourself to in order to receive a copy when it's published.
Most studs will provide you with advise on which of their sires are physically more suitable to your mare (i.e. a 16.3HH stallion may result in a large foal which would potentially cause problems if your mare is only small), and which have the potential to create a proven 'cross' with your mare - this is a foal pedigree that has similarities with their sire's more successful horses.
They will also help in advising which sires may be beneficial in correcting any faults your mare may have had in racing (or produced in previous progeny), or have a very high fertility rate if your mare has had difficulty conceiving in the past.
There are also different theories on suitability which you may wish to investigate with a vet or experienced breeder, with some prefering a completely different bloodline from their mare, and others choosing to use 'line-breeding' which couples a mare with a stallion which shares one or more ancestors (for example, crossing a pair who both have Abercrombie as a grand-sire or great-grand-sire).
Once you have decided on a stallion for your mare, you will need to contact the relevant stud to book the service and arrange payment.
You will be required to complete and return a contract or booking form, and if you are having your mare artificially inseminated at a local veterinary practice, you may also need to complete a booking form for them and certainly you will need to make an appointment for your mare to be scanned to determine an appropriate service date.
Before signing any stallion service contract, discuss with the Studmaster the service fee, any incidental charges, the timing after a positive pregnancy scan when fees need to be paid, and any 'free return' arrangement applicable if your mare miscarries or produces a dead foal, or foal that is unable to stand and suckle.
Unlike the Thoroughbred industry, the Trotting Stud Book permits breeding using methods other than natural coverings, including artificial insemination (AI) and surrogacy. As a result you can, if you wish, arrange for your mare to be served at home or at a breeding farm close by rather than travelling to the stud for a natural cover (in fact many studs do not offer hand covering for their stallions).
Talk to the Studmaster about locations in your area where you can take your mare to be served. If you decide to breed your mare at home, you will need good facilities, including a crush or similar confinement area, to allow a veterinary surgeon to scan the mare's ovaries to determine when she is ready to serve and to inseminate her when she is ready to conceive.
There are many benefits associated with AI when compared with natural service. Mares and their foals do not need to be transported long distances and are not exposed to other horses that could potentially be carrying infectious diseases. There is a reduced risk of injury to mares and foals associated with artificial insemination and re-service is made significantly easier. It also significantly expands the number of sires available – from all over the world – to you no matter where you are based.
Mares conceive more readily if they are in good condition. Ideally mares should be steadily improving in condition when they are served, whilst not being fat. Looking after your mare will maximise her chances of conceiving during her first or second cycles.
Remember also that mares don't always conceive on their first breeding cycle. The late spring and summer months are the best time to breed your mare in order to maximise her chances of conceiving.
Statistically there is no difference in the number of starts per foal for foals born in the September to November period, compared to those born between December and February. The chances of winning a two-year-old, three-year-old or four-year-old race are also basically the same. Some of Australasia’s best horses were summer foals. Amongst them is the champion two-year-old pacing colt, Bling It On, Changeover, Mysta Magical Mac, Smiling Shard, The Gold Ace, De Lovely, and champion trotter, I Can Doosit.’
With millions available in restricted prizemoney and bonuses, it is very important to consider if your foal will be eligible for Vicbred and other Victorian futurity schemes, the Breeders Crown and Need For Speed series. The Vicbred scheme offers a significant program of races restricted to Vicbred horses only - the Group 1 Super Series, the second tier Platinum series and regular programmed races at all tracks.
As a breeder of a Vicbred horse, you will be entitled to 5% of any prizemoney that your horse wins over it's lifetime, including the $7,000 bonus it recieves on it's first win as a 2YO, 3YO or 4YO. You will also receive the Breeders Bonus - a payment of an extra 10% of the prizemoney paid for any 2YO, 3YO or 4YO age-restricted race in Victoria.
Additionally, being Vicbred-eligible adds value to your horse if you choose to sell it at Yearling sales or on the open market.
If your mare is served by a stallion which physicallly stands in Victoria, then it will be automatically Vicbred eligible and will reduce the fees payable across the horse's lifetime - foal notification fees, leases, transfers and naming applications are all free for Vicbred horses. See The Pregnant Mare & Foaling for more information on the foal notification process.
If your Victorian mare is bred to a non-Victorian stallion, or your non-Victorian mare is bred to a Victorian stallion, you are able to submit application (with additional fees) to make your foal Vicbred - see the Vicbred site for more information.
If your mare is NOT based in Victoria, South Australia or Tasmania, and you breed to a stallion outside of Victoria, you will not be able to make your foal Vicbred eligible.
NEXT: The Pregnant Mare & Foal