March 18, 2009
The American Association of Equine Practitioners answers a reader’s question about riding a mare shortly after she foals.
The American Association of Equine Practitioners offers great advice for this mare owner. AAEP is an AQHA educational marketing alliance partner.
After a mare foals, how long will it be before she can be ridden again? And how long should I wait to breed her again? I have a 5-year-old Quarter Horse mare that foaled recently with no problems.
As for breeding the mare, it depends on your goals for her and her offspring. In many disciplines, Thoroughbred racing as an example, you want the foals born early in the year because of age and racing guidelines. In many instances, people will attempt to breed back a mare on her foal heat. In most cases, I like to breed back mares on the cycle just after foal heat. It certainly does not hurt to wait longer, just keep in mind what time of year the foal will come around next year. If you wait too long each season, soon you will have a season in which it will be too late to breed. This is not necessarily a bad thing; it just depends on your breeding program and your needs.
I may be a bit conservative, but I usually do not push mares into riding until the foal is weaned at around 5 months of age. It is probably safe to ride the mare a bit earlier. Just remember that she is using a lot of energy to produce milk for the foal, and you should have her at a slightly higher plane of nutrition as a result (body condition score of 6 or 7 out of 9). Also, some mares are very concerned about watching their foals, so riding may be less than productive because the mare cannot concentrate on the task at hand, and it may also be a bit risky. For these reasons, I personally feel it is best to begin riding again after the foal is weaned. If you want to ride this mare a lot, it may be best to take her out of breeding for a few seasons.
Dr. Damon O’Gan, Austin, Texas