Secret life of horses

I’ve been around horses much of my life. I had never heard of this problem before. We only had mares or geldings.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/earth/hi/earth_news/newsid_9440000/9440222.stm

:eek: Fascinating stuff. I had to laugh at the careful cropping of one of the articles pictures.

We used a neighbors stallion a few times to breed our mares. We usually sold the colts at auction.

We used a neighbors stallion a few times to breed our mares. We usually sold the colts at auction. I always wondered why granddad didn’t keep any stallions on his property. I guess he knew about infanticide. Our colts always did well. I’d get attached to them and cry after they were sold. I can’t imagine the horror of having a colt killed by a stallion. :frowning:

Do male horses have any conscious idea of which foals are theirs, though?

In rodents, there is the Bruce effect (Wiki link)

The link mentions the effect in lions, as well. Lions taking over prides will generally kill young, to get the females ready to mate again (as they won’t when they have young to care for). I suspect male horses would know whether or not they’d mated with a particular mare, and similarly might try to kill a foal that definitely wasn’t theirs.

I know very little about horses, but just to throw this out there: Isn’t it also true that mares that have been mated to ‘outsider’ stallions are more likely to have been traveling, both during the previous pregnancy and then during the early parts of the current one? Or is that only for high profile stallions, where the mares go to them, instead of the other way around?

aceplace57, the reason your Granddad didn’t keep a stallion is that they’re a huge PITA and can be dangerous.

It’s difficult to tell from the article, but it sounds like the problem is transporting the mare to breed. IIRC, this is common in Thoroughbreds, because the TB registry doesn’t accept artificial inseminations. I don’t know how common it is for other breeders; I’d think most have gone AI to avoid transport costs and problems.

I don’t think AI of a mare that wasn’t transported would cause problems. The article doesn’t really exactly say, but the problem seems to be the ‘going away, coming back pregnant’ (or alternatively, getting pregnant and then a new stallion coming in).

It’s also not a problem if you’re not keeping your own stallion, it seems to be the proximity to a “new” stallion that causes the problem.

I suppose it’s possible that either stallion or dam could somehow figure out that a foal wasn’t his even if the mare never left, but I have my doubts.

Male lions just kill all existing cubs when they take over a pack (and IIRC any born very soon thereafter). They don’t count down the months to know when their cubs start showing up. And lion gestation is only 3 months, not the almost-year that horses carry!

Granddad had a horse trailer. We drove about six miles to a neighbors place.

Artificial insemination has become the more popular method in the U.S. The vet goes to the horse.

The article didn’t mention artificial insemination. I’m not sure if the mares react the same way or not.

Stallion, “you’re preggers”
Mare, “I can’t be. I’d never cheat on you.”
Stallion, “horseshit”

If they still do it the way they used to, broodmares are sent to the stallion farm before they drop their foals. Mares come into heat shortly after foaling, and a mare with a small foal can’t travel. So the mares go the to stud to have their babies and get pregnant again. They usually stay at the stud farm until they test pregnant or reach the end of breeding season.

Once the mares are knocked up, they go home. Then around 9 months later, they do it all again.

Please note that pregnant mares are often carted all over for shows & whatnot, at least in the early stages, so it’s not likely that this effect is caused by the travelling itself.

I do find it interesting that the article didn’t talk about the stallions killing the new foals brought back with the mares - I wonder if they’re doing it differently nowadays.
ETA: obviously, this is only for high-dollar horses. People like aceplace57’s Granddad just keep an eye on their mares, then drive them to a neighbor’s when it’s time and drive back home again when they’re done.

Granddad could always tell mares in heat. They start holding their tails up, peeing a lot, often stood near the fence. Granddad always noticed the changes in their personality first. They’d get real quiet, or sometimes grumpy. He knew every horse he owned just like his kids. It was something special to see someone experienced work with horses.