In a world of artificial insemination and embryo transfer, simplicity can prevail. Registered stallions and mares can breed with minimal human intervention, through natural cover in the pasture. Pasture breeding continues as an accepted breeding method recognized by many breed registries. As in the wild, a stallion roams with a band of mares. Horses are confined in fenced acreage, able to graze and interact with each other. Caretakers manage the breeding stock through regular observation and routine veterinary examinations and treatment.

With the stallion and mares left alone, the situation appears idyllic. The herd enjoys freedom to roam, and horses associate in social groups innate to the species.

Some horse owners would label this method as old-fashioned and hazardous. They cite the dangers of turning horses out in a herd, where injuries can occur or diseases spread. The lack of supervision means that the breeding manager doesn’t know the exact dates of breeding or if a stallion actually covered a mare.

Pasture breeding proponents support this natural approach. Although this method remains less popular than in-hand breeding, a substantial number of established breeders continue to turn a stallion out with mares.

Benefits Of Nature

A primary benefit of pasture breeding is the higher percentage of conception. Breeders report a conception rate of more than 90%. When the stallion is constantly present with one or more mares, he has more opportunities to breed. Both horses can court, and either can initiate contact.

Ruth Wilburn, DVM, uses pasture breeding with her Welsh pony stallions in Olive Branch, Miss. “We hand breed and ship semen on our stallions, too, but they much prefer to court. I have had problem mares, and I see