10 Steps for Successful Live Cover

Live cover breeding of horses remains a popular choice. Whatever your reason for choosing this method, these 10 tips will be useful as you plan a mating. Attention to safety and behavior go a long way in making the experience positive and successful.

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10 Steps for Successful Live Cover
Breeders should have a professionally trained staff and employ proper restraining equipment on the horses when necessary. | Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt/The Horse

Before you breed au naturel, consider these tips.

Despite the widespread success of artificial insemination (AI), natural mating–or “live cover”–continues to be a popular choice for many equine breeders. This is partly due to live cover requirements for breed registries such as The Jockey Club for Thoroughbreds, and partly a matter of practicality or preference. But whatever your reason for choosing live cover, the following 10 tips will be useful as you plan a breeding program.

1. Know the risks of live cover

The image of au naturel might seem serene, but live cover comes with a host of risks that you won’t find with artificial insemination.

With live cover, the stallion’s full ejaculate is introduced into the mare’s uterus. This represents much greater volumes of semen than with AI, and it is often accompanied by bacteria such as Streptococcus zooepidemicus. According to Andrew McGladdery, BVMS, CertESM, MRCVS, veterinary surgeon at Rossdale & Partners in Newmarket, U.K., these bacteria usually present no challenges for healthy mares, but they can create problems in susceptible mares (those that have difficulty clearing fluid from the uterus, which can result in excessive inflammation). This can be even more problematic if the mare is bred more than once in a cycle

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Written by:

Passionate about horses and science from the time she was riding her first Shetland Pony in Texas, Christa Lesté-Lasserre writes about scientific research that contributes to a better understanding of all equids. After undergrad studies in science, journalism, and literature, she received a master’s degree in creative writing. Now based in France, she aims to present the most fascinating aspect of equine science: the story it creates. Follow Lesté-Lasserre on Twitter @christalestelas.

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