Transitioning Breeding Mares From Anestrus to Estrus

The transitional period between anestrus and estrus is officially complete once a mare has had her first heat of the year. Getting some mares to this point, however, and deciding when to breed them can be tricky.
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transitional mares
The transitional period between anestrus and estrus is officially complete once a mare has had her first heat of the year. Getting some mares to this point, however, and deciding when to breed them can be tricky. | Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt/The Horse
The transitional period between anestrus and estrus is officially complete once a mare has had her first heat of the year. Getting some mares to this point, however, and deciding when to breed them can be tricky, veterinarians recently concurred.

They discussed the topic at the 2018 American Association of Equine Practitioners Convention, held Dec. 1-5, in San Francisco, California. Charlie Scoggin, DVM, Dipl. ACT, from Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital, in Lexington, Kentucky, and Dirk Vanderwall, DVM, Dipl. ACT, professor of equine reproduction at Utah State University, in Logan, co-mediated a Table Talk session about transitioning mares. The format allowed attendees to share their practical experience, as well as related research.

Transitional Mares 101

Most, but not all, nonpregnant mares enter a state of reproductive “winter quiescence” when the days become shorter. This annual event is called anestrus and means the mare isn’t fertile, which (in nature) prevents her from foaling during months of inhospitable weather and limited food supply.

These broodmares subsequently transition back into their regular cycles as day length increases. However, if owners are hoping for an early season foal, this transition might require human intervention in the form of artificial lights or medical treatment

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Written by:

Stacey Oke, MSc, DVM, is a practicing veterinarian and freelance medical writer and editor. She is interested in both large and small animals, as well as complementary and alternative medicine. Since 2005, she’s worked as a research consultant for nutritional supplement companies, assisted physicians and veterinarians in publishing research articles and textbooks, and written for a number of educational magazines and websites.

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