Horse Care Tips

Broodmares: How Old is Too Old to Breed Your Horse?

Chestnut mare
Written by Natalie Gasper

Optimum Ages for Healthy Broodmares

If they start at the right age, mares can spend almost their entire lives having foals.

Most breeders will start breeding a mare as young as five. Any mare who will be a broodmare should have her first foal between 5 and 10, during her optimum fertility years. Mares who have had foals their whole lives can continue to have foals into their early 20s. A maiden mare, or one who’s never had a foal, should be bred no later than 14.

Breeding Mare Basics

All mares, barring any health or reproductive issues, can have foals.

At what age do mares typically have their first foal?

Mares intended to be used as broodmares typically start young, between five and ten years old.

Some mares, however, are shown first. After successfully competing, they are then used to breed more valuable offspring.

What do you call a mare that has never had a foal before?

A mare who’s never had a foal is called a maiden.

How long is a horse’s pregnancy?

A mare is pregnant for 330 to 370 days—or about 11 to 12 months.

Factors to Consider When Breeding

Here are some things to keep in mind:

The cost

Breeding is an expensive venture, starting with the cost of the stallion.

Subsequent vet bills add up quickly! You can anticipate breeding-related veterinary bills for 15 to 18 months.

The mare

Just because every mare can be bred doesn’t mean she should.

Consider her age, health, confirmation, performance history, and what traits she possesses that you’d want to pass on.

Pregnant pony

Photo Cred: Canva

Age Recommendations When Breeding

A mare usually starts having foals at five and reaches peak fertility at 6 or 7. This is why it’s best to start a broodmare young, when it’s easiest for her to be pregnant.

When should mares stop having babies?

A lot of this depends on the mare and whether she’s had any foals before (and how many). A mare who’s had no foals, or only one or two, shouldn’t be bred past 16.

Mares who have been regularly bred, and are able to manage pregnancies well, can be bred as old as 25, though most breeders will stop at 23.

Pregnant mare

Photo Cred: Canva

When is too old to breed a mare?

For a maiden mare, best practice is not to breed beyond 16 years old.

For an experienced broodmare who’s had many healthy foals, breeding over 20 gets tricky (and more difficult), but most can safely have foals until they are 23 or 25.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Can I breed a 20-year-old mare?

If she’s been having foals regularly and is in good health, probably, but it’s best to check with your vet.

Q: Is 14 too old to breed a mare?

14 is the oldest a maiden mare should be bred. For a mare who’s been having foals for almost ten years, 14 is a perfectly safe age.

Q: How old is too old to breed a mare for the first time?

Most breeders and vets agree that breeding a mare for the first time after 15 or 16 is risky and can be difficult.

Mare and foal

Photo Cred: Canva

Parting Thought

Many mares are happy to spend their entire lives as broodmares provided they’re well-treated and given breaks every few foals.

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About the author


Natalie Gasper

Nancy loves retraining off the track Thoroughbreds and working with her dogs!