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Losing the will to live - how long do you keep trying?

Long time reader, first time poster. Seeking support- or maybe gentle tough love on whether it’s time to give up!

I always wanted to breed my lovely part bred mare but the time was never right. Lost my job, accumulated debts, had a health issue, things kept getting in the way. Finally financially stable and able to look into it I have gone for it. But I think it may be too late and luck has not been on my side.

She’s been mine since she was just a baby, brought her on myself, I’ve dressaged with her, family and friends have show jumped and hacked and cross countried with her… she’s been a pleasure all her life, she’s beautiful, she’s kind natured, she’s just a really lovely, healthy, well built horse with competition records and an excellent assessment from a sport horse national body for her breeding potential.

However due to the circumstances noted she is now a 16 year old maiden.

Health and condition are excellent. Vets couldn’t be happier with her physically.

She’s not the biggest so I selected a stallion of a similar height with a good performance record, good record with maiden and tricky mares, and good temperament. He has foals this year. She’s receiving AI and chilled semen which has been checked and is great quality.

We just can’t seem to get things together. First time she was due to be inseminated she ovulated JUST too early - we give it a try but there was no pregnancy. The second time everything was in place and my horsebox broke down. The third time she was due I had an emergency at work and we missed the right time. The next time we were all set to go and the semen was not delivered by the transporter when promised and paid for. Finally, finally everything fell into place!! All the elements came together and she was inseminated then to my joy, she was scanned in foal. There were tears all round.

At her heartbeat scan it turned out she’d lost it. I can’t even begin to describe how I felt.

I’m now throwing the dice one last time. The vets have plans to try and help her keep the embryo if we can get one again. But I’m so scared it won’t work out.

Is she too old? I had her assessed before we started and the vets thought she was a good candidate although the age thing was flagged as a slight concern re fertility.

Financially my savings have taken a hell of a hit. But she’s a horse of a lifetime for me, and I can scrape together the cash… Maybe I could even try again next season… Maybe. But have I just waited too long?

When do you give up? Am I maybe jaded by how many things have gone wrong for us? Is there anything obvious I should consider to help my chances?

Anyone in the same boat needing a shoulder to cry on?!

It helped a bit just to write this all down, feeling like I’ve picked myself up off the floor again and to keep trying, but I know this forum is so knowledgeable and so experienced. I’d love to hear your thoughts, maybe even your stories of success against the odds!

Thank you for reading if you got this far!


I’m sorry you’re having a difficult season. Breeding can be a tough journey. I think most breeders have unfortunately been where you are, or will be in the future at some stage. If you read through some of the foal watch threads, you’ll see the struggles and heartbreak many have had even just on this board this season.

I don’t think she is inherently too old, we had success with 16/17 yr old maiden mares in the past, but of course every mare is individual. It seems like really you’ve only lost one pregnancy and she took easily enough, the other times were all timing issues and weren’t the “fault” of the mare at all.

Hopefuly others that are more experienced can chime in but my understanding is that the pregnancy/foaling rate for mares who have lost a pregnancy is lower for that season, so if money is tight and as far into the season as we are, I would probably consider waiting and trying again starting early next season. Of course she will be a year older, so there could be some sense in giving it one more go this year if you can afford it, if your vets think there is a shot at it.

Was she on Regumate? As an older mare, she may need some hormone support.

I’m sorry again that your season is tough and I hope you have better luck with her in the future!


First off, I completely understand your desire to have a foal out of your heart mare. With the information you have provided so far, I don’t see any major red flags that would make me say “time to throw in the towel” just yet…

I don’t see anything in your recap about a uterine biopsy - did you have one done, and if yes, what was her score?
Did you do a uterine culture and cytology to rule out any minor infections that might prevent her for maintaining a pregnancy?
She should probably be put on Regumate as a “just-in-case” the next time you breed her. If there are potentially going to be a bunch of unexpected issues like emergencies at work, missed semen deliveries, etc, then your best bet is to ship her to a repro clinic well in advance of her heat starting, and let them take care of her - get all the checks done, monitor her cycle, inseminate, do follow-up ultrasounds to check for fluid, give her oxytocin, etc.

Having a lifer mare like this is worth the effort. But you need to do it right the FIRST time, to avoid more heartaches, bills, frustrations and what ifs. Don’t take any chances. Send her to the clinic to be bred. If that is not possible, then make sure you take time off work when she’s scheduled to come into heat and be prepared to drive to a depot to fetch the semen yourself if need be.

Good luck! <3


I will preface this by saying… I’ve bred TBs and TBXs, for racing and h/j.
You will have better luck with success, AND with keeping costs DOWN, by using live cover. And with pasture breeding. Really!
I know that horsemen these days have been somehow “brainwashed” into thinking that AI is the way of the future, but the TB breeders WON’T participate in this, for multiple reasons. A rapidly shrinking gene pool being one of those reasons, leading to genetic problems in future generations, as we see in all other species and breeds who have been doing this for some time.
TB stallion managers, doing live cover hand breeding are VERY GOOD at doing things right, and producing pregnancy in mares. IDK why sport stallion managers can’t seem to learn how to do this, it’s not that difficult. Very kind and intelligent stallions who are accustomed to pasture breeding also have great success with determining the appropriate time to breed and getting things done without waiting for humans to get organized. Your mare will experience a luxury holiday at a resort hotel, meet a dashing and virile tennis pro, and have a whirlwind affair, which has a good chance of producing a pregnancy. It does work quite well. Especially with mares who may have some issues with successfully becoming pregnant.

Just something for you to consider. Look around. See what else is available for your mare.


I will third the recommendation that you send your mare somewhere she can be micro-managed, whether live cover or AI. Timing is critical. So is the expertise of the vet and stallion manager. It is encouraging that the one heat where timing was good resulted in a pregnancy. Worrisome that she lost it so early.

It doesn’t sound impossible to have a foal from your mare but it may be a great deal more time and expense than you were anticipating. Keep in mind when the foal arrives it will also require a good deal of time and expense. And foaling is not without risk to the mare. Only you can add it all up and decide if the benefit is worth the cost.


As another poster mentioned, the next step should be a uterine biopsy, if you haven’t already had one done. That will tell you whether it’s even worth continuing to try, in my opinion.

That said, it sounds like she’s only actually been inseminated at the correct time once, and you did get a pregnancy then. It isn’t at all uncommon for perfectly healthy mares - or women! - to “slip” a pregnancy early. I’d not be discouraged by that as long as her biopsy score is good (I or IIA).

I second the recommendation to send her to a facility that can better manage her and “throw the book at her” next season. (Which would not, IMHO, necessarily include using Regumate - see https://equine-reproduction.com/articles/mares/regumate.)

If you have time, you might want to read through the last few years’ “Foal Watch” threads in this forum to read the experiences many of us have had breeding mares recently. That will either scare you off or reassure you, depending on how badly you want to do this. :joy:


She healthy and not putting off any red flags. Get her to a stallion station breeding barn where she can soak up male hormones/pheromones. Then breed her AI or live cover and keep her there 60 days.
Sometimes its just physical proximity that’s all that’s needed.


Welcome to breeding horses, that’s all pretty par for the course. I personally would not breed her this late in the year assuming you are in the northern hemisphere but if the biopsy comes back ok I would put her under lights this winter and try again.


Breeding horses is a lot of heartbreak.

I went through something similar starting about 10 years ago. I had been working in breeding since I was a child with far more experience than the average horse person. I had two quality mares ready to go. And I burned through all of my budget/savings, and then some, with absolutely nothing to show for it.

I agree with the recommendations to board her with an expert. I know part of my problem was I was trying to keep my costs down and keep my horses at home, since in theory, I knew what I was doing. My home vet was allegedly very experienced with breeding, being a breeder himself. Ha. He wasted a lot of my money and opportunities with mistakes.

I still haven’t financially recovered, although that’s also because life threw some curves. One of the sickest twists of fate was when my last broodmare passed I gave up and bought a trail horse through a reputable source. Surprise, she was pregnant. :woman_facepalming: So I got my foal, complete with big hospital vet bills from a high risk pregnancy and sick foal. :rofl:

I also agree to aim for next year at this point. That will give you some time to regroup, replan, and get an early start. 17/18 is not remarkably different than 16/17.


Experience with only one foal (warmblood) myself, so I will just endorse the others on the thread who say to house the mare with an experienced facility.

One thing that some breeders use is Immunall, which my mare was on. (she was a 17 year old maiden). My suggestion would be to start the mare on it quite a bit in advance (months) and ‘drip’ in every day with just a 1-2 cc. I think the company recommends a 20cc dose (it’s been a while) which has many horses on the ceiling.

However, timing IS everything so an experienced facility with folks on hand when needed would improve your chances of success.

I will also mention that for my situation the stallion was 20 minutes away so he was collected in the morning and mare was bred that afternoon. very fresh semen.


It seems more like the management and timing was off rather than her being a difficult horse to get pregnant. Keep trying…

However, I would have found a local stallion rather than doing shipped semen. Also if you can’t be there make arrangements for someone (friend with a trailer) to be there for you. I think boarding her at the vet is is not a terrible idea but you need to keep your costs down so that may not make the most sense financially.

I second the idea of live cover but it may limit your stallion selection.

Her age would not concern me to be honest. Yes it may take an additional attempt or 2 but she isn’t terribly old.


The best you can do is work with the most experienced equine reproductive vet you can find. That said, I’ve been in your shoes, except with a 19 year old maiden - an absolute dream mare, I wanted to breed her for over a decade (I did not own her at the time), sought after and precious bloodlines, one of the sweetest and most hardworking creatures alive, talented beyond belief, you name is. It took four different inseminations and I finally got a foal. Don’t regret it for a second.

As long as you are okay with losing the money and potentially going through the whole process and not getting a foal - and if you will always regret not breeding her - then do it. She is not too old, and next year, given she is in good health and good reproductive health, won’t be too old either.

ETA: I wouldn’t necessarily avoid chilled semen of high quality based on what you have so far - if you have a contract with the stallion of your dreams then I’d still pursue it. She slipped once which is not uncommon and the rest was unforeseen circumstances outside of breeding.


Big hugs to you. Welcome to the stressful but highly rewarding world of breeding. She is not too old. It is not too late. Sounds like you have a good vet and the stallion’s “juice” is doing the job. Next time the vet will likely put her on Regumate to assist in holding onto the foal. Give it a go. Depending upon where you are located, you MIGHT want to wait until next spring, but if you are located somewhere temperate, there is nothing wrong with a fall foal. Especially if you are not planning to sell it. Keep us updated. We will cheer you on.


Or nowadays you could clone her?

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For the low, low rate of “only” $85k, per this company: https://www.viagenpets.com/product/equine-cloning/.

Embryo transfer would be much more realistic option for the majority of us. :wink:


I really understand your position. When I first decided to breed my mare when she was a 13-YO maiden, I decided to go with what you might call a “heritage” stallion. The stallion had been gone for over a decade and we were using frozen. I was concerned about her age, as you are about yours, and she went to stay at a vet in town who only does breeding.

He got her to cycle medically, and she was in foal. Brought her home, but at the 90-day exam, she was open. So Yes. I understand. As it was late in the season by then we had to wait for the next year.

So now she’s 14. She went back to the Dr.'s and we did it again, he brought her into cycle medically, this time she was given a caslick, (the first time he thought she was borderline on needing it), and he gave me Regumate to give her until the bottle was gone. Careful with that stuff - don’t get it on you. Ask me how I know…

So now we have a lovely filly. Meet Onyx as a weanling:
Onyx from Left October 7, 2022_Moment


Correct me if I’m wrong, but even if you are cloning, don’t you still have to ET a recipient mare?!?

I’m not sure how often recipient mares slip clone pregnancies but I feel 100% sure it would happen to me.


I’m so sorry. That’s heartbreaking.

I have no experience breeding, but I do know the vets here test an older mare’s ACTH levels because any change, which could indicate they are at risk for developing Cushings, will screw up their hormones. I’m sure she was tested since you’re so far into this, but I just want to double check because I hadn’t heard of it until recently.

It sounds like lots of experienced breeders use live cover and send their mares to a facility where their hormones are more stimulated. Is there a facility nearby that you would trust with your mare?

I hope you are successful with your mare.

BTW, do you have any pictures you can post of her?

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What a romantic (and woefully inaccurate) anthropomorphic picture. Almost makes me want to sign up myself. Almost.

What NancyM fails to mention is that the overwhelmingly vast majority of maiden TB mares are very young, back from the races at 3-5 years or never raced at all due to their pedigree value, and therefore very easy to get in foal with minimal management.

Neither live cover nor Regumate are panaceas that magically get every mare in foal with ease.


It depends on how bad you want a foal from your mare and what you are willing to spend. After 2 yrs of trying to get a custom foal from my breeder’s dream mare, we finally have a black dot. Now the wait begins to see that the embryo is not reabsorbed, then watching that there are no problems with the pregnancy to cause an abortion, then praying that the delivery goes off without problems for the mare and the foal. Finally, is the foal healthy. So many what ifs. Breeding is not for the faint of heart, as with all the joy comes a lot of grief.