Breeding Horses

Study horse breeding online. Learn how horses breed and how to minimise risks to mare and foal during pregnancy and birth.

Course CodeBAG307
Fee CodeS2
Duration (approx)100 hours
QualificationStatement of Attainment

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Learn how horses can be bred.
A knowledge of horse breeding helps you to:
  • Reduce health risks to the mare and foal
  • Have some control over the characteristics of foals being produced.
  • Understand each stage of the pregnancy, birth and after care of the foal.
Horse breeding is an important sector within the equine industry; and a knowledge of breeding horses is of great value to anyone who works with horses; not only breeders.
Professional Development Course for anyone Working with Horses

Lesson Structure

There are 8 lessons in this course:

  1. Why breed horses?
    • An understanding of heritability is fundamental
    • Meiosis
    • The Work of Gregor Mendel
    • Chromsomes and Genetics in Breeding
    • Selecting the mare and the stallion
    • Quantitative and Qualitative Inheritance
    • Inbreeding and Linebreeding
    • The Genetic Effect of Inbreeding
    • Line Breeding
    • Advantages of Inbreeding
    • Stallion and Mare Complementation
    • The Industry
  2. Mare Anatomy
    • The Reproductive Cycle of the Mare
    • Hormonal Control
    • Abnormal Oestrus
    • Breeding Fitness
    • General Broodmare Care
    • Nutrition and Feeding
    • Rations
    • Carbohydrates
    • Fat
    • Protein
    • Vitamins
    • Roughage
    • Hay
    • Pre-Season Care
  3. Stallion Anatomy
    • Sperm Production
    • Semen Release
    • Reproductive Cycle of the Stallion
    • Breeding Fitness
    • General Stallion Care
    • Handling
    • Pre-Season Care
    • Stallion Management for Reproduction
    • Training the young stallion
    • Steps in training a novice stallion onto the phantom
    • Common clinical problems with stallions
    • Castration (Gelding)
  4. Managing the Arrival and Departure of the horse at the stud
    • Semen from the stallion
    • Collection and Processing
    • Evaluating the Quality of Sperm
    • Breeding methods
    • Natural Breeding
    • Live cover – In-hand or Pasture
    • Artificial insemination
    • Handling Frozen Semen
    • Embryo transfer
    • When to breed
    • Detection of Oestrus
    • Teasers
    • Visual Signs
    • A plan for when things go wrong
    • Sexually Transmitted Infections
  5. Pre-natal growth
    • Conception of twins
    • Gestation and Methods and Detecting Pregnancy
    • Methods of Diagnosis
    • Palpation
    • Pregnancy Tests
    • Ultrasound
    • Post-Natal Growth
  6. Care of the Pregnant Mare
    • Nutritional Requirements
    • Caslicked Mares
    • Preparation for foaling
    • Exercise Needs
    • Worming
    • A deworming program for mares
    • Preparation of the foaling environment
    • Preparation for if things go wrong
    • The Physical Environment - Bedding
    • Common Bedding in the Foaling Environment
    • Straw
    • Wood Shavings
    • Wood Pellets
    • Rubber Matting
    • The Parturition Process
    • Stages of Labour
    • Common Foaling Problems
    • Dystokia
    • Abnormal Presentations
    • Health Problems of the post-partum mare
    • Retained placenta
    • Haemorrhage
    • Post-Partum Metritis
    • Rejection of the Foal
    • Prolapsed Uterus
    • Lactation (Udder edema)
    • Lactation (reduced milk supply)
    • Foal and foaling reports
    • Example Foaling Record
    • Example Foal Report
  7. General newborn care
    • Stabling and safe environment for newborn foals
    • Lactation and suckling
    • Premature Foals
    • Orphan foals
    • Common health problems in newborn foals
    • Infections, Constipation and Diarrhoea
    • Septicaemia
    • Meconium Impaction
    • Diarrhoea
    • Congenital disorders
    • Neonatal Isoerythrolysis (NI)
    • Angular Limb Deformities
    • Flexor and Extensor Tendon Abnormalities
    • Delayed Ossification of the Cuboidal Bones
    • Heart Murmurs
    • Congenital Papilloma (Warts)
    • Entropion
    • Neurological disorders
    • Neonatal Maladjustment Syndrome (NMS)
    • Head Tilt
    • Structural abnormalities
    • Uroperitoneum
    • Umbilical Hernias
    • Training a foal in the earliest stages
  8. Introduction to Fertility
    • Understanding Fertility in Mares
    • Understanding Fertility in Stallions
    • Handling and Management in Stallions
    • Age
    • Overuse
    • Nutrition
    • Illness and Injury
    • Other Abnormalities
    • Semen problems
    • Haemospermia
    • Urospermia
    • Oligospermia
    • Structural disorders of the reproductive tract (mares)
    • Pneumovagina
    • 'Maiden Cervix' or Cervical Incompetence
    • Vesicovaginal Reflux or Urine Pooling
    • Structural disroders of the reproductive tract (stallions)
    • Cryptorchidism
    • Testicle Conformation
    • Testicular Torsion
    • Testicular Tumours
    • Scrotal Hernia
    • Venereal diseases (mares)
    • Endometritis
    • Bacterial Endometritis
    • Fungal Endometritis
    • Mating Induced Endometritis
    • Contagious Equine Metritis (CEM)
    • Equine Viral Arteritis (EVA)
    • Pyometra
    • Abnormal Oestrus Cycles
    • Silent Heat and Post-Partum Anoestrus
    • Persistant Oestrus
    • Vernal Transition
    • Ovarian Tumours
    • Persistant Corpus Luteum
    • Haemorrhagic Follicles
    • Abortion
    • Venereal diseases (stallions)
    • Bacterial Infections
    • Equine Viral Arteritis (EVA)
    • Equine Coital Exanthema
    • Dourine
    • Contagious Equine Metritis (CEM)
    • Infectious causes of abortion (mares)
    • Viral Abortion
    • Bacterial Abortion
    • Leptospirosis
    • Non-infectious causes of abortion (mares)
    • Congenital Defects
    • Twinning
    • Umbilical Cord Torsion
    • Progesterone Deficiency

Each lesson culminates in an assignment which is submitted to the school, marked by the school's tutors and returned to you with any relevant suggestions, comments, and if necessary, extra reading.

Why do we breed horses?

There are many different reasons to breed horses, ranging from increasing the number of animals to improving qualities of the animals we have.
Desirable qualities in an animal can be varied; from the horses vigour and strength, to conformation and temperament.

Do you Understand Good Conformation?

When preparing to assess conformation there are vast quantities of factors which need to be considered. You should also note in the following brief statements of conformation points, we only discuss factors considered for good conformation (we cannot fully incorporate every possibility of horse conformation for the purpose of this book). If a horse displays something different from what is in this information, it does not necessarily mean reduced function, performance or health. You should always have conformation checked by an experienced equine professional or veterinarian as you develop an eye for conformation. 

Head: generally lean and in proportion with the entire horse. Jawbone should have space between its lower edge and the jugular allowing flexion. The set of the head on the neck affects flexion (therefore control and balance) so look for a well-set head – for this consider the shoulder angle.  

Eyes: should be clear and bright, not too large or too small. Widely set eyes give a broad range of vision. It is a common belief that the expression of the eye is a sign of temperament.

Ears: should be of a good size, flexible and forward facing when pricked.

Muzzle: look for clean nostrils.

Neck: there should be a convex curve with a distinct arch from the poll to the withers; in front of the withers, the neckline should be straight. The neck muscle should disappear into the shoulder smoothly in the middle of the shoulder. Look for clean lines of the neck and a balanced length in proportion with the rest of the horse.

Withers: are the highest part of the horse and so height is determined from here. Withers are defined clearly providing a point for attachment of the shoulder and back muscles.  

Shoulder: this should have a definite slope forward from the withers to its point. The top of the shoulder blades should be close together.

Chest: the chest should be of medium size and allow heart space.

Body: like the chest, the body should be deep allowing heart space, but additionally it should allow plenty of space for the lungs at full volume. Measurements from the withers to the lowest part of the girth should be the same measurement as from the girth to the ground.

Ribs: 18 ribs attached to vertebrae, interconnected by cartilage, should only by slightly curved to start with, then increasing in curvature to give a well-rounded appearance.

Back: should be almost level, length should be medium (neck length and back length are in proportion).

Loins: are located on either side of the spinal processes, they should be broad and well developed.

Quarters: shape will vary however a fit horse will have well-developed and firm muscle tone

Forelegs: should be straight from the top of the leg to the foot when viewed from the front. When viewed from the side, the straight line should continue from the top of leg to the front of the fetlock.

Hind legs: when viewing from the side, there should be a straight line from the point of the buttock through the point of the hock and fetlock.

Knees: should be broad, deep and flat.

Hocks: are large with a clean outline and a prominent point at the back. The section from hock to fetlock should seem short. The alignment and overall position of the hock is very important.

Cannon: should be short when measured from below the knee.

Fetlock: should appear flat, not rounded.

Feet: front feet and hind feet are matching pairs and forward facing. Front feet slope at 45-50o from the ground level when standing straight and square. Hind feet are slightly longer and narrower than front feet and have a higher angle of slope. Heels should be wide with well-developed frogs. Feet should not be excessively large or small. The surface should be smooth, not cracked.


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Dr. Gareth Pearce

Veterinary scientist and surgeon with expertise in agriculture and environmental science, with over 25 years of experience in teaching and research in agriculture, veterinary medicine, wildlife ecology and conservation in the UK, Australia and New Zealand
Cheryl Wilson

Cheryl has spent two decades working in agriculture, equine and education industries, across England, Scotland, Australia and New Zealand. She graduated with a B.Sc.(Hons), HND Horse Mgt, C&G Teaching Cert. For several years, Cheryl managed the distance
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