Best Horse Breeding Books

Ellen Grant
• Sunday, 08 November, 2020
• 22 min read

Windows Phone Horsemen and women have long been fascinated by the various coat patterns displayed by the equine species, from the zebra's stripes, to the Appaloosa breed's spots and varnishes, to the Paint breed's bold splashes of color.

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Although we can't yet precisely control how these patterns are expressed (sometimes as lots of white, and sometimes as just a little), that knowledge is adding to the popularity of Paints, Pintos and Appaloosas as it reduces the risk of producing “solid-colored” horses. The fact of the matter is, by selective breeding for dominant traits, we can introduce colorful patterns to virtually any “type” of horse we like… creating tobiano-patterned Saddlebags, or leopard-spotted warm bloods, if that's what suits our fancy.

If you breed Paints, Pintos, Appaloosas and Ponies of the Americas, an attractive pattern can make a significant difference in the economic value of your foal crop. The background color on every horse, with or without white markings or a white pattern, is one of the basic colors: bay, black, chestnut/sorrel, brown, dun, buckskin, palomino, cream, roan and gray.

Like a horse's background color, his genes control his distribution of white hair. A number of different genes determine white markings on the face and legs.

The horse's base color apparently influences these genes, since white markings on chestnuts tend to be more extensive than those on bays and white markings on bays are more extensive than those on blacks. Complex relationships between the different genes determine the presence, absence and extent of the white leg and facial markings.

Because of this, it is difficult or impossible to predict the white markings to be expected on a foal from any given mating. Since fewer genes are involved, we can more easily predict the inheritance of white areas on the bodies of horses.

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Just as with solid colors, a pair of genes, one from the sire and one from the dam, determines any spotting pattern. Every horse of every breed, no matter what his color, has a pair of genes for every possible spotting pattern.

In this article, dominant genes are designated by capital letters (e.g., T = Tobago, O = over, L = leopard/appaloosa complex). The white areas may be difficult to see on a cream, pale palomino, dun or buckskin, or light gray or roan, but if the horse has a dominant gene for a pattern, it is there.

For certain patterns (e.g., Tobago), genetic tests are available to determine whether a horse is homozygous or heterozygous. Undoubtedly, as knowledge of the equine genome increases, tests for genes determining other patterns will be developed.

In addition, all four lower legs are white and the head (although possibly having a star, stripe or blaze on the face) is indistinguishable from that of a solid-colored horse. In addition, at least one lower leg is colored, and the horse has generally extensive white markings on the head.

The over often has a so-called “bald” face and white markings that often extend onto the lower jaw. The terms piebald and skewbald as regards over and Tobago horses sometimes cause confusion.

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A skewbald horse has any color besides black in association with his white pattern. Overs have four distinct patterns: frame, calico, Sabine and splashed white.

Others have nearly all-white heads and extensively white bodies, although the midline of the back and the lower legs and feet are colored. There can be extensive, irregular white markings on the head, but the hair around the eyes is usually colored.

A over may, for example, display all the features of a frame over, but have white areas crossing his back. Two common patterns in covers are designated medicine hatband war bonnet.

The medicine Hanover is almost all white, with colored hairs limited to his ears, poll and sometimes part of his neck and flanks. The existence of covers explains the occasional lethal white foal resulting from the mating of an apparent Tobago with an over.

Dr. D. Phillip Spangenberg of the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine, an expert on color genetics of horses, distinguishes the following leopard/appaloosa patterns: blanket, snow cap blanket, leopard, few spot leopards, snowflake, speckled, frost, mottled and varnish roan. Most leopard/appaloosa complex horses have what breed enthusiasts call “mottled” or “varicolored” skin, small dots or freckles around the muzzle, eyes, ears and external genitalia.

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Leopard/appaloosa complex horses also frequently have striped hooves, even on solid-colored legs, and white showing around the sclera, the outer rim of the eye. Some minimally marked leopard/appaloosa complex horses can be identified only by their mottled skin, white-rimmed eyes, and striped hooves.

The various appaloosa complex patterns were once believed to be controlled by different genes. Recent evidence strongly suggests, however, that a single dominant gene controls them.

In general, homo zygotes are lighter than heterozygotes, but intermediate shades are difficult to classify. The vast majority (often 100%) of horses in most breeds are homozygous recessive for white (WW).

As homozygous white is lethal, WW foals perish as embryos (unlike the lethal white over, which is born at full term and dies shortly after birth). Grays, creams, leopards with few spots, and war bonnets are sometimes mistaken for whites.

Crop-outs From what we've said about dominants and recessives, we know that although two spotted parents frequently produce solid-colored foals, the reverse is not supposed to happen. A mating between two solid parents is not supposed to result in an over foal, but occasionally this happens.

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A crop-out occurs when a dominant gene that is hidden in a parent appears (“crops out”) in an offspring. There are three possible explanations for the over crop-out: 1) One of the parents really is an over, but the only clue, which was misinterpreted or missed entirely, is an excessively high white stocking, a very wide blaze, or a tiny white spot on the body.

The results of genetic testing (now available at the UniversityofCaliforniaatDavis) prove that a dominant over gene generally can be found in one parent of a crop-out. But progeny testing provides irrefutable evidence that over spotting is caused by a dominant gene.

The over pattern in horses can cause lethal white syndrome, a fatal condition that kills a foal shortly after birth. However, researchers have developed a test so that you can check to see if your stallion or mare carries the lethal factor.

A horse with lethal white syndrome carries the homozygous over gene (OO). In addition, nearly all loud calicoes (which are probably calico-frame blends) carry the lethal white factor.

·Palominos, buckskins and crème-colored horses are the result of a dilution gene that expresses “incomplete” dominance. ·Purebred Thoroughbreds and Percheron's do not carry any dominant dun genes, only recessives, as part of their genetic code.

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·In the Tobago pattern, the white color crosses the center of the horse's back between the neck and the croup. A Tobago generally has four white legs, and his face markings are similar to a solid-colored horse.

An over has as least one colored lower leg and often has extensive white markings on the head. ·A single horse can inherit any number of dominant genes that all express themselves, creating highly unusual color and pattern combinations such as “pantaloons” (Tobago + appaloosa complex), and over dun roans (dun + roan + Tobago + over), etc.

Due to the small size of farm holdings in Ireland at the time most farmers could not afford to keep more than one horse and as a result Irish breeders developed an adaptable draft horse capable of carrying out all the work on the farm as well as being used for riding, hunting and driving. Consequently, the breed developed to be extremely versatile and intelligent with an excellent temperament and willing nature.

Irish Drafts are often used for crossing with other breeder to produce all types of leisure and performance horses. Their mounts need to be brave, obedient and able to cope with confrontational situations, and they consider the Irish Draft breed to be ideally suited for this role.

The Irish Draft Horse is a versatile, powerful and athletic animal with substance and quality. Wide forehead and kind eyes, set well apart, and with large quality ears.

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Good length of rein with head well set on, neck should be correctly muscled and well shaped. Hooves should be of equal size, hard and sound with plenty of room at the heel.

A sloping shoulder neither loaded, nor too heavy, nor too short, with well-defined withers well set back. Movement should be active and strong, showing good flexion of joints and freedom of the shoulders.

Basic Objectives of Selection To breed Irish Draft Horses with conformation, movement and temperament that conform to the breed standard, which will make good quality, sound and versatile horses. The importance of recording covering dates is also included and also to ensure that the mare owner receives a ‘Record of Service Certificate’ and a commitment from the stallion owner to submit the ‘Covering Certificate’ at the appropriate time.

If I try to get miniature horses (mares) their size would be limited to 36, and it seems breeding and birthing might prove difficult. Most female mules are sterile and are not viable breeding prospects, though there have been 3 clearly documented cases in history where molly mules have conceived to a jack or stallion, and delivered at the 12-month term.

The mule (cross between a male donkey and female horse) are typically the way to go since they seem to inherit the best characteristics from each parent. The reverse cross, or Ginny, does not always inherit the best characteristics from their parents.

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The most important consideration is conformation and the traits you will be passing on to the offspring. It’s cruel to do this as these inferior animals usually end up as dog food later.

The American Donkey & Mule Society (lovelongears@hotmail.com), PO Box 1210, Lewisville, Texas, 95067, (972) 219-0781, can help you further. Though jacks are usually aggressive in their behaviors towards jennets, this is not the case with mares.

When cross- breeding species, the behaviors of a lot of mares can intimidate the jack. In his third year, the jack should be housed alone and be taught to breed in hand (DVD #9).

Or, should I get an “Experienced” Jack who has already bred mares and jennets, and then teach him to mount a dummy? He may or may not conceive this early, but the real task is to build his confidence for this purpose.

Jacks can be very timid with mares, so a regimented training process is necessary to keep him from being discouraged. It is more difficult to alter the behaviors of the older jack and if they have already bred jennets, it is not impossible, but highly unlikely that they will breed mares.

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The offspring will generally mature to the height of the mare or jennet, 2 taller or 2 shorter depending on his genetic makeup. The vast difference in size between the stallion and the jennet (without the genes of a taller sire or grand sire) still allows the stallion to contribute genes that would make the foal larger than the jennet would be able to manage.

The jack will determine the thickness of bone in the mule and rarely contributes much to the height. I am feeding her 1 large can (dog food size) of Omelene100 one time a day.

4) Thickened placentas that are often retained longer than normal which could lead to infection, laminates or founder and difficult rebreeding. 6) The mare may not exhibit the normal signs before foaling (udder development, relaxation of muscles around the tail, and filling of the teats.

7) Research on the effects on young horses is inconsistent, but it seems to reduce growth. To avoid incidence of colic or founder, it is advisable to take the mare off all grain and feed only grass hay, or timothy, six weeks before foaling to six weeks after foaling.

Grain can be reintroduced safely after this in small increments at a time. We have a lot of products available that can help you with this, beginning with DVD #8, #9, and our book Donkey Training.

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For general breeding information, see our book A Guide to Raising & Showing Mules. Rest assure I will be responsible for this baby as long as I live and the mare will have a permanent home I will pay stud fee for use of the jack.

He does make some contribution to the height, so it is important to consider the jack’s size as well. For heavier boned saddle or pack mules, a Mammoth jack (over 56) should be used.

Gestation Question: I have a burro, and I was wondering how long is there pregnancy period? When she does foal, you should make sure they are in a clean and dry bedded stall and keep them there for a couple of days before turning them out.

You can help dry the foal with a soft towel if it doesn’t upset the jennet. A “Fleet” enema helps the foal pass the meconium (first manure) more easily.

Save the placenta after it is passed for the vet to inspect to make sure the jennet has not retained any pieces of it. We want to breed her back to one of our Paint Stallions for a spotted Mule.

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We have been watching her and putting the stallion in the stall next to her, and she hasn’t come into foal heat like our horse mares do at 8 to 10 days from birthing. We will be hand breeding her like we do our horse mares, the stallion seems to be interested enough in her, so seems like there will be no problem with him.

Answer: Stallions don’t generally have much interest in jennets and need to be taught to breed outside their species. They do generally cycle very much like mares, but they can show heat or not at will, so it is hard to tell when they are actually ready to breed.

It is difficult even for a veterinarian to tell since many vets are unable to palpate a jennet due to their smaller stature. A jennet that is ready and in heat will generally “clack” her teeth at the jack in addition to sporadic peeing.

Question: Someone in our area is moving and wants to give me their old jack donkey that is in its 20s. Answer: Donkeys can live to 40 years or better, however, the jack’s fertility will depend upon the individual.

Ask your veterinarian to do a semen test for fertility to see if he is still a viable breeder. Jennets can have a tight bag for quite sometime and if you do not know when she was bred, it can be difficult to determine when the 12-month gestation will be up.

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The teats will begin to form milk droplets that will turn to waxy knobs within 2 weeks of foaling. When she is closer to foaling, the “bulge” of the baby will shift lower and towards the rear.

Late Breeding Training Question: We have a mammoth jack that in the past would chase and mount whatever he could catch. I bred him to a jenny and a Quarter Horse mare over a year ago, and we are empty-handed today.

I have put him up to a Paint mare that was definitely in heat, and he would get close, curl his lip and walk around to see what else was going on around the property. Answer: The mounting behaviors you saw at 1 and 2 years old are just play for the tasks to come when he is an adult.

At 2 years old, jacks would not necessarily be fertile enough to conceive foals, but it is possible. It may take a while and you might have to wait until next season, or the one after, to see any results, but it couldn’t hurt to try.

In many instances they were considered an “accident,” but today we are purposely breeding for mules to use in all different equine athletics in addition to their common use as a draft or pack animal. The reverse cross would be called a hinny, and they have slightly different characteristics than the mule.

There have been a few documented cases of mare mules (mollies) having offspring by a jack or stallion, but it is a rare exception. There have been documented cases in history where molly mules have been impregnated by a jack and a stallion.

The mule seems to inherit all the best qualities from both parents with the overall size and stature closer to the horse. The Ginny does not necessarily inherit the best qualities and though physically similar to the mule.

My best brood mare just died last night from what the vet thought was milk fever. If the filly accepted it, goat’s milk or one of the milk products produced for orphan foals fed from a bottle would be good for her until she is truly eating enough real food.

Well when we got her home we found out that she had a very bad club foot left rear leg. I have been watching her and today she can hardly put any pressure on the hoof.

I have been doing a lot of reading on donkeys but have not found a site on them giving birth, pros & cons. They both exhibit signs of labor with an enlarged udder tipped with wax at the ends and sometimes leaking milk before birth.

They will spend time as the birthing gets closer lying down, rolling and getting up frequently. She has probably compensated for this all her life, but the added weight and pressure put on her body from the pregnancy is just compounding an already difficult problem.

A vet should really look at her and make sure it isn’t anything serious like an abscess, or inflammation of some sort in the limb itself. Mares will foal in front of humans, but a jennet seems to use every possible means to keep from birthing until no one is around.

To minimize the potential problems, she should be kept by herself in an environment that affords minimal exercise (small pen) and preferably a stall, or loafing shed where she can keep the foal warm and dry after birth. Question: I am a proud owner of a 4-year-old mule named Lucy.

Answer: There have been two documented cases in America where mules have conceived and given birth and even more in other parts of the world. I would call the vet and have your mule checked if you think this is true as she should have special care and documentation if she is to deliver a foal safely and easily.

Founded in 1958 by BEA Seinfeld and now run by ARMS, this registry is exclusively for Miniature Mediterranean Donkeys. Up until 2009, any donkey under the height of 36” at the withers could be registered as long as it met basic type and conformation.

Since the numbers are now over 54,500, the book was closed to “untracked” donkeys in Jan 2009. Founded in 1967 by Paul & Betsy Hutchins, this book was open to donkeys of all sizes for many years.

However, a good number are still registered in ADR as “Miniature Mediterranean Donkeys.” Their offspring (providing both parents are Mods) are eligible for inclusion in the MDR book. (Remember, the key is BOTH PARENTS registered as Miniature Mediterranean Donkeys to go in MDR.

Slightly different registration form and rules apply. Ask for applications if you have a mule colt that’s destined to go into training for the track.

Join the American Donkey & Mule Society to receive their bimonthly magazine with even more valuable information for a mere $23/yr. Question: I have a pregnant mare and my vet told me that I could still ride her until she makes a milk sack.

My horse is swollen and kicks at her belly, but it is not really noticeable that she is making one even though you can tell a little of a difference. She seems to like trotting once in a while but sometimes when I try to get her in a canter she doesn’t want to go but other times she will.

Can I hurt the baby or make her go into early labor riding her like that? If you have not ridden this mare regularly (2 or 3 times a week) and “in frame,” she can easily become sore and uncomfortable on top of the natural discomfort that comes with pregnancy.

It may not affect the foal directly, but it wouldn’t be the best scenario for the mare’s overall health. Even when we are working her, she squats and pees, makes “baby mouth” and it is very inconvenient, not to mention unsightly.

Answer: I have had a lot of experience with molly mules in heat and also with animals who have been spayed. If you are sensitive to the fact that they really cannot control this (any more than a human woman can) and put less pressure on them at that time, they will be more apt to give you the best they can.

This will guarantee that you will be doing the right kinds of things in their proper order to ensure that you get the best from the animal, making your time with him both safe and enjoyable. Even molly mules who are in heat will exhibit less aggressive behaviors during their cycle if they have the benefit of this training.

You will just need to use good judgment and lower your expectations of mollies and jennets during these times. Answer: The cross over the back of some donkeys is largely due to Spanish breeding descent.

The donkey that bears the cross is explained in the Bible when Jesus rode him into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. What is significant is that he rode an ass, an animal that has no natural enemies and is put on this earth for the sole purpose of serving man.

When you experience the affectionate character of donkeys, it is easy to see why they have been chosen. If you’d like more information, I suggest you contact the American Donkey & Mule Society, PO Box 1210, Lewisville, TX, 75067, (972) 219-0781, lovelongears@hotmail.com.

Answer: I had not heard of the Henderson drill method of castration until your email, but after reading about it, I’m not so certain that it would be any safer than a wonderful veterinarian, as tools are only as good as the person who is handling them. I think this could potentially pose a problem with certain vets who look for shortcuts and may think it is a quicker way to get things done (to make more money).

In the hands of an incompetent vet, the following potential problems are exponentially escalated. “In very young, small breeds, the spermatic cords will often slip through the pliers.

When you employ good management and training skills, so your equines accept things calmly and obediently, there is nothing better than using a skilled veterinarian who can make judgment calls right there on the spot. Mechanical dental tools are often necessary, but again, they are only truly safe in the hands of a skilled equine dentist.

In all of these cases, for the sake of the welfare of your animals, it is worth it to take the time to find and pay what’s necessary for a skilled, credentialed and professional individual. The second reason is that the foal, like a human child, needs to become an adult at some point and learn to lead his own life with all that goes with it.

An animal that is left with the dam indefinitely can become psychologically dependent and deficient as an adult and could manifest behaviors that might become dangerous. Answer: Yes, you could conceivably breed your Welsh stallion to a donkey jennet.

Most stallions do not possess this same kind of aggression, which makes breeding for whinnies a little more difficult. Answer: Your miniature donkey should be in a pen by herself, so she is not stressed at the birth of her foal.

Would love the chance to start bonding and working with the colt as soon as prudent. Many people wean too early and that makes for adverse behaviors later.

It is not necessary to take the mare off the property, but it is wise to choose a good companion for the foal during weaning to minimize anxiety behaviors. The foal and his companion should have a place where there is adequate shelter and a stout and safe kind of fencing to prevent injury.

The foal should not be penned right next to the mare and should be given a full year of separation to keep him from nursing when he is returned to pasturing with his dam. If you wean your equine before the six-month period, they cannot grow properly, and it will compromise the development of their confidence and a willingness to trust.

Answer: Mares seem to do just fine with mule foals regardless of how they were bred, if the situation is routine and relatively stress-free. A mare will reject a horse foal if there is stress or anxiety in their living situation.

If the situation they are in is calm, accepting and relatively stress-free, anything is possible. Of course, certain personality types are just not made to be mothers, but these cases are relatively rare.

Aggressive Jack Hurts Jenny in Heat Question: In all the years I’ve had donkeys and mules I have never had a tragedy like what happened in my little long ear kingdom yesterday. Seems my little standard donkey jenny, Rosa, came into heat and that big lug of a john mule, Skipper completely savaged her.

Even when gelded, they are prone to “jump” the females during breeding season. Mules will also chase animals that are smaller than themselves and this is true of both males and females.

This is why it is very important to make an evaluation of your animals before putting them in pens and pastures together. Mules will always LOVE their mothers, so when penned with horses, they can be content, but not always willing to leave them.

I do not put smaller animals in with the larger mules because they will also harass them whether male or female. The smaller ones can be penned with the larger horses provided you do not have an extreme alpha male or female in the herd.

Once they have reached their third birthday, they can better withstand the pecking order ritual and can be added to the older group (mules from 3 to 15). Note that mules from 3 to 15 will exhibit aggressive sexual behaviors with their own kind, but the female mules are better equipped to fend off aggressive males in the spring where horse mares are not.

Breeding stock should be kept in the most stress-free environment possible to produce both happy and healthy parents and more trainable offspring. Good hygiene should always be practiced to avoid the spread of disease and other health problems.

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