Racehorse Breeds And Breeding Process

We all love the sunny days relaxing in a race course, betting on horses while sipping on the cool summer drinks. We often hear or visit Stud Farms, see many beautiful horses practicing and training for the future races, but there is a lot happening behind making these beautiful horses into strong and fast racehorses.  Before we go more into detail, below are some concepts we should be accustomed to.

Sire: Is a male horse or stallion in the conception and breeding process.

Dam: Is a female horse or mare in the process of fertilization or parenthood.

Colt: A young male horse.

Filly: A young female horse.

Foal:  A baby horse.

Yearling: Young horse aged 14-22 months.

Horse Racing:

Horse racing is a simple term is a racing sport where two are more horses, mostly ridden by jockeys, for a competition of covering a set distance. The race is usually held to identify the fastest of the horses. Horse racing is been held as an entertainment sports event for ages. While it is conducted mostly for sports purpose, it has gained worldwide recognition and economic importance.

Types of Horse Racing:

Horse racing is of many different types, few as mentioned below:

Flat racing: In this type of racing the horses usually race directly within two points mostly around an oval or straight track. This is the most common type of racing.

Jump Racing: It is also known as Jumps racing or Steeplechasing. In Ireland and the UK, it is also known as National Hunt racing. In this type of racing the horse’s race over barriers or obstacles.

Harness racing: In this type of racing the horse’s pace or trot while pulling the driver in a two-wheeled carrier called sulky.

Endurance racing:  Endurance racing is conducted in varies variety, some very short distance, few long distances and even lasting for few days.

Race Horse breeds:

Most horse races allow entry to certain breeds only. That means the horse should have a dam (mother) and sire (father) that are studbook-approved horses of the breed that is required for the race. Like, for a normal harness race, the Standardbred horses are used.

Thoroughbred: The three originating sires or male horses of Thoroughbreds are the Byerly Turk, Godolphin Arabian, and the Darley Arabian. They are named following their owners Captain Robert Byerly, Lord Godolphin and Thomas Darley. These horses were then mated with mares of imported and English bloodlines in England. The first Thoroughbreds were the foals from this mating. Thoroughbreds can vary in height range, few as small as 15 hands (a hand is equal to four inches) while few can range to 17 hands. Thoroughbreds can be of a bay, dark bay/brown, black gray, and palomino, white, roan or chestnut color. They travel medium distances with fast paces keeping a balance between endurance and speed.

Arabian Horse: The Middle East’s, Bedouin people bred the Arabian horses for stamina over long miles in order to outrun their enemies. In 1725 during the colonial times, the Arabians arrived in the United States. During the Civil War, the Arabians were bred as purebreds. Today, the endurance racing uses the Arabian horses but they are also used on traditional race tracks.

Quarter Horse: In early 17th Century in America, the Quarter Horse sires where commonly seen. The Quarter Horses are a combination of Colonial Spanish horses and English horses. The English horses were bred with native horses that resulted in a muscular but compact breed. These horses were majorly used for cattle work and plowing kind of chores.  The American Quarter Horses were recognized in 1940.

Stud Farms:

A stud farm is a place where the stallions and mares are kept and for breeding. These stud farms can have particular breeds of horses based on the race types. Stud farms are beautiful estates that can be found anywhere.
Stud farms may have male horses that can be made available for mares from outside the stud farms. The stud farms can charge a fee in return for this service.

Racehorses bred?

Racehorses are much different than the regular horses in terms of strength and speed. Hence breeding racehorse needs extra efforts as compared to a normal horse breeding.

The genetics play a vital role when breeding a racehorse hence it is much of a science. The horse breeders and owners put in innumerable hours studying lineages and investigating the perfect sires for their mares.

Various Opinions

There various opinions on the importance of sire and dam in passing down positive traits to the offspring. Many breeders insist on having a confirmed record of competition from the sire, while some breeders might only consider the features of the dam, claiming she might have more influence as the foal acquires the customs from its mother. Not only the genetics of parents is important but the pedigree is evaluated by examining the features of the close relatives as well.


This helps in determining the constitution of horse's bloodline and chances of its success. Breeders prefer to breed dams and sires of good characteristics trying to pan out genetic flaws and deficiencies. The former offspring is often proved as a helpful representation of the stallion’s capability to pass on positive qualities. Breeders may consider numbers as dosage index, which is an analytical statistic determining the performance of the descendants. This analytical statistic takes into consideration many generations of horse's lineage and the overall achievement of the family. Racehorse breeding needs years of experience to determine how to choose the best stallion or mare to provide a foal with superior characteristics. Racehorse breeding might involve various factors like the size of the stallion and the mare, previous mating, how well the mare and stallion perform, the fees for the stud farm etc.

The whole breeding procedure can be costly, the breeders have to pay fees to the stud owners, these fees could be higher as many hundred thousand dollars if the stallions have won competitions. Breeders can also consider various other circumstances such as they might select a large boned, taller stallion for their small mares in hope of breeding a stronger foal. While other breeders might select sprint type of stallions for their sprint mares in hope of breeding a speedster. But even with all these calculations and considerations, sometimes the horses with superior lineages and higher dosage indexes may fail to breed as expected. While, on the other hand, horses with unknown lineages score greater achievements on the racetrack. This is why breeding is not only a science but art too.

How the breeding takes place?

Based on the predefined criteria the mare owner chooses the ideal stallion, once this is done the mare is taken to the breeding farm. The mare is also assessed based on the race record, previous offsprings, and family lineage. After the assessment, the stud farm may refuse or admit the mare. The stud farms may restrict the number of mares per stallions based on the higher demand of the stallions. Hence the stallions could be fully booked for a season and the stallion will not cover mares than predefined numbers.

Breeding of horses is based on the ovulation of the mares hence once admitted to the stud farms they are observed through ultrasounds to check their ovulation duration. The mating is scheduled closer to the ending of the heat cycle usually during the estrus phase of the mare. The estrus cycle of the mare usually happens when the daylight is longer while in spring the natural estrous begins. Sometimes artificial lights are used to prepare the mares for the breeding seasons. The actual mating process depends on the behavior of the stallion and the mare. The stallion and the mare are supervised by trained persons in order to prevent injuries to the horses. Once the mating is completed the mare is taken back home.

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Pregnancy in the mare can be determined through an ultrasound after 14 days of ovulation. Mare is back on heat 14-16 days after the last heat period if not pregnant. In this case, they may have to return back to the stud to try the conception again. But mostly with the help of breeder’s skills and little of luck, it takes usually only one time. A foal is born after 11 months of pregnancy.

After birth, the foal is taken care of by the dam. They usually wean at an age of 4-8 months. The genetic analysis of the young foals can be done using a few mane hairs using DNA testing. This analysis can help to determine the foal’s suitability for various races like long-distance, sprinting and even an elite performer. The farms can choose to sell these young foals so they can be trained for the racing. Once the foal is sold, they are trained for races using various methods.

This training and nutrition along with luck are the deciding factors in the performance of the racehorses.Overall the process of breeding and training could be very long and hectic. Even after considering all the genetics and analysis, the chances of racehorse’s victory may only be 30%.