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A mares offspring quality different depending on her age?

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  • A mares offspring quality different depending on her age?

    In the "A first for the Bundeschampionate?" thread a poster said:

    "So the dam is producing this quality in her 20s?"

    I was not aware that the quality of the foals changed as the mare got older... one of my mares last foals was her best, she was in her 20s.

    Am I taking this out of context? Do others also believe this?
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  • #2
    I believe it has been proven that a mare's earlier foals are more successful than those produced later in life. I know I saw an article with statistics in my breed (Saddlebred) magazine once. I don't know if it took into account the age the mare started breeding and/or produced the foals.
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    • #3
      I believe (and I would have to go digging to find this) that there was a study or two done with TBs regarding this issue. Those studies did seem to show that statistically speaking a mare's best foals (in regard to race wins) were foals born during her "prime" reproductive years. The study showed that foals born during a mare's late teens/twenties were less likely to go on and win. Is this applicable across all sports? Who knows! I will tell you that some older mares do seem to have smaller/weaker foals late in their repro careers, which is probably due to intra-uterine factors caused by age. Certainly, though, some geriatric mares continue to have apparently healthy/hardy babies.
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      • #4
        I believe foals born in later years may be smaller, but of course just as talented and valuable genetically. Secretariat was an exception to this "rule", as he was born to a mare who was 18.


        • #5
          An old wive's tale that will someday go the way of the "white foot" school of thought.
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          • #6
            Yup, except in cases of declining uterine health as Hillside posted. Then look to F2.


            • #7
              Wasn't there some study, though, that found a correlation between aged mares and the sex of the foals? Unfortunately, the particulars (if I haven't made this up) have gotten lost in the swiss cheese that is now my memory.
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              • #8
                thats interesting.

                Couldn't this have to do with the nutrition level of the older mare though?

                I read that mares first babies are always the "healthiest" because the mom has all her nutrients, so even if depleted in her feed, the baby will get the nutrients.

                As the mare gets older, some of those nutrients are not there and also older horses don't absorb as much nutrients as younger horses?

                That could be why older mares have smaller babies, or ones that are inferior to early ones.

                Just a thought.


                • #9
                  Yes, studies have shown that older mares produce fewer stakes winners, Secretariat, for example, being the only Triple Crown winner born to an aged mare (I thought Somethingroyal was 13 when she had him, but my memory's kind of cheesy too )

                  I've heard this many times from Don Kapper, who thinks the reason is that mares do deplete their own bodies to supply their foals if not adequately fed, so with each successive foal, they have less to give until some of the aged broodmares suffer spontaneously broken legs due to osteoporosis resulting from the mining of their bones to build their foals'. That's why Progressive Nutrition advocates feeding for pregnancy from the time of conception, definitely not waiting until the last trimester!

                  IMO, significantly related: I notice that the new NRC mentions studies suggesting that mares need to receive and store nutrients in prior months in order to have them on hand to sustain the rapid fetal growth of the last trimester: "mares were evaluated throughout pregnancy, and it was determined that the significant increase in weight gain actually occurred in the second trimester of pregnancy rather than the third. All mares delivered normal size foals, adding support to the hypothesis than mares may store reserves during the earlier stages of pregnancy and mobilize reserves in the last trimester." (p. 61). This is a significant change from the old standard recommendation that mares' feed not be increased until the last trimester "because the fetus really doesn't start growing until then"!!

                  Although I think some declines are to be expected as a result of aging of both eggs and their environment, I cannot wonder whether the statistics for the offspring of aged mares might have been drastically improved by dramatically increased prenatal nutrition.


                  • #10
                    I would think and tend to agree that it is not so much the age of the mare but the age/quality of her uterus which is what nourishes the foal. An older mare with a quality/healthy uterus should be able to produce foals as athletically capable of those she produced in her younger years.

                    Then again perhaps as the mare ages, she has a tough time getting everything out of her food, be it from her teeth do not work as well, to perhaps ulcers, or breathing problems and everything else that comes with age. Even to the point of being arthritic and not exercising herself as much, the age of her liver which takes out toxins etc... So for those reasons the embryo is not nourished as well by a 20 year old mare as it is by a 8 year old mare with great teeth and no age related issues. So if the embryo is not nourished as well then the foal will be weaker and therefore prone to injury etc... Keeping it from preforming at the top of it's sport. But genetically it should be the same, so could produce foals who do well.

                    Not saying that is what happened but it does seems logical.

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                    • #11
                      Somethingroyal was 18 when Secretariat was born.


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by grayarabpony View Post
                        Somethingroyal was 18 when Secretariat was born.
                        And so it is-- the older I get the more I have to look things up Thanks.


                        • #13
                          I remember attending a lecture where traits in human offspring were briefly discussed -- the oldest were taller, the males were more masculine (more likely to have hormonal & chromosomal abnomalities in successive children)...Don't ask me to find the literature on it, but I can assure you I did read it in some textbook & it was included in a lecture at a very large, reputable University But for some reason I think it was mainly attributed to males rather than females, maybe someone else on here will have a better idea.

                          Based on what research the TB people have done, I would say it's not out of the question in horses....

                          (But if I am remembering correctly, then I think this would only be applicable to a small population in the horse world, as most male-horses are gelded...Hopefully someone will be able to clarify this)


                          • #14
                            This has been pretty much disproven in the TB world, though people tend to believe it anyway.

                            One contributing factor to the impression that younger mares have better foals is the fact that a large proportion of mares do not continue to reproduce into old age. Also, at least in TBs, the first 2-3 breedings are usually made to the most expensive stallions. After that, unless a mare has proven herself definitively, the quality of sire drops off.

                            A few TB facts:
                            As stated above, Somethingroyal was 18 when she had Secretariat. She produced her last stakes winner when she was 24.

                            15 Breeders Cup Champions have been produced by older mares:
                            Alphabet Soup (dam was 19)
                            Artie Schiller (18)
                            Capote (20)
                            Carressing (18)
                            Go For Wand (22)
                            Great Communicator (16)
                            Miss Alledged (17)
                            Ouija Board (19)
                            Proud Truth (19)
                            Royal Academy (18)
                            Silverbulletday (19)
                            Timber Country (16)
                            Wild Again (22)

                            Recent Multi-Grade 1 winners:
                            Roses in May (23)
                            Imperial Gesture (24)
                            The Tin Man (17)
                            Hystericalady (17)

                            In recent times, more than 80 grades stakes have been won by the offspring of older TB mares. You go girls!


                            • #15
                              IT may have been partially true at one time. As we better understand the needs of the mare/foal during pregnancy and nursing (and even before breeding), and better feed our horses, I don't think this will be the case. And, while a lot of mares may not have been having foals past 15 or so in past decades, better vet care (among other things) has resulted in mares foaling later in life too. Arabians are notoriously long lived, always have been, but while it used to be 22-23 was when they'd last foal, I've heard of many mares that successfully foaled with no complications as old as 28 this year (and that mare begged to be bred back, which they didn't.. she wasn't supposed to get pg this time. She had been barren for 3 years, so they used her as a companion for a 2yo colt.. lol.. she fell in love Now they have a baby ).
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                              • #16
                                I've also heard about the studies that older TB's don't produce as many high class winners.
                                I do wonder if it's due to the amount of foals they produce rather than their age though?
                                I feel sorry for the poor old girls that carry 15 plus foals by the time they are 20
                                I'm sure the mares owned by breeders that don't treat them as baby machines produce top class foals later on in life too


                                • #17
                                  I also remember the study but I also believe that we have advanced in our knowledge of nutrition and better broodmare management in general. Also, I don't think that racing statistics really apply to the riding horse since the physical demands are completely different.


                                  • #18
                                    Geez - the foal my Galoubet mare produced when she was 22 was huge when she was born, is huge now and looks like she'll finish in the 17-17.2hh range so it doesnt seem like the baby's size was compromised at all by the dam's age. The foal from this year when the dam was 23 was equally as large at birth and is healthy and growthy as well

                                    Old Wive's Tale IMO ...

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                                    • #19
                                      I would also think that, especially in horses where they are judged to some extent on "type," the foals they produce when they are older may not be deemed as nice as the ones they had when they were young partly because the ideal has changed to some degree. There's a thread on here now celebrating people's "Old Style" Warmbloods. In the Western World, people talk all the time of Old Style or Bull Dog Quarter Horses. Tastes change, disciplines change and the mare that is now living to be reproductively active into her 20's isn't changing with the times. I think it's just one of those breeding myths myself.
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                                      • Original Poster

                                        Originally posted by Erin Pittman View Post
                                        I would also think that, especially in horses where they are judged to some extent on "type," the foals they produce when they are older may not be deemed as nice as the ones they had when they were young partly because the ideal has changed to some degree. There's a thread on here now celebrating people's "Old Style" Warmbloods. In the Western World, people talk all the time of Old Style or Bull Dog Quarter Horses. Tastes change, disciplines change and the mare that is now living to be reproductively active into her 20's isn't changing with the times. I think it's just one of those breeding myths myself.
                                        That is a really good point - one I never thought of but probably very true!!!
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