Breeding the Gypsy Horse

Helpful tips for Breeding the Gypsy Horse



The Gypsy Horse is like any other breed for the most part when it comes to breeding and foaling.  There are however some differences that are important to be aware of if you are going to have a successful breeding season.  Feel free to share this article with your vet or reproduction professional.  They will definitely find it helpful.


First, a little on our background.
I received my education in equine reproduction from Colorado State University ten years ago. Since that time, we've been standing and shipping semen from draft horse stallions, owned and not-owned. We have been involved in many leading-edge breeding technologies in the draft horse over these years. Our skills include the collecting, processing, and shipping of equine semen, as well as mare management, insemination, and ultrasonography. The information contained in this article is based on our experience over this time breeding both the Gypsy Horse, and their close cousin, The Shire Horse.

The gypsy horse is very similar to the draft horse in many ways where reproduction is concerned - However, there are differences between the draft breeds and lighter breeds that must be taken into account when breeding these horses.
Some of these differences of concern are:


  • follicle size prior to ovulation

  • breeding dates

  • higher incidence of twinning

  • higher incidence of "PAF's" (persistent anovulatory follicles)

  • weak cl's in late season pregnancy

  • higher incidence of yeast infections


  • low libido

  • lower sperm concentrations

  • testicular size

  • not understanding the shipping process


Follicular size: most light breed horses will ovulate when the dominant follicle is around 40-45 mm. Draft breeds ovulate at a larger size. We typically see ovulation around 55-60 mm in the draft horse, as well as the Gypsy Horse. Timing of ovulation is critical to proper insemination of the mare.  Many vets have a difficult time predicting ovulation in draft breeds, and the problem seems to be getting worse - primarily due to over-dependence on the ultrasound.  Ten years ago, many vets were just getting into ultrasound and were learning how to use it.  These vets had been trained to determine ovulation through palpation of the ovary and follicle, and many were highly skilled and accurate in doing so.  It seems that art has been lost as vets become more dependent on the ultrasound.  If you can find a vet who is skilled in this palpation, you're likely to increase your chances of a successful breeding.  If you are breeding your mare through the use of Artificial Insemination, it is necessary to scan your mare through ovulation so you know that she did in fact have a normal ovulation within the time window for breeding.

Breeding dates:  All mares are at their most fertile point around the summer solstice.  This is even more apparent in the Gypsy Horse.  In most horse breeds, January and February foalings have been highly desired.  Man has used various techniques including hormone therapy, and changes to the length of daylight in order to achieve these early pregnancies.  Through this type of breeding practice, man has created horses that tend to breed better earlier in the season than their ancestors did.  In the case of the gypsy horse, no such attention has been given to foaling dates.  Mares are bred in the pasture, and foal in the pasture.  These dates are set by nature, and we are challenged to change it.  In any group of gypsy mares pastured with a stallion, you will find that the large majority of them foal in May and June - which equates to June & July breedings.  Even when mares are cycling much earlier in the season, and getting bred by the stallion,  it is seen that the June & July breedings are the ones that settle.
Here on our farm, looking at the records for 4 years of breeding 20+ mares each season, (both pasture breeding and assisted) we can draw the following conclusions:
85-90% of mares conceived in June/July breedings.  Those mares who conceive (and subsequently foal) earlier in the season, do so consistently season-after-season.  Conclusion: Don't blame the stallion if your mare doesn't conceive early in the season, even if your vet says the timing was perfect.  The odds are against her in these cases.  Lights and hormone treatment may help, but we have not had much luck here (more work should be done in this area however).

Twinning:  Just like thoroughbreds and the other draft breeds, the Gypsy horse is much more prone to multiple ovulation than light breeds.  We have heard stories from Gypsy breeders of twins being born occasionally.  We also hear of mares who come up empty in the spring.  How many of those aborted twins over the fall & winter? We cannot know as most gypsy breeders do not check for twins.  We typically observe twins in 4-5 mares a season, which equates to appx 8% of mares checked in a given season.  You will want to check your mares shortly after breeding (around 16 days post-ovulation), and be sure to check closely for twins.  Let your vet know that this breed is particularly prone to twinning, and he/she will use extra care to search for them.  If twins are found, you vet will be your best source of information to address the issue.  If you wait too long to get this check done, you run the risk of being unable to address twins, and may even lose the ability to breed back the mare - resulting in no foal for the spring.

Persistent Anovulatory Follicles:  Also called Hemorrhagic Follicles, seem to be more common in the draft breeds than in light horses.  We primarily see them in the late season.  Read more about them at  This is another good reason to ultrasound your mares through ovulation and ensure they did in-fact ovulate.

Weak CL's.  We see this in draft breeds which conceive late in the season.  Consider putting your mare on Regumate if she doesn't seem to conceive during late season.  Check her progesterone level periodically to determine if it's safe to take her off the medicine.

Yeast infections:  These seem to be popular in draft horses - especially those which have had AI procedures performed multiple times.  The Yeast Infection medicines designed for (human) women can be effective here - but it takes a lot more.  You get interesting comments when buying this stuff by the case.  It never hurts to get a cytology done when you do a uterine culture.  Yeasts are easy to see, and not too difficult to treat.


Low Libido:  Well, what can I say... We love our stallions because they are gentle and easy-going.  This carries over to breeding activity as well.  You just need to work with this.  It may take longer to get a collection from your stallion.  He may also never take to a phantom, and can very well have strong opinions on which mares to breed.  A few years ago a stallion was imported and subsequently gelded when he would not breed the mares required as part of his quarantine.  This tragedy could have been avoided if those involved understood the breed better.  Patience in the breeding barn will pay off here.  Learn your stallion's likes and dislikes.

Sperm Concentration:  The draft horse (and gypsy horse) will typically have a lower sperm concentration than light breeds.  Concentrations of between 130 and 200 million sperm per ml are pretty typical here, with total sperm numbers of 8-14 billion per ejaculate.  This is more than enough sperm to get your mare in foal.  However, lower concentrations can be more difficult to process for shipping and freezing.  No problem for live cover.  If shipping, be sure your collection facility can properly process semen of lower concentrations.  In cases where extra work is required processing semen, it may not have the longevity we're used to seeing in stallions not needing these extra steps.

Testicular size:  This is linked with testosterone production, sperm production and libido.  Draft horses (and gypsy horses) have a smaller testicle size in relation to their body size than do light breeds.  This size will increase during the warmer months - thereby making your stallion more fertile during the breeding season.  This topic came up recently here at the farm, so some measurements were in order.  We measured the gypsy stallions here, and recorded an average TSW (total scrotal width) of 8.2 cm during early January.  Conclusion: If someone says your stallion's testicles are too small, a measurement is in order to be compared with others. We can help you in this area.  I'll even teach you how to use the measuring tool.

Shipping:  Many breeders do not understand the math involved when processing semen for shipment.  When shipping chilled semen, we use a figure of 500 million pms (progressively motile sperm) for insemination.  We will assume that 50% of the sperm will die during transport, so package each dose with 1 billion pms.  Sometimes we will ship 1.5 billion per dose if it is available.  I get phone calls every season from mare owners complaining about poor motility of the semen they received.  In most cases, they don't understand the math.  If I ship you 1.5 billion pms at an initial motility of 75%, then you can receive that shipment with a motility as low as 25% and still inseminate with the required 500 million pms.  When a mare owner doesn't understand the math, they give the stallion a bad reputation which is not deserved.  What's important to realize here is that you inseminate with sperm, not motility.  A mare owner should receive a collection report with semen ordered that includes these figures so they can do the math themselves.

Additional info for vets:  The Gypsy Horse is a relatively new breed to the Americas, and we are still learning about their differences and similarities to other breeds.  The researchers at Colorado State University's Equine Reproduction Laboratory (ERL) have been quite helpful in this area.  Technical questions regarding reproduction in the Gypsy Horse can be directed to Dr. Jason Bruemmer, at CSU's ERL. 

We hope you find this information helpful, and we are happy to help you with your breeding questions.  In all cases however, your first source of information and treatment should come from your veterinarian.  This information is not intended to replace information supplied by your vet, but to supplement it.