The Stud

Last updated 29 June 2020

A mare and foal on an Australian Stud farm. Source: ABC news

Australia is the second largest breeder of thoroughbred racehorses in the world, with 21,500 mares and 700 breeding stallions1. Many overseas investors come to purchase Australian horses from the  sales in the hopes of purchasing a ‘winning’ horse2. These horses are often exported overseas to then be trained and raced in foreign countries.

Exports of Australian Thoroughbreds. Source: AgriFutures


The ‘official’ breeding season commences on September 1 each year, from this point mares are mated or ‘covered by’ stallions 4. Mares are often taken to stud farms for mating, sometimes even across state 5.  On average 13,000 foals are born into the racing industry every year 6.

The stallion farm is paid a ‘service fee’ by the mare owner which ranges from a few hundred dollars right up to $100,000 7. On average, a stallion is made to cover up to 30 mares in one breeding season, however the more sought-after stallions can be made to cover up to 200 mares in one breeding season8.

Breeding and Racing Season Chart. Source: Australian Stud Book

All thoroughbred horses share the same birthday; August 1. For this reason, breeders want horses born as close to this date as possible to ensure when they get to racing age (2 years old), they are as true to 2 years old as possible. This is done so they are not at a disadvantage on the track9. Some breeders even utilise artificial light and hormone injections to induce cycling of mares so that they are born at the desired time10.

Nanny Mares:

Nanny mares are mares that are used to raise orphaned foals of thoroughbreds whose mothers cannot look after them due to injury, illness or death11. It is unknown what happens to the nanny mares’ own foal.

A nanny mare with a foster foal on an Australian stud farm. Source: Coolmore Stud

Separation of foals:

Foals are handled by humans at an early age to ensure they are conditioned for sales and training. Foals under the age of four months can be caught, led and confined within a stable, yard or float for this purpose12.

Foals are generally fully weaned; separated from their mothers between 5 and 7 months old11. At this stage stud farms begin to accustom horses to having their feet and legs handled and being tied up and confined13