by Sue King

Anytime two or more parties enter into an agreement the terms of the agreement should be clearly understood to be fair to all involved.  We've come a long way from the time that a man's word was a good as a handshake.   It seems in our day and age many individuals immediately turn to lawyers and courts to solve agreement disputes when they perceive they have been wronged.  This situation creates difficulties for all involved and can be avoided by simply generating a contract that clearly spells out the obligations of all parties so that everyone has a clear understanding of the agreement they are entering together. 

This is especially true in breeding mares to jacks.  Everyone has different expectations influenced by their point of view.  The mare owner is excited about the prospect of this wonderful little mule foal that will be delivered and the jack owner is excited about the prospect of another of his jack's get proving his importance as a sire of quality mules.  However, as the relationship progresses between the mare and jack owner, they begin to find out that, while they both want the same outcome, they may have very different expectations of just how they'll arrive at that goal.

All things considered, it is best to have a contract that outlines what each party expects and agrees to.  This will save feelings, tempers and good will in the future should there be problems or disagreements. Putting a signature to a contractual agreement heads off a slew of problems and keeps things in perspective for all those involved.  The jack owner should develop a contract which outlines the responsibilities and services he provides at the time of breeding and when the foal arrives.  The mare owner should request a contract so that he knows exactly what to expect in terms of services and costs. Everyone should be aware what will be expected of them and what they can expect of the other person. 

What should a contract outline?  Everything you can think of that can be outlined.  The purpose of a contract is to avoid loose ends and misunderstandings.  So include everything, even if it might seem trivial at the time.  It will not seem trivial later when fees are to be paid and return privileges are to be exercised.  Nor will it seem trivial when tempers rise, words are exchanged and reputations are put on the line.  Contracts are simply good business. And, whether we like it or not, breeding jacks to mares should be handled in a business like manner to protect all involved.

Here are some basic ideas for breeding contracts.  Not all these considerations will be included in all contracts and individuals may add additional points to be agreed to.  Keeping this in mind, most good contracts will include the following points.

Health Requirements:

The jack owner will establish the very minimum health requirements on those mares allowed on his farm.  It is his responsibility to maintain the health integrity of, not only his animals, but that of visiting mares.  Most farms require proof of Negative Coggins on visiting mares.  While states may require on not less then twelve months old, don't be surprised if the jack owner wants one even more current.  You might be required to present a Negative Coggins not less than one or two weeks old.  In addition, you might be required to provide a negative uterine culture on your mare to prove she is free of infection and transmittable disease.  If the jack owner requires this, it will protect not only his jack but all the mares he breeds, too.  Mares' fertility rate is lowered by infection and disease.  It is wise to have a mare cultured and treated prior to breeding in order to assure an optimum breeding environment.  Neither the jack nor the mare owner wishes to allow disease to lower conception rates or allow infection to halt breeding programs turning them into treatment programs.  Prevention is always better than treatment.


Fee Payment:

It should be established when fees are to be paid.  This varies with each breeding operation.  The mare owner should expect customary stud fees, boarding fees, veterinary fees.  There may be additional fees, but these should be spelled out in the contract up front so everyone is aware of them. 

Stud fees are what the mare owner pays for the service of the jack.  In other words, simply what you pay for the jack's semen.  These fees can be advertised and the same for everyone or private treaty.  Private treaty means each contract is unique and fees vary depending on the situation.

Boarding fees should reflect a fair reimbursement for feed, shelter and daily handling.  In addition to simply housing the mare, the jack owner is also evaluating the mare's receptiveness to breeding.  She will have to be teased daily and even palpated or sonogramed to determine ovulation.  This is time consuming and is added into the cost of boarding the mare not in the stud fee.   Few mare owners realize the work involved in standing a jack to the public. 

Veterinary expenses may be incurred for breeding.   They range from ovulation detection to emergency care.  The mare owner should always demand that any of these expenses be the result of a licensed veterinarian working on the mare. 

Fees can be paid at any time the parties agree.  However, it is customary they are paid monthly or when the mare leaves the premises of the jack owner. In the event payments are not made, stud owner usually demands a possessory lien on the mare and resulting foal for all unpaid charges.


Party Obligations:

The stud owner agrees to give the best available care and supervision, but will not be responsible for accident, sickness or death to mare (or foal).  Mare owner is, likewise, is not responsible for any accident or injury to stud.   The stud owner should agree to diligently try to settle the mare and will usually guarantee live foal under the following conditions.     Mares must be vet tested for pregnancy at 35 days after breeding and again after 60 days with jack owner being notified of the results.    Mares must be kept current on sleeping sickness, tetanus and flu shots and kept on an adequate worming  schedule     Mare, if in foal, must be given Pneumabort-K shots in the 5,7 and 9 months of pregnancy.     Mares must be fed correctly, never being allowed to become weak, thin or obese.  In the live foal guarantee, the mare owner is required to provide adequate care for the mare so that the mare is healthy enough to maintain the resulting pregnancy.

Should the mare abort or not have a live foal to stand and nurse after conditions of are met, the mare will usually have a return privilege for the next year's season only, at no further breeding fee charge, providing certification by a licensed veterinarian of the abortion or birth of a foal which does not stand and nurse is received within seven days of the event.  If veterinary certification of loss of a foal is received as noted and a mare owner does not wish to return mare for service, the stud fee, minus any board charges, could  be returned or the mare owner may forfeit the fees depending on what is agreed to in the contract. 


Special Considerations:

Should the jack die or become unfit for service or the mare named above should die before return privilege is exercised, this contract shall become null and void, and all money paid as part of the breeding fee shall be returned.  Board fees, veterinary fees, etc are usually not returned.  Sometimes a jack owner may request that a copy of both sides of the mare's registration papers are to be furnished to the stud owner upon delivery of the mare.  And a current copy of the mare's health certificate and vaccination and worming schedule is also to be supplied.  Usually mares that are not halter broke will not be accepted. Sometimes a breeder's certificate will be furnished to the mare owner upon notification of birth of a foal.

When the stud owner signs and returns one copy of this contract to a mare owner, it will then be a binding contract on both parties, subject to the terms and conditions, and usually is not transferable or assignable.

In any contractual relationship, the existence of a contract does not mean that either party is not trust worthy or someone's word is not good enough.  It is simply a way of spelling out expectations in regard to a transaction and making sure that everyone involved understands their part in the process.  It is designed to protect both sides who agree to its terms. 


 It's good business.