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A mare is the female equivalent of the male stallion. In racing a mare is aged four and older – younger female horses are called fillies. Once a mare has been used for breeding the terminology changes to broodmare.
Mares are coupled with stallions during the breeding process. Mares and geldings are not brought together for breeding because the latter has been gelded or castrated. Once a mare has been impregnated she carries the offspring, known as foals, for 11 months.
Mares breed in the summer months so the foal does not have to survive the early months during the winter. Mares can only be used in the breeding process once a year but stallions are often coupled with different mares over the course of their career at stud.
Once female horse reaches the age of four she is called a mare and not a filly and there are races in which only mares and fillies can take part. Female horses receive a weight allowance from male horses for some races.
A mare can breed and then return to the racecourse but once stallions go to stud they rarely race again. However, if a mare or stallion is unsuccessful at stud they can return to the track. Mares can actually race during the early months of pregnancy or when they are in season.
Fillies can run in each of the five Classics while colts can only run in three. Fillies have more opportunities to prove themselves but female horses rarely run in the Derby, though they are eligible.
Mares get weight allowances in the major flat races and this can compensate for having less speed and an inferior physique than male horses.
The breeding of a horse will influence its potential to be a good race horse. Mares that are proven on the track and at stud will command high breeding fees.