Care of the Normal Pregnant Mare

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Breeding a mare can represent a large economic and even emotional investment. Once the mare is pregnant our goal is to provide the best care for her so that eleven months later, she can deliver a healthy foal.

A pregnant mare is considered normal when there is no medical reason to think that she is prone to complications during pregnancy or delivery. If a mare is reasonably young, that is less than 20 year of age, and healthy, or there is no history of problems in previous gestations, this is a pretty good assumption. Therefore, with few exceptions, a pregnant mare should be managed and treated as any other horse in the farm:

  • She should follow her routine exercise schedule and be allowed plenty of turnout.
  • She should be fed a balanced diet consisting of good quality roughage and grain as needed.
  • She should have access to plenty of fresh clean water.
  • With few exceptions, she should be on the same vaccination and deworming schedule as the other horses in the farm.
  • She should continue to have routine teeth and foot care.

    A pregnant mare SHOULD NOT:

  • Be stall bound.
  • Be overfed just because she is pregnant.
  • Be restricted from access to water.
  • Be vaccinated or dewormed without consulting a veterinarian.

    Exercise

  • A healthy mare in early pregnancy can follow her routine exercise and competition schedule. Mares may compete and even jump fences up to 6-8 months into their pregnancy as long as there are no sudden changes in their level of competition.
  • It is usually recommended that you gradually decrease your mare's hard work at around 7-9 months of pregnancy, depending on her physical condition and disposition.
  • The most important thing to remember is that your mare's routine should not be changed drastically just because she is pregnant. For example, an idle or light-working broodmare should not be suddenly submitted to strenuous training/exercise, or vice-versa, just as any other horse.
  • Whether in a light, moderate or hard work schedule, all pregnant mares should be allowed plenty of turnout for voluntary exercise, preferably in pasture, throughout pregnancy.

    It is important that the mare is in good body condition prior to breeding. Body condition condition is usually scored in a scale from one (most thin) to nine (most overconditioned), and should also be monitored throughout pregnancy. Ideally, mares should go into a breeding program with a body condition score of five. A rule of thumb is that the ribs cannot be seen while the mare is breathing but they can be felt easily when the hand is run smoothly over the rib cage, which means that there is no excessive fat covering the spaces between the ribs. The general body conformation should also be taken into account when evaluating body condition.

    Good quality roughage (grass or legume hay) should be the main nutritional source for any horse. In general, horses consume around 1.5 to 2 percent of their body weight in feed or dry matter. Roughage that includes hay and pasture should comprise at least 1 to 1.5 percent of this intake. The remainder may be supplemented with grain depending on the body condition of the horse and metabolic demands.

    As pregnancy advances the mare will have increased metabolic needs due to marked growth of the foal in the last three months of gestation. Additionally, the foal will occupy a great deal of space in the abdomen, making consumption of large quantities of forage needed to meet metabolic demands difficult. Therefore, mares in the last trimester of pregnancy may need as much as 1 to 1.5 percent of their feed requirement in the form of grain or concentrate.

    Lactation also places a great deal of strain in some mares, requiring further increases in feed and concentrate during the first couple of months of lactation. This is an important consideration and you should plan ahead to avoid sudden feed increases once lactation starts.

    Many mares are often expected to become pregnant again right after foaling, and conception may be difficult or impaired if the mare loses excessive body condition while nursing the newborn foal. In any case, remember that each horse is an individual and generalizations cannot be made.

    For any horse, sudden changes in diet should be avoided. This may predispose to gastrointestinal upset and colic. Any changes or upgrades in diet to meet requirements for late pregnancy or lactation should be done gradually, over a period of two to four weeks.

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