There's a beautiful glow on an expecting mother's face. She is prepared for the rough time ahead and is one in soul and body with her unborn child. Though she may seem calm enough, it's her hapless loved ones, who are concerned about her welfare and care. Looking after a soon-to-be mother is never easy, whether human or animal. And what about an expecting mare? A horse's pregnancy will last 338 to 343 days, that is roughly 11 months.
So that's nearly a year of care and fretting, on your, the owner's part. You need to know what she should and shouldn't be fed, whether she should be exercised and if so, to what extent. The early days of a mare's pregnancy are also the days in which you should be extra cautious and vigilant. This is the time when the mare is most vulnerable and could abort the fetus. Given below are points on how to care for a pregnant mare.
Aspects of Pregnant Mare Care
Take Care of Her Food
- Remember your mare is eating for two. So she needs to be fed nutritious and enriching food but not too much. Adding supplements to her food can add to the nutrient content, such as vitamins and phosphorus.
- The quality of food for a pregnant mare should be better than the food given to other horses around. It should also be easily digestible.
- The mare's diet should not be too fattening or insufficient. If she starts to gain a lot of weight, cut down on the amount of food.
- A fat mare will find the birthing very difficult and the resulting foal may be undersized, as the mare's weight will tighten the birthing walls in her body. A thin underfed mare cannot take the nutritious pressure and may abort the foal or produce a deformed or underdeveloped foal.
- The mare should be in a consistent body condition and you can make out how healthy she is by feeling her ribs. They should not be visible and sticking out but you should be able to feel them easily. If she is fat, then there will be a layer of thick fat over the ribs.
- The foal as a fetus, grows during the last trimester of the pregnancy period, so this is the time where nutritional content and food quality should be at the highest.
- It is advisable to provide the mare with decent amount of food but food should be provided at regular intervals, so that she eats her fill and walks away.
- Do not add too many supplements to her food. Consult a veterinarian as to what supplements are needed and in what amount. Some natural supplements include alfalfa pellets, soaked beet pulp and cod liver oil (1 tablespoon a week).
- Hay and oats are mandatory. A small allowance of oats with every feed and 2 biscuits of alfalfa or lucern, clean and pure hay should be given. Hay chaff and wheat or oaten chaff can also be fed.
- Mashes in the form of barley mash or mash of bran and boiled linseed can be given at least once a day. You can provide hay softened with linseed cake water.
- You can balance out the diet with some commercial horse feed or cereal mix but make sure it is specialized for pregnant mares only. Do not give your pregnant horse any corn products or feed.
- Your pregnant mare should be allowed to graze for her feeding. The grazing ground or pasture should be examined to see if any poisonous plants or mushrooms have grown, as your mare might mistakenly feed on such plants.
- Do not let your mare eat rare hay or fescue grass, this induces complications in the pregnancy. Black cherry trees are another dangerous natural food.
- Fix a block or lump of rock salt in the paddock, so the mare can lick at it when she feels like.
- Make sure the mare has a steady and clean supply of water, even when stabled. She will not drink too much of it but water should be available readily when she needs it.
Provide the Mare with the Best of Shelter
- The expecting mother should be kept in a separate paddock and stabling area for the duration of her pregnancy and even for sometime after giving birth. Other horses or animals can excite and disturb the mare and she must not be stressed.
- Do not transport or move your mare around a lot during her pregnancy. Repeated changing of paddocks and stalls can upset her. Move your mare into private, smaller foaling stall or area, a month before the expected birth. Make sure the stall is filled with clean oat straw and keep changing it regularly. The stall should be filled with straw or a rubber mat on its floor, to prevent the mare from slipping on the concrete floor.
- Pregnant mares like to roll around and lie down. Do not place the mare in a stall, with open drains or any hollows. Make sure fences and walls of the stall have no nails or stakes or anything poking out of them. There should be no gaps in the fence, the mare might try to wriggle through. The mare should be able to stand and lie down easily and be able to turn around in the stall.
Follow a Grooming and Exercise Regime
- Pregnancy is a delicate time but your mare should be kept active and exercised. Do not confine her to a stall, she should be taken outside, allowed to graze and run as she pleases everyday.
- The pace of activity that the mare was used to before getting pregnant, should be followed. That means if she was a riding horse, she should be ridden daily, just not in very strenuous conditions and for a long time. Avoid rough riding roads, with ditches or holes and in rough weather.
- You can exercise your horse with a lunging rope or laps around a track. She should be exercised, as being confined to a stall, can result in swollen legs and her mood will turn nasty and irritated. Do not exercise your mare in very humid and hot conditions or in extreme cold climates.
- Towards the last months of her pregnancy, slowly tone down on the exercising, reducing the intensity. But you can ride or walk the mare slowly around the paddock.
- Remember to groom your mare, keep her clean and check her hoofs and teeth for signs of infection or dirt.
Remember Her Vaccinations
- Do not administer any vaccines or medications without medical supervision. There is a specific timing and date for certain vaccines, please administer them to your mare as advised by a vet.
- The correct vaccines should be administered 1-2 months before the foal arrives. This is so that the mare's immunity levels are at their highest and her milk will be safe and antibody filled for her foal.
- Common vaccines include the rhino vaccine, Pneumabort and EWT-Flu vaccine. Tetanus and influenza shots as well as rabies can be given. A pregnant mare should be regularly dewormed during her pregnancy, as she can pass her worms onto her foal. She should be dewormed every 2 months and not during the last 30 days of her pregnancy term.
Caring for a pregnant mare may seem complicated but it doesn't mean you have to watch the mare 24/7 or obsess about her condition. Ensure regular vet checkups and try to get a veterinarian for the birthing process. During the birth, help the mare only if needed and keep yourself calm. If all goes well, soon you'll be the proud owner of a newborn frisky foal and will need to start worrying about his/her care and growth!