Pregnant Mare Care

Some helpful tips from AAEP for keeping your expectant mare healthy.

According to our friends at the American Association of Equine Practitioners, the average length of pregnancy in the mare is 338 to 343 days. However, normal gestation can range from 320 to 380 days.

You needn't become overly concerned if your mare is past due. Prolonged gestation is not generally associated with problems or extra large foals unless the mare is grazing endophyte-infected fescue grass.

If your mare's pregnancy extends much past 340 days or you're concerned, ask your veterinarian to examine her to determine if the mare is still pregnant and confirm that all is well.

Suspected Abortion

Mares do occasionally abort. If you notice a vaginal discharge or dripping milk during pregnancy, contact your veterinarian.

If you find the remains of a placenta or fetus, save it for your veterinarian to examine. It may be possible to ascertain the cause of abortion and treat the mare accordingly. Mares can and do abort without ill effects.

However, it's always a good idea to have her checked by your veterinarian, because some complications of abortion, such as a retained placenta, can be life-threatening to your horse.

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Impending Birth

There are obvious as well as subtle signs of impending birth. The time frame during which they occur varies from mare to mare.

The most obvious and reliable are:

    • Filling of the udder (two to four weeks pre-foaling)
    • Distension of the teats (four to six days pre-foaling)
    • Waxing of the teats (one to four days pre-foaling)
    • Obvious dripping of milk
    • An increase in milk calcium 1 to 3 days pre-foaling (detected by using a stall-side test kit)

More subtle signs include:

    • Softening and flattening of the muscles in the croup
    • Relaxation of the vulva
    • Visible changes in the position of the foal

Preparing for Birth

Your 11-month waiting game will be over before you know it. To prepare, brush up on your foaling knowledge with the companion AAEP educational brochure, The Foaling Mare and Newborn. Your veterinarian will be happy to supply it and will also be able to answer any further questions you may have about caring for your expectant mare.

For the full AAEP brochure, "Expectant Mare," click here.

Learn from the experts about horse health complications and treatments. Arm yourself with knowledge so you can give your horses the best chance at healthy lives. AQHA members get a discount on the "Your Horse's Health" DVD series!

To learn more tips about how to care for your pregnant mare, check out America's Horse TV.