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Equine Pregnancy and Foaling: A Comprehensive Guide for Horse Owners

Equine Pregnancy: Everything You Need To Know

As a horse owner, understanding the gestation period and caring for a pregnant mare can be crucial in ensuring the health of both the mother and her unborn foal. This article will cover everything you need to know about equine pregnancy, from the gestation period to special considerations for a pregnant mare.

Gestation Period

The gestation period in horses, unlike humans, is relatively short, lasting for approximately 11 months. However, it can vary anywhere from 320 to 370 days.

To determine the due date, it is important to know when the mare was bred. A veterinarian can help determine the exact date.

Mares typically cycle every 18 to 21 days, with the length of each cycle lasting for approximately 5 to 7 days. To confirm a pregnancy, an ultrasound examination can be performed anywhere from 14 to 21 days after breeding.

This also helps determine if there are twins and if they are viable. Twins in horses are rare and can be dangerous.

If both embryos are viable, it is best to abort one to prevent the risk of late-term abortion or complications to both the mare and foals. It is important to note that one twin is often stronger than the other, resulting in a higher risk of a compromised pregnancy.

Appearance During Pregnancy

As a mare progresses in her pregnancy, her belly will gradually become larger and more rounded. Some horses may not “show” until six or seven months into their pregnancy, while others may show earlier or later.

Breeding, exercise regimen, and the number of foals can all affect how a mare looks while pregnant.

Physical Activity for Pregnant Mares

It is important to maintain a fitness routine for pregnant mares to keep them healthy. However, their exercise regimen should be monitored and adjusted for their health.

It is not uncommon for a pregnant mare to experience discomfort or lameness, especially towards the end of their gestation period. Walking or trotting is recommended, while fitness training or strenuous activities should be avoided.

Special considerations must also be made for pregnant mares to prevent edema, or swelling, in their legs. Regular turnout and walking are great ways to decrease the risk of edema, which can be a sign of a more severe condition.

Pregnant Mare Care

Normalcy for Pregnant Mares

Pregnant mares should be treated like normal horses, with the inclusion of special care. Social interaction and turnout are important for the mental health of a mare and are essential since they are herd animals.

Special care should also be taken to ensure they are mentally and emotionally sound.

Feeding Pregnant Mares

A pregnant mares nutritional requirements change as the pregnancy progresses. It is important to start with a well-balanced and specialized feeding program even before breeding.

During the final stages of pregnancy, an increase in nutrients is required.

Special Feed to Avoid

Fescue grass is known to have detrimental effects on both mares and foals. They can experience late-term abortions, prolonged pregnancies, and failed lactation after giving birth.

It is best to avoid this type of feed altogether.

Vaccinating Pregnant Mares

Vaccines are essential for the good standing of a mare and her unborn foal. Routine annual vaccinations should be administered, including tetanus, flu, rhino vaccine, and administration of the West Nile vaccine.

Pregnant mares should not be stressed, and their diet not modified harshly in the last few weeks of their gestation period. Veterinarian appointments are considered critical during the last month before foaling.

Hauling Pregnant Mares

Pregnant mares should be kept in a climate-controlled environment to prevent stress, and water intake should be available at all times. Only limited hauling should be done after seven months into the pregnancy to avoid complications.


Equine pregnancy is an exciting and stress-laden time for both the horse and their owners. The gestation period, feeding, and vaccinations should be kept in mind for a positive pregnancy experience for both mares and their owners.

Following a sound nutritional program, monitoring physical activity, and regular veterinarian checkups is essential for healthy foaling. Be sure to seek veterinarian attention if there are any concerns.

Foaling: Preparation and

Signs of Impending Delivery

As a horse owner, the birth of a foal can be an exciting and joyous experience. However, it is essential to know the signs of impending delivery and prepare for the arrival of the foal.

This article provides in-depth information on the signs of impending delivery, how to prepare for foaling, and the importance of knowledge and veterinary assistance.

Signs of Impending Delivery

There is no 100% accurate sign that a mare is going into labor, but changes in her behavior, condition, and physical state provide indications. The most prominent sign is “bagging up,” where the udder becomes engorged and leaks colostrum.

The teats may droop and become pointed. Additionally, mares may begin to sweat, show discomfort, and act restless.

Other indications may include a softening of the muscles and ligaments around the tail and hindquarters, a clear discharge from the vulva, and a drop in the mare’s rectal body temperature. However, these signs should always be taken note of but not relied upon completely.

Preparation for Foaling

Proper preparation is essential to ensure that both the mare and foal have a smooth delivery. Below are some preparations that can ensure that a mare has a comfortable and suitable delivery:

Clean Environment: The barn should be cleaned, disinfected, and thoroughly bedded with clean straw or shavings for comfort and warmth.

Cleanliness: The mare’s udder and the rectal area should be cleaned with warm water and unscented soap before foaling. Disinfect the Umbilicus: The umbilical cord should be dipped in iodine solution within thirty minutes of birth to prevent infections.

Braid Tail: The mare’s tail hair should be braided and tied with a clean and soft piece of material to clear the way for the foal to slide out safely. Warm Temperature: Make sure the birthing stall is warm and dry to avoid hypothermia and stress on the newborn foal.

Emergency Plan: A rainy day plan should be in place to whom to call if an emergency arises.

Importance of Knowledge and Veterinary Assistance

The birth of a foal is a never-ending learning process for horse owners. It is important to learn as much as possible and have a veterinarian on speed dial.

Every foaling is unique, and anything can happen, even with the most experienced mares. It is always essential to have an experienced veterinarian on hand, either on-site or on standby, preferably specialized in equine reproduction.

A veterinarian can also assist in the diagnosis of any potential problems during the birthing process and can ensure that the mare and foal are healthy.


Breeding horses and birthing a foal is a fulfilling and exciting experience for horse owners. Knowing the signs of impending delivery, preparing for foaling, and the importance of knowledge and veterinary assistance are all essential elements to ensure a successful birthing process.

If you have questions or concerns, do not hesitate to contact a veterinarian for advice. In summary, understanding the signs of impending delivery and preparing for foaling are crucial for both horse and owner.

Horse owners must ensure that their mare is well taken care of and learn as much as possible about equine breeding and birthing. It is always essential to have a veterinarian on standby in case of any complications during the process.

Remember, the birth of a foal can be unpredictable, but with careful preparation and knowledge, it can be an incredible experience.


– When do mares usually go into labor?

Mares typically go into labor around eleven months after conception, but the timeline can vary. – What are the signs of impending delivery in mares?

Signs of impending delivery include “bagging up,” softening of muscles and ligaments around the tail and hindquarters, a clear discharge from the vulva, and a drop in the mare’s rectal body temperature. – How can I prepare for foaling?

Some preparations include cleaning the birthing stall, maintaining clean and warm conditions, disinfecting the umbilicus, braiding the tail, and having an emergency plan in place. – Why is knowledge and veterinary assistance essential during foaling?

Having knowledge and a veterinarian on standby is essential to ensure that the birthing process is safe and healthy for both the mare and foal. Every foaling experience is different, and anything can happen, so it’s crucial to be as prepared as possible.

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