Most people are surprised to learn the majority of foal growth takes place in the last couple months of mare gestation. Though it is difficult to picture in the mind’s eye, it really does take more than 200 days of gestation for a foal to reach the size of a small dog. The mare is under considerable pressure during the final months of gestation as the foal grows. Let’s take a look at the top considerations when caring for pregnant mares as observed by Richard Schibell of Richard Schibell Racing team.
Re-evaluate the Mare’s Nutritional Intake
The mare should enjoy a diet of nutritional foods across the entire period of gestation. The final couple months of gestation are especially important. This period of fast growth causes the foal to require that many more nutrients. If the mare is undernourished or does not received a balanced nutritional intake, she won’t have the nutrients her foal needs to grow and be healthy. The mare must also have adequate milk production to boot. Make sure your foal is eating high-quality forage. Consider increasing the grain intake to guarantee your mare is receiving adequate amounts of vitamin A, phosphorus, protein and other essential nutrients and minerals.
The bottom line is your mare must maintain her weight across gestation to support proper fetal growth. The mare must be able to lactate and maintain adequate energy levels. When in doubt, turn to feed companies’ maternity rations specially designed to suit the needs of pregnant horses. It also makes sense for breeders to consider the merits of pasture forage as certain grasses have the potential to become infected with a fungus that leads to problems with an overly-thick placenta, stillborn or weak foals and insufficient milk production. Remove your mare from such grasses at least there months before foaling. Ensure your mare is in the ideal body condition so she is capable of holding a steady weight across the entirety of the pregnancy. If your horse is overweight or underweight, there is the potential for the foal’s development to be compromised or for the milk supply to decrease following foaling.
Reducing your mare’s exercise does not mean the horse should be left in the stall to rest. Every mare, regardless of whether she is pregnant or not, requires considerable movement. The mare should be mobile throughout the majority of the pregnancy. Do not give into temptation to hop onto your pregnant mare and take a ride. Take it easy on her during the pregnancy. Keep in mind the additional weight gain in the final months of pregnancy will stress her body that much more.
Keep the Vaccinations Up-to-date
Meet with the vet to establish a vaccination schedule. This meeting should take place immediately after you find out the mare is in foal. Setting this schedule early in the process is prudent as there will be a plethora of things for you to do in the coming weeks and months. Aside from the Pneumabort vaccine provided at months 5, 7 and 9 to guard against the equine herpes virus, the mare should also be dewormed with regularity. Abide by a consistent deworming schedule and you will minimize the chance of the foal being exposed to harmful parasites. The final treatment should occur when there is about a month to go prior to the end of gestation. Just be sure to take a close look at each product’s label to ensure the dewormer is safe for pregnant horses.