Mares very rarely have complications during pregnancy and while foaling. However, it is good to be prepared, know what is normal and know when to get assistance.
Know when your mare is due: Gestation length is 340 days, but can vary from 320 - 374 days.
Nutrition – Most pregnant mares do not require any additional nutrition, though this is highly individual. A balanced vitamin and mineral mix is recommended during the last trimester of pregnancy.
Vaccinations – All mares should be fully vaccinated before breeding, additional vaccinations to consider are tetanus, 4 weeks before due date; equine herpes vaccines at 5, 7 and 9 months can be arranged.
Worming – Worm as normal. Use Ivermectin only wormer in pregnant and lactating mares.
Decide on where your mare will foal down, she needs to be moved there 10 - 14 days before foaling. This adjustment period will allow for antibodies to that specific environment to develop in the colostrum and for your mare to settle and be comfortable in this new environment.
Your mare should have access to a large well bedded box with straw for foaling down in, if at all possible.
Mammary gland development occurs from 6 to 2 weeks prior to foaling. Maiden mares can often have very minimal development right up to foaling. Some mares will run milk, from several days up to a few weeks before foaling. If this occurs early on in pregnancy, please contact us as it may indicate abnormalities with the foetus.
Foaling is divided up into 3 stages:
At this stage the foal moves into the birth canal. At this stage the mare will appear restless and may show signs of colic – pawing, sweating, lying down and getting up repeatedly. This stage can take up to 2 hours, the mare may stop the process if she feels threatened or disturbed.
Start of stage 2 is rupture of the placental membranes (when her waters break), and ends when the foal is born, and lasts approximately 15 - 30 minutes. During this stage the mare will actively push the foal out and is commonly done lying down, but can also be completed standing up.
Within 10 minutes of pushing, two front hooves should appear out the vulva, these should be presented pointing down (the soles of the hooves facing down towards the ground). If only one hoof appears, hooves are pointing up, no hooves appear after 10 minutes or no progress is made after 10 - 15 minutes the foal may be in an incorrect position so please call a vet immediately.
The foal will be born with a whitish membrane covering, this can be removed from the head and body and the nostrils cleaned with a towel, do not remove or tear the membrane near the umbilical cord – this will tear naturally when the mare or foal stands up.
During this stage the mare expels the remaining placental membranes. It is important that these are expelled within 3 hours after the birth, if it remains longer than 4 hours or pieces remain in the uterus, this can pose a serious health risk to the mare - this is a veterinary emergency, and the vet should be called without delay.
The mare will lie for a while after the birth but should be interested in her foal and will begin to lick him/her dry. Maiden mares (first time mothers) should be monitored for appropriate maternal behaviour – only intervene if you think the foal is in danger.