Many new owners have no idea how to care for a pregnant mare. Even experienced owners may have questions about the care of a mare in foal. The following guidelines may assist an owner in caring for the mare and foal.
Ultrasound Scan: The first step is an ultrasound scan to determine if the horse is in foal and an approximate due date. The scanning procedure results in minimal discomfort to the mare. An ultrasound can also determine twin pregnancies. Some small ponies cannot be scanned and blood testing may be the only viable option.
Nutrition: The pregnant mare will need to consume approximately 28% additional calories. Consideration should be structured around the nutritional requirements for the mare and foal, rather than just additional quantity. Her calcium and phosphorous requirements are 80% higher and protein needs are 42% higher. Lack of proper nutrition during the pregnancy can result in long term health issues for the mare. A veterinarian nutritionist should analyze the feed and suggest a high protein mineral supplement to maintain a balanced and adequate diet. The diet should be increased at six months and again at nine months by ½ pound. Supplements should be continued during lactation.
Vaccinations: The mare should receive tetanus and flu vaccines approximately one month prior to the due date. This will assure the foal absorbs antibodies through the colostrum directly after birth. The mare should be vaccinated against Rhinopneumonitis caused by the Equine Herpesvirus Type I every two months beginning in the 5th month. This virus is highly contagious and may result in abortion. Other regularly scheduled vaccines should be continued after the first 90 days of pregnancy. Only inactive vaccines should be administered to a pregnant mare for the safety of the foal.
Deworming: The mare should be wormed during the late stages of pregnancy as threadworm Strongloides westeri may be passed after birth through the mare’s milk to the foal. Worm eggs in the mare’s droppings may result in a foal infected with redworms. The mare should receive an Ivermectin dewormer within ten to twelve hours of delivery to minimize risk of foal scours.
Pregnancy Duration: The duration of a pregnancy is approximately 340 days, but may vary by 20 days. To calculate the foal date, subtract 25 days from the date the mare was bred. If the mare was pasture bred, an ultrasound is the best calculator for foal date.
Dental and Hoof Care: Dental care is best provided before the mare is bred and after she foals to avoid sedation and stress. Continue to trim barefoot mares during pregnancy approximately every six weeks. To increase support during the latter months, consideration should be given to a heart bar shoe or wide web shoe. Trims and reset should be avoided near the foaling date.
Exercise: Exercise during early and mid pregnancy is advantageous. The key is that exercise should be moderate in nature. However, in late pregnancy walking in a paddock or grazing will provide sufficient exercise.
Transportation: The goal is to avoid additional stress for the mare too close to due date. The mare should be transported two to four weeks prior to foaling date if she is to foal at a different location. This will allow her time to adjust to the new environment.
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