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Riding a Pregnant Horse (Mare): The Do’s and Dont’s

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Our granddaughter is anxious to ride her pregnant barrel racing mare. But, we’re concerned it may cause damage to the horse or its unborn foal, so I did some research to learn about the safety of riding a pregnant horse.

A healthy pregnant horse can be ridden during much of her pregnancy. However, there are periods when riding should be avoided, don’t ride a mare for at least 30 days following conception or during the final two to three months before her due date. Otherwise, it is ok to ride your pregnant horse.

Many horse owners avoid riding a pregnant mare; however, this is not necessary, and often pregnant mares benefit from being ridden. But there are some essential things you need to keep in mind when your mare is pregnant.

Don’t ride a pregnant mare early in her pregnancy.

Breeding domestic horses is a goal-oriented science directed to produce high-quality foals with characteristics to excel in specific equine events. It is a time-consuming and expensive undertaking, and owners want to take every precaution to ensure the health and safety of the foal and broodmare.

Picture of a pregnant horse,

After a mare is bred, she should be pampered for at least 30 days to ensure the safety and viability of the embryo. These days are the most precarious of her pregnancy, and riding should be forbidden.

Near the 15th day of conception, a successful pregnancy can be confirmed via ultrasound; however, this doesn’t green light riding, because the embryo is still fragile during this early stage.

At 30 to 35 days post-conception, a veterinarian can confirm the mare is pregnant by palpation or ultrasound. If the horse is pregnant, the goal is to keep her healthy through pregnancy and then deliver a normal, healthy foal.

The ability to carry a healthy foal to birth depends on proper management and the individual horses’ reproductive capabilities, but after 30-45 days, most horses are ready to start exercising.

Don’t ride a pregnant horse too hard in its first trimester.

Mares are individuals, and their fitness level before pregnancy must be considered when formulating a riding plan for a pregnant horse. All pregnant horses need to be eased into an exercise program for the first two months of their pregnancy.

But older mares and overweight horses need special attention and probably should be not be ridden at all. Work with them on a lunge line and take your time to increase their fitness level. Stress caused by overworking a horse can lead to loss of the embryo.

Avoid putting your mare in stressful situations during these early months; for example, if your horse gets nervous traveling or loading in a trailer, then don’t haul her, if she doesn’t like being around other horses, try to keep her separated.

Make sure she has free access to clean water and doesn’t get overworked or overheated. Anything you do to keep her calm and comfortable creates a better environment for her to have a successful pregnancy.

Do ride your pregnant mare during her second and third trimester.

Picture of a pregnant horse being ridden,

Mares have a long gestation period, eleven months. During most of their pregnancy, the embryo grows at a steady but relatively slow pace. A fit pregnant horse can be ridden and even compete until the eighth month of their gestation period.

Some owners work their mares vigorously while pregnant up to six months without experiencing any ill effects. After the six months, it’s advisable to back off strenuous exercise, but light riding is still okay—no more showjumping or extreme exertion past their sixth or seventh month.

But also keep in mind that horses develop differently, so you have to watch your mare closely and adjust her work accordingly. Continuously monitor your pregnant horse and seek the advice of your veterinarian at each stage of gestation.

Generally, it’s advisable to keep a pregnant mare fit; it typically increases the likelihood of a healthy delivery and fit horses recover quicker. Also, exercise reduces swelling in pregnant mares’ legs. Leg swelling is a common problem caused by a mare standing stationary in the later period of her pregnancy.

Don’t ride a pregnant horse late in her pregnancy.

Increase your mares hay and forage because expectant mares generally need an increase in energy during their last trimester, because the foal they’re carrying starts growing rapidly.

Most mares, other than first-time mothers, grow large bellies late in their six months of pregnancy. Riding during this stage may be difficult because her saddle no longer fits correctly.

Some mares can be ridden up, and to the day they foal, however, this is not advisable. Pregnant horses need exercise; however, at this stage, it’s best to turn them out in a pasture and work them on a lunge line.

Picture of a horse trailer hauling horses.

Can you transport a pregnant mare?

We entered a barrel race about four hours from our home, and our intended horse is lame, so we are thinking about competing on a pregnant mare. I’m unsure if it’s safe to haul her that far.

Pregnant mares can be hauled safely; however, she needs to be comfortable loading, has suitable bedding, fresh water, and hay. It is also essential that the horse trailer is clean, disinfected, and has ample ventilation.  Don’t haul a pregnant mare within 30 days of her due date.

Most horse owners are accustomed to hauling horses and know not to put their animals at risk or cause them undue discomfort. However, when hauling a pregnant horse, you need to take extra care and make her travel as stress-free as possible.

Take extra care when hauling a pregnant mare.

Even though our trip wasn’t too far, I was still concerned that traveling so far away from home with a pregnant horse could be a disaster if we broke down on the road.

So the first rule is to check your tow vehicle and make sure it’s in good shape, including its tires. If you’re not mechanically inclined, bring it to a shop and have a general maintenance check-up.

Next, give your trailer a pre-trip examination. Check the tires, make sure the windows open and close, check the door latches, the hitch, and ensure the vents are open and can close.

Map your route with your horse in mind. You want to choose the straightest path to your destination to avoid slinging your trailer with your horse inside. I also like to avoid areas with congested traffic and roads without spaces I can pull over and stop if necessary to check on my animals.

Drive slow and safe, with the knowledge you have a delicate animal traveling in the trailer. Don’t stop or accelerate abruptly; take turns carefully. Your driving is critical.

There is a lot to know about hauling horses, information required, regulations, etc.. We have a comprehensive article that provides useful information on transporting horses here.

What do you feed a pregnant mare?

My granddaughter is overly concerned her pregnant mare isn’t getting all the vitamins and supplements she needs to deliver a healthy baby. So, we decided to do some research to ensure our horse is eating correctly.

A pregnant mare needs to eat nutritious hay, grass, and have access to a mineral block. You must ensure the foliage has proper amounts of vitamin E and selenium; these nutrients are essential for the health and well being of the mare and foal.

Owners often get excited about thier unborn foals potential and this anticipation leads them to overfeed vitamins and supplement to their mare. Feeding an expectant mare is actually pretty basic.

Keep a pregnant mare on her regular diet.

You should not alter your pregnant horse’s diet until the final four months of her pregnancy. Use the BCS system to monitor your horse level of fitness and adjust her rations accordingly.

It’s essential that she is fed high-quality hay or has access to other quality forage. In her final trimester, her caloric intake needs notably increase due to the growth spurt of the foal she is carrying.

At this point, it’s best to meet with your veterinarian and have them design a diet specifically for your horse. As I said earlier, horses are individuals and must be treated as such, and there is no one size fits all for horses.

Don’t overfeed a pregnant mare.

Many owners worry their mare isn’t getting enough food, or they are eating for two and need to be fed more than usual. This is a flawed way of thinking and can lead to obesity and other serious health issues.

An obese horse is susceptible to develop laminitis and challenging delivery of the foal due to a narrowing of the birth canal caused by fat deposits in the pelvis.

The essential diet for a healthy mare carrying a foal is high-quality hay and clean, fresh water. Do not feed your pregnant mare supplements or vitamins unless you have cleared them first with your veterinarian. Many equine supplements haven’t been approved or tested on pregnant horses.

Isolate pregnant horses when possible.

It is essential that your pregnant horse doesn’t get sick during her pregnancy. Infections and disease can cause a pregnant horse to abort its fetus, further veternarians can not administer some drugs because certain medications can damage the baby.

Sport horses returning to your facility after competition should not be exposed to pregnant mares. Grooming tools and equipment should be designated for your mare and not shared with other horses.

Properly maintain your pregnant horse.

Schedule a visit with your veterinarian and establish a vaccine schedule. There are vaccines that are recommended and some that are necessary for the health and well being of both the mother and foal.

Also worming your horse is important, but again follow the protocol recommended by your veterinarian. Most recommend horses not be wormed the last month of their pregnancy.

Keep your mare on her regular hoof trimming schedule, do not neglect her feet during her pregnancy.

Why does a pregnant horse keep lifting its tail?

pregnant horse,

Recently, my granddaughter noticed her pregnant mare kept lifting her tail and looking back. She asks me if I knew what was wrong with her and why she kept doing this.

Pregnant horses lift their tails and turn their head back towards their rear when labor approaches. Tail lifting is one of several common signs a horse is in the early stages of labor.

Horse owners are aware of their animals’ normal behavior, so when a pregnant mare acts out of character, this could be signs of early labor. Sometimes these actions begin 24 hours before birth, but its more typically to happen within four to five hours of labor.

Pregnant mares give warnings that labor is approaching.

Four to five hours before labor horses typically give their owners subtle signs that labor is approaching. Some of the more common symptoms include lying down and standing up frequently.

They also generally act more restless than usual and begin to paw the ground, swish their tail, and pace their stall our paddock. The most obvious signs are excessive sweating and dripping milk from their teats.

Pregnant mares get off their feed, urinate, and frequently defecate, as labor approaches. The combination of signs and the approaching date of gestation makes it easy to realize what’s happening.

How long after foaling can a mare be ridden?

Once our barrel mare had her baby, our granddaughter was anxious to ride her again. We weren’t sure how long of a break she needed, so I decided to do some research to find out.

Six to eight weeks after a standard delivery, a horse can be ridden. However, before the first ride, have the mare examined by a veterinarian to ensure the horse is healthy and fit to ride. 

pregnant horse, mare, horse,

Many horse owners are anxious to ride the mare after birth, but give your horse ample time to recover and bond with her foal before initiating a riding routine.

The foal needs time with its mother.

After a mare delivers its foal, the baby and mother need time together to bond without worry. After the passage of six or so weeks you can start working with the foal and teach it to lead with a halter.

When you start riding the mare again, it’s essential to consider her foal. Many people ride a horse with the foal tagging along, this is okay, but you need to remain in familiar territory.

You can also leave the foal to mingle with other horses that it has bonded with, maybe some other babies and their mothers, this seems to work best. Another method is to keep the foal in a paddock and only ride the mare where the foal can keep an eye on its mother.

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