Last updated: April 16, 2023
Your mare was exposed to a stallion, and now she is not acting like herself. Which makes you wonder if she’s pregnant, but how can you tell for sure? Are there signs to help confirm if your horse is pregnant?
Signs of a mare being pregnant include behavior and appetite changes, weight gain, missed estrus cycles, and enlarged udders. A horse’s gestation period is 11 months and is divided into three stages. During each phase of pregnancy, there are specific behavioral and physical changes.
A lot of people think that a horse is pregnant when they see it getting fat. However, there are many more signs to look for if you want to be sure your horse is pregnant!
What You Should Know About Equine Pregnancy.
If this is your first mare to have a foal and you have no experienced help to rely on in your family or community, be sure to consult with professionals before making decisions that might put both mare and foal at risk.
Most horses deliver single foals without complications, but the pregnancy can be high-risk for mares carrying twins, those with health issues, and horses bred at advanced ages.
Once a mare is pregnant, a vet should perform periodic ultrasounds during gestation as well as monitor blood work throughout the pregnancy and just before delivery – because things can go wrong without warning!
Suppose there are any abnormalities discovered in an ultrasound, your vet will be able to determine whether or not they pose a risk of harm and if you need to prepare for possible complications that may arise at birth.
It is important not only for the mother’s sake but also for the foal to have a vet on call when you expect your mare to foal.
Signs a horse is pregnant
- She is eating and drinking more than usual. Your horse may even have a different appetite.
- Restlessness and she may also sleep less, which can cause some anxiety in their demeanor because of it.
- Her udders enlarge and fill with milk;
- Change in behavior and easily agitated;
- Skipping her estrus cycle;
- The most common sign among all types of horse pregnancies is when their bellies get more extensive due to the increasing size of the foal inside them.
- Later in pregnancy, you can notice the foal moving in her belly
Gestation period and stages of pregnancy.
Have you ever had a horse you thought was pregnant, but the vet said otherwise? You are not alone! It’s important to know what is normal for pregnancy and what might indicate something more serious.
Horses are pregnant for about 11 months, and the gestation period is broken down into three stages.
Stage 1: The first stage of a horse’s pregnancy lasts from conception to 60 days after ovulation. During this time frame, the embryo moves through the uterus and attaches to the uterine lining.
On or near the thirtieth day of pregnancy, an experienced vet can confirm your horse’s pregnancy and hear its heartbeat even though your horse likely doesn’t show any outward signs it’s pregnant.
You may notice an increase in appetite, but that’s about all. You should avoid riding in the early stages of a horse’s pregnancy.
Stage 2: The second stage of a horse’s pregnancy lasts from day 61 until day 270. This stage is when the fetus starts developing in earnest, and you’ll start noticing that your horse’s stomach might look bigger. The foal is slowly but steadily growing in its mothers’ womb, but she is safe to ride.
Stage 3: The third and final stage of a horse’s pregnancy occurs between day 271 and delivery. It can be challenging for horses to maintain their condition during this time, so they need to be fed well and have a comfortable place to rest.
Late in stage three, stop riding her, give her all the hay she wants, and turn her out in a pasture, so she continues to get some exercise. During the third stage, mares produce colostrum, a thick, yellow secretion that contains antibodies foals need to protect them.
Changes in your mare shortly before giving birth?
Horses start to make some noticeable changes and act differently in the hours leading up to giving birth. Here are some things to watch for as your horse approaches delivery:
- The mare’s behavior becomes more agitated and nervous;
- Excessive sweating along her flanks and neck;
- Twitching her tail incessantly while looking back at her stomach nervously;
- Pacing in her stall;
- Lying down and getting up;
- Irregular and excessive urination;
- She is kicking at her belly.
Labor progression in horses
Labor in horses is a tricky thing to understand. Horses have different labor stages that you need to be aware of, and it’s essential for both the safety of the mother and unborn foal and the comfort of the horse.
Stage One: In the first stage of labor, the mare becomes nervous and kicks at her belly. She also lays down and gets up often, excessively urinates, and starts sweating.
Horses can walk around during this stage, but they look to be in pain. Stage one typically lasts an hour and ends once your mares’ water bursts; now, stage two begins.
Stage Two: This is when the foal exits the safety of its mother’s womb. You can see them leave their mother in a diver position-so watch for their front hooves, head, then the body, and hind legs stretching out until finally exiting entirely from their mother.
Stage Three: The placenta should come out within three hours after the foal, typically much sooner, sometimes within fifteen minutes. If not expelled or it tears with a portion remaining in the mare, it can lead to very severe problems and even death.
During the three hours following the birth of a foal, you should witness the following:
- The foal stands within one hour.
- The newborn nurses within two hours; and consumes colostrum from its mother (the antibodies in her milk.)
- The placenta has passed,
What does a mare need after giving birth?
A mare doesn’t typically require a lot of care after giving birth; a horse owner should provide the mare with plenty of time to recover from the delivery and make sure she has access to all the hay and water that she needs.
She must have proper care during this period for her health and safety, not only for this birthing process but also to prepare her body for future pregnancies.
The first step after birth is to identify any complications with the foal’s health requiring immediate attention. The placenta should be expelled and the foal sucking.
It’s critical foal’s take in colostrum soon after birth. Colostrum is the thick yellow milk produced by a mare and provides antibodies to protect them from disease.
After you check the foal is in good health, the next step is to assess how the mare is recovering. You must ensure your animal stays in a clean environment with easy access to food and water so they can stay healthy during this period!
You can rinse and brush her hair to prevent matting while monitoring for infection. After delivering a foal, the most notable behavior changes include decreased appetite (due to energy expenditure) and increased sensitivity.
If you notice anything unusual, like excessive or stinky discharge, seek medical attention immediately! The mare should be able to get up on all fours without much difficulty and walk around and move a bit more freely with her new foal.
Riding your mare after she gives birth.
Once your mare reaches full recovery, consider all factors, including nutrition, exercise level, and overall health status, before deciding when she’ll be ready to return to work again!
Full recovery after giving birth takes time; typically, two weeks off is sufficient. If you are unsure whether or not your horse can safely resume work, consult with a veterinarian!
Breeding your mare after she gives birth.
Most horse breeders expect to get a foal from their broodmares every year, and it’s crucial they deliver as early in the year as possible because of the standard registration of most horse breed organizations.
For racehorse breeders, it’s especially critical to breed a mare as soon after foaling because Thoroughbred foals are registered with January 1 as their birthday.
The long gestation periods of horses make breeding difficult because to have another live foal on the ground around the same time next year; she must be bred during her first estrous cycle after birth called a “foal heat.”
Foal heat is the mares’ first gestation period after giving birth. Some mares ovulate as early as 7 to 8 days postpartum, while others may be as late as 14-15 days after delivery.
Mares who come into foal heat more than ten days following giving birth tend to have a higher success rate for pregnancy, but the overall conception rates are still within standards.
What’s the shape of a pregnant mare’s belly?
Early in your mare’s pregnancy, their belly won’t look much different than normal, but as they progress, your mare’s stomach will become large and round. As she approaches her delivery date, her belly extends down and sometimes flattens on the sides.
Can you ride a horse that is pregnant?
You can typically ride a mare until her eighth month of pregnancy if she’s generally healthy and doesn’t have a history of miscarriage. It is a common misconception that riding pregnant mares harms them.
You can learn more about riding pregnant horses in this article: Riding a Pregnant Horse (Mare): The Do’s and Don’t
Can you transport a pregnant mare?
You can transport a pregnant mare early in their pregnancy without causing any problems. However, studies have shown that transporting a pregnant mare in the late stages of pregnancy-induced stress and caused acute cortisol release which triggers labor.
Meet Miles Henry
An avid equestrian and seasoned racehorse owner, Miles Henry brings his extensive experience to the equine world, proudly associating with the AQHA, The Jockey Club, and various other equine organizations. Beyond the racetrack, Miles is an accomplished author, having published various books about horses, and is a recognized authority in the field, with his work cited in multiple publications.
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