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Pregnant Mare

INSTRUCTIONS FOR CARE OF PREGNANT MARES by Walter Berger

Your Mare is pregnant. Now what. This article will give you the basics of Mare Care including foaling. As always where the welfare of an animal is in doubt, call the vet.

CARE OF MARE UP TO START OF 9th MONTH OF PREGNANCY
1.         The mare must have access to good quality grazing, with clean water and shelter available in the paddock.

2.         The mare should receive regular, light exercise.

3.         If the mare appears to be loosing condition, supplementary feeding should be started. This may only require the addition of a kilo of concentrates to her feed, but might have to be adjusted depending on conditions. A good quality premix such as Barastoc Stableking Mare and Foal pellets is recommended. This will ensure an adequate balance of  minerals and vitamins with a sufficient energy and protein intake. If you mix your own rations the nutrients in the contents should add up to match the following table with the total amount of feed totalling 2 to 2.5% of the body weight per day, including good quality hay and pasture.

In cold weather the mare should have access to good quality hay, which will help keep her warm. The feeding of just lucerne hay is not recommended as it may upset the calcium phosphorus ratio in the total feed due to the high calcium content in the lucerne.

The feed should be given to the mare over two, preferably three meals a day. Feeding times should be kept regular.

Pregnancy Feeding

The feed that is to be used during the rest of the pregnancy and while the mare is lactating should be introduced to the mare gradually starting in the 8th month of pregnancy if you aren't already supplementary feeding.

4.         The worming program has to continue on a regular basis (every 6 to 8 weeks).

 CARE OF MARE FROM 9th MONTH OF PREGNANCY TO FOALING
1.         A month before foaling the mare should be moved to the foaling paddock. She must have access to good quality grazing, with clean water and shelter available in the paddock and good safe fencing. It should be easily supervised and have lights. Do not separate her from the company of all other horses, but keep one of her friends with her until shortly before she is due to foal.

A foaling box may be used if desired, but it is safer to use the paddock. If a box is used it should be a minimum of 4 x 8 meters with clean straw bedding. The mare should be used to spending extended periods in the box but must still have access to good grazing during the day.

2.         The mare should be allowed to exercise herself in the paddock, but should not be ridden aside from that.

3.         From 9 months on supplementary feeding will need to be started regardless as the foetus starts developing rapidly from then and the mare requires the extra feed. The feed should be introduced gradually and at the start of the 11th month the concentrates should total the weight in the chart below. Good hay and pasture are also required to make up the total of 2 to 2.5% of the body weight per day. A good quality premix such as Barastoc Stableking Mare and Foal pellets is recommended. This will ensure an adequate balance of  minerals and vitamins with a sufficient energy and protein intake. If you mix your own rations the nutrients in the contents should add up to match the following table with a total amount of feed totalling 2 to 2.5% of the body weight per day, including pasture and good hay.

The feed should be given to the mare over two, preferably three meals a day. Feeding times should be kept regular.

Pregnancy Feeding

4.         The worming program has to continue on a regular basis (every 6 to 8 weeks). A month before foaling a tetanus and strangles booster should be given to the mare. This will protect her and the foal through the colostrum (first milk).

FOALING
1.         Mares with Caslicks (usually only found on Broodmares) operation should be opened about three weeks before foaling birth by a vet.

2.         Teats fill 4 to 6 days before foaling. A sign of foaling within 2 to 4 days may be the development of a waxy secretion on the teats. This may drop of within 24 hours of foaling.

3.         As foaling often happens at night a foaling alarm may be useful. This activates when the mare lies down flat, which would happen during foaling. Signs of first stage labour may be frequent urination, pain characterised by flank watching, sweating, anxiousness and lying down. Finally the contractions causing the pain rupture the placenta which causes allantoic fluid to escape (breaking of the water). This stage may take anywhere between half an hour to 4 hours. The mare's tail should be bandaged and her perineal area (area around anus and vulva) washed with warm water and mild soap.

At the start of the second stage the mare is usually lying down, if not human assistance may be required to stop the foal from falling onto the ground when delivered. The mare will be straining intermittently. In a normal delivery the first thing to be delivered through the vulva is a shiny white membrane  called the amnion. This may contain some fluid. Do not rupture or try to remove this membrane. Then one front foot, followed shortly by  the other, and then nose will be seen. The nose of the foal should be above the feet. The membrane may be cleared from the nose of the foal at this stage.

After further straining on the mare's part both front legs and the head will be totally outside the mare. If one of the front legs does not get delivered at the same rate as the other one, some gentle assistance may be given to it. This is then rapidly followed by the body of the foal. The hips of the foal followed by the hind legs usually get delivered after a short rest. Do not attempt to pull the foal out. Do not remove any membranes apart from over the foal's nose. Do not break or cut the umbilical cord as it is still delivering blood to the foal. All of this should take about 10 to 20 minutes.

The mare will turn to lick the foal within 5 to 10 minutes. Movement of the mare and foal will tear and remove any remaining membranes and also break the umbilical cord near the foals belly when it is no longer needed. The umbilical stump should be painted with an iodine solution to prevent any infection.

The tissues hanging from the mare's vulva should not be removed. The afterbirth should be expelled naturally by the mare within 30 minutes to 3 hours. Put the placenta and the breeding bag aside once expelled for examination. This is vital to make sure that they have been expelled completely and no remnants remain within the mare. This is the last stage of birth. Before the foal suckles, the mare's udder should be washed with warm water and mild soap. All soap must be removed from the udder.

WHEN TO CALL THE VET
1.         If the mare aborts suddenly other horses should be removed from the mare and aborted foal. Do not place the removed horses in contact with other horses until a veterinary examination has cleared the mare of any disease.

2.         If the mare appears dull and goes of her feed there may be a problem with the pregnancy and she should be examined by a vet.

3.         If the mare does not foal within 11 1/2 months or 345 days she should be examined by a vet.

4.         If any stages of labour last longer then they should, call the vet immediately.

5.         If the mare gives up straining or starts bleeding seriously call the vet immediately.

6.         If the delivery of the foal does not follow the same order as above call the vet immediately.

7.         If there is blood in the fluids expelled from the mare or the amnion isn't white and shiny the foal and mare should be examined by a vet as soon as practical.

8.         If the foal or mare fails to stand or appear distressed call the vet.

9.         Unless experienced in examining the afterbirth, this should be done by a vet as soon as practical (within 4 to 6 hours of birth) to ensure that it has been expelled completely.

10.       If in doubt call the vet. He may be able to give advice over the phone to put your doubts at rest or determine that attendance is required.

(National Research Council, 1978), (Rossdale, P.D., 1992), (Kerrigan, R.H., Rodger, J.A., Morgan, J.R.G., 1990), (Evans, J.W., 1989)

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BIBLIOGRAPHY
Rossdale, P.D., Ricketts, S.W. 1980
Equine Stud farm Medicine
Bailliere Tindall

Rossdale, P.D. Date1987
Veterinary Notes for Horse Owners
Stanley Paul & Co. Ltd.

Rossdale, P.D. Date1992
Horse Breeding
David & Charles

Evans, J.W.1989
Horses: A guide to Selection, Care and Enjoyment
W. H. Freeman and Company

Kerrigan, R.H., Rodger, J.A., Morgan, J.R.G.1990
Practical Horse Breeding
Wilderness Publications Pty. Ltd.

National Research Council1978
Nutrient Requirements for Horses
National Academy of  Sciences 

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