Wednesday 5th August, 2015
Breeding horses is an incredibly rewarding experience and whether you are looking to breed for profit or for pleasure, it is vital that you know the signs to look out for in a foaling mare. The average gestation period in mares can range from 320 to 362 days, with ponies usually having shorter gestations than horses. The majority of mares will give birth within 330-345 days of successful conception, however it is not always easy to tell if a mare is with foal, even if she is an experienced broodmare. Read on to discover the six signs that your mare may be pregnant:
If you think that your mare has conceived, one way to check is to take her back to a stallion two weeks after covering to observe her behaviour. If she is receptive to the stallion, showing her rear and raising her tail as she would during heat then the likelihood is that she is not in foal. Although a refusal to be sired is not a guaranteed reason for pregnancy, most mare’s will refuse the advances of a stallion if she has conceived.
Mares are polyestrous, which means that they go into heat several times a year but only ever during the breeding season which is usually the spring and summer. A heat cycle happens around every 21 days during which she will exhibit signs such as carrying her tails up, squealing when in contact with geldings, open and closing her vulva and even squirting urine. If your mare is exhibiting these signs then she is unlikely to be pregnant, however there is such a thing as silent heat when a mare ovulates as normal but will not stand for a stallion to cover her.
Perhaps the most obvious sign of pregnancy is a swollen abdomen, and this is of course a good indication, however mares do not always have an overly enlarged belly. The gestation period itself is almost a year, therefore mares can retain their normal shape well into their pregnancy.
One of the most popular wives tales around confirming a mare’s pregnancy is the theory of shaking. It is thought that when a mare is pregnant she will shake only her head and neck, not her body, to protect her unborn foal.
Signs of pregnancy can be detected by a Veterinarian through a rectal examination. This can be done within three weeks of the mare’s covering and the vet will place his hand in the rectum to palpate the uterus and assess its size, shape and also any swelling of the ovaries.
The only way to be truly certain of a successful covering is to have an ultrasound scan. This can be performed by a Veterinarian as early as 16 days into the pregnancy to detect a heartbeat but is more frequently carried out at 55-70 days to determine the foal’s sex.