Caring for the pregnant mare

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    Breeding is a large part of our equine industry and yet broodmares are often the ones who are forgotten about once they are kicked out to pasture. They are carrying precious cargo so why don’t they receive the same quality care as their ridden counterparts? Just like every other horse, broodmares should have their feet trimmed and teeth floated regularly as well as routinely vaccinated and dewormed. Providing the top quality care for your broodmare will give her the best chance at carrying a healthy foal to term and will be better prepared for the next breeding season.
    Dental care is of utmost importance as mares need to maintain a healthy weight during pregnancy. This will set them up to intake the appropriate amount of calories and nutrients they will need to support a growing foal. Horses have hypsodont teeth, meaning their teeth continually erupt throughout their lifetime until the tooth has reached the end of its life. If you have a young broodmare (between the ages of 3 and 5) it is important to check for remaining deciduous teeth, also known as caps. As the mare chews, she can develop sharp points, hooks, ramps, wave mouth, etc. All of these issues and more can interfere with her ability to break down the food and absorb the nutrients it provides.
    Nutrition and body condition are crucial aspects to getting a mare pregnant. Mares that have a low body condition score at time of breeding have a reduced chance of getting pregnant. Once the mare is pregnant, her needs will change throughout the pregnancy. Pregnant mares should be placed on a vitamin and mineral supplement along with salt. They should have access to free choice pasture as well as 1.5-2% of their body weight in hay. When she hits 8 months of gestation a concentrated feed should be added in up to ~0.3% of her body weight and can be increased gradually to ~0.5% by 10 months. If the mare is lactating she will need to be supplemented with a concentrated feed early at 1% of her body weight and decreasing when she has weaned the foal.
Mares will gain approximately 12-16% of their own body weight by the time they are ready to foal. This equates to approximately 100-250 pounds! If the mare does not have healthy hooves, problems can develop and cause pain. Most horses will carry to term despite being in pain but it can be challenging for them to catch after insemination. In a mare’s body, the mare’s health is the primary concern and getting pregnant is secondary. If the mare is not healthy, and pain free, the probability of getting pregnant is reduced. Horse hooves grow approximately one entirely new hoof capsule in one year. To maintain proper angles, they should be trimmed every 4-6 weeks.
    Abortions in horses can occur due to a number of reasons. Equine herpes virus 1 subtype 1 is the most common cause of an infectious cause for abortion. Up to 80% of horses are sub clinical carriers and show no signs of the disease. Vaccination for herpes virus, Pneumobort, is available but efficacy of the vaccine is questionable. The American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) still recommends vaccination. It should be given at 5, 7, and 9 months of gestation. The core vaccines recommended by the AAEP include tetanus, eastern and western encephalomyelitis, West Nile virus, and rabies and should be given at 4-6 weeks pre-partum. All of these core vaccines should be performed prior to pregnancy to reduce risk of abortion. If West Nile virus has not been vaccinate prior to breeding, it should only be given to a pregnant mare in high-risk areas.
    Deworming is another important part of the management of pregnant mares. It is also recommended to deworm your mare with a product that is on label for pregnant mares 4-6 week pre-partum. A dose of an ivermectin product can also be given the day she foals to decrease the risk of Strongyloides weteri in the foal.
    Overall, brood mares should receive equal, if not better care to increase the chances of getting a happy, healthy foal.

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