Who doesn’t love foals? As cute as they are, bringing them into this world and dealing with pregnant mares can be a hassle. But, how to tell if a horse is pregnant? A mare’s pregnancy can be 2-3 months longer than a human’s, and they can be just as grumpy!
When working with breeding horses, it is important to be able to predict when horses will breed when you can tell a mare is pregnant, what signs you should look for to see if a mare is pregnant, and what to do for your mare if you determine that she is pregnant.
I will be talking about all of these things and more in this article. Dealing with pregnant mares for the first time, or curious as to how the process goes down? Continue reading, and be prepared that this process isn’t nearly as cute as the end result!
When Do Horses Breed?
How Long Is A Horse Pregnant?
That’s 2-3 months longer than a human’s gestation period, so almost another trimester! Mares that have foaled before will sometimes carry for a shorter time period than mares who are carrying their first foal. But, as with everything, it will depend on the horse.
Horses instinctively want their foals to be born into warm, springtime weather so that they will be warm and have access to green pasture. So, horses tend to want to breed around the springtime or summertime, in order for this to happen.
But, horse breeders have figured out how to manipulate this natural process in order to have foals at their preferred times of the year. They often even use artificial lighting in order to trick the mare’s brain into producing reproductive hormones that are typically activated by the sunlight of spring or summer time.
When Can You Tell if a Horse is Pregnant?
As with people and other animals, sometimes you don’t know if your mare is pregnant or not for some time after she may have conceived. The biggest hint for the first three months may be that she will not go into heat.
Outside of that, you may not be able to tell until after the first three months or her pregnancy has passed. Your mare will not begin to “show” (in other words, be visibly pregnant around her barrel) until she is about six months pregnant.
How To Tell If A Horse Is Pregnant?
There are many ways you can tell if your mare is pregnant. Some are old wives’ tales, and some have a scientific value. One of the most reliable scientific methods of telling if your mare is pregnant is transrectal ultrasonography.
Transrectal ultrasonography can detect your mare’s pregnancy ten or eleven days post-ovulation, so very early in her pregnancy. It can also give you an estimated date of foaling if you’re unsure when the breeding occurred.
Best of all, transrectal ultrasonography can let you see the fetus and its heartbeat, so long as it has been viable for 25 days or more.
Similar to humans, you can also tell if your mare is pregnant by blood tests. If your mare is pregnant, she will show elevated levels of progesterone in her blood. However, this test isn’t foolproof, as sometimes even non-pregnant mares will have elevated levels of progesterone.
However, blood tests that show equine chorionic gonadotropin (eCG) are a direct positive indicator of a mare’s pregnancy. But, this won’t be detectable until a little after the first month of a mare’s pregnancy.
While less certain than scientific tests, your mare will often show behavioral signs that she is pregnant, even from an early stage. The biggest of these is disinterest in geldings or stallions.
Traditionally, mares get moody or “flirty” around male horses. If your mare is not showing the same emotions around male horses as she typically does, there’s a good chance that she might be pregnant.
There’s also an old wife’s tale that, when a mare is pregnant, she will only shake her head and neck as opposed to her whole body, in order to protect her unborn foal. But, this has never been backed up by scientific proof.
What Should You Do if a Mare is Pregnant?
The most important thing to do while your mare is pregnant is to have regular checkups for both her and her foal and to follow whatever instructions your vet may have for you. Sometimes your horse’s diet will need to be adjusted, and sometimes their turnout will need to be adjusted.
There will be different things that can be done to help each individual horse, depending on their circumstances. But, keeping in regular communication with a vet that has experience foaling mares will help you know how to best care for your pregnant mare.
When she begins showing signs that she is going to foal, you need to make sure you have a comfortable, big, bedded area in which she can go. And again, as always, immediately call your vet.
Having a pregnant mare can be challenging and tiresome, but the result will be well worth it! It is important to make sure you can detect your mare’s pregnancy early on, in order to get her checked by a vet as soon as possible, and thereby know how best to keep her comfortable.
There are both scientific ways and natural ways to know if your mare is pregnant- whichever you decide to follow, make sure you are careful and keep your horse’s best interests in mind. In other words, make sure you are doing what is best for your mare.
I hope this article helped you learn how to tell if your horse is pregnant, and what to do about it. If so, please share this article, and share with us your experiences dealing with pregnant mares and foals!