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by Anoka Equine Veterinary Services

Is your mare expecting a foal next spring? If so, there are a few dates to remember. Vaccination against Rhino-pneumonitis, a common cause for mid to late term abortions, should be administered at months 5, 7 and 9 of gestation. This vaccine provides good protection against this cause of abortion, but the protection is short lived …hence the set of three vaccinations. Prefoaling vaccinations approximately a month prior to foaling will booster the mare’s immunity as she is making colostrum for the foal. This will elevate the necessary antibodies in the mare’s colostrum to help ensure the new foal is adequately protected against the most important diseases for the first few months of life. 

Nutrition is an important element of a foal’s in utero development. An appropriately balanced diet is not difficult to provide, and the first part of that equation is to know what the nutritional value of the hay that you are feeding. Hay analysis is easily done by dropping off a hay sample with your veterinarian with your name and the ages and uses of the horses you are feeding. The cost is approxi-mately $60. From this initial information your veterinarian can help you build an appropriate diet for your pregnant mare (and the rest of your equine population). 

Physical signs to monitor during gestation:  1) Vulvar dis-charge: any appreciable discharge from a pregnant mare’s vulva has the possibility of being abnormal.  2) Premature udder development:  most mares start to “bag up” approxi-mately 4 – 5 weeks before foaling. Significant udder development prior to that time may indicate significant placental issues that could result in the loss of the foal if left untreated.  3) Weight: Run your hands over the fuzzy winter coat. You should not be able to easily tick ribs on your pregnant mare. This relates to the above paragraph.  Any concerns related to these three items should be brought to your veterinarian’s attention.

If you were unsuccessful in your breeding attempt this year, remember to make sure your mare is ready to go for next breeding season by having a uterine culture and possibly a caslicks performed. 

If your goal is to breed your mare early in next year’s breeding season there are a few environmental issues that need attention. Mares (the vast majority) cycle seasonally, and do not start to cycle regularly until mid to late March/early April in the upper Midwest. If you are planning on breeding your mare prior to that time she needs to be started under lights – a full 16 hours of light – the first part of December. The easiest method is to calculate the number of hours after natural daylight that will need to be added to total 16 hours and put a light (200 watt bulb) on a timer to make up the difference. There are studies that indicate “flash lighting” will also work. This is a short period of light “flashed” at the end of the 16 hour period instead of lights on the entire time. Most mares will respond to the flash lighting, but light for the entire 16 hour period gives a more consistent response. The other important aspect of this protocol is the need for either a heated barn or blankets and a hood. The “recipe” for fooling a mare into cycling early involves both light and heat. It takes a minimum of 60 days for a mare to respond to the early cycling protocol, and she should be in a normal cyclical pattern prior to breeding, so starting the protocol early December should provide a cycling mare by mid February. This will allow time for the uterine culture required by most breeding farms/stallion contracts.

Courtesy of Anoka Equine (Kim Voller)
© Reprint BHHLLC 2015