How To Take Care Of Pregnant Mares

By Wendy Talbot on 01 May 2017

Do pregnant mares need special care?

You will need to be extremely vigilant for signs of potential health problems throughout the pregnancy and especially in the run up to foaling.  Some common signs of a problem requiring immediate attention may include: colic (abdominal pain); vaginal discharge; anything protruding from the vulva; difficulty rising/walking or milk seen dripping from the teats before the mare has foaled. However, other signs may be more subtle and you should always discuss any concerns with your vet without delay.

Extra feeding

Depending on your mare’s type and age and the time of year that she is foaling, she may need supplementary feeding to supply additional vitamins and minerals to support her and her unborn foal during the pregnancy. Ring a feed manufacturer’s nutrition helpline for advice.


Make sure your mare’s flu and tetanus vaccinations are up-to-date as these will not only protect her health but will also enable her to pass some immunity on to her foal when it is born. The ideal time to boost a previously vaccinated mare is during the last month of pregnancy.  Also consider vaccinating against Equine Herpes Virus (EHV), a respiratory disease which can cause abortion or foal death in the first few days of life.


It is often stated that pregnant mares need worming more frequently than other horses however if your mare has a good worm control programme with good pasture management, she should be treated as any other adult horse.

When using a wormer always check the label carefully that it is safe for pregnant mares. It is common practice to worm pregnant mares in the last month of pregnancy, specifically to reduce the transmission of Strongyloides westeri, a parasite that affects foals and is spread in mare’s milk.  There is little good evidence that this is required in all cases so it’s best to speak to your veterinary surgeon for advice.

The most important parasite affecting young foals is the ascarid (large roundworm). They are spread from pasture that has been infected by other foals so it’s crucial to keep grazing clean. Ascarid eggs have been reported to survive for up to 10 years on pasture so ideally choose pasture that has not been grazed by foals for a long period.

Where is the best place for my mare to foal?

The safest places are either a large and deeply bedded stable or a small paddock with secure post and rail fencing, including a bottom rail that’s low enough to prevent the new foal from rolling under it. Most foals are born at night so make sure you also have access to good lighting.  Mares will often surprise you by foaling without much warning and in fact they are able to stop first stage labour if they are disturbed and feel threatened; a camera in the stable near to foaling time can be very useful to allow you to monitor her without disturbing her

Do I need any special equipment?

Yes, preparation is key to a successful foaling. Put together the following basics well in advance and always call your vet as soon as you think your mare is ready to foal:

  • Vet’s emergency contact number
  • Contact details for an experienced friend as an extra pair of hands
  • Free-standing torch and a head torch
  • Sterile gloves
  • Scissors
  • Towels and a source of hot water
  • Antiseptic spray
  • Whole foal colostrum in case your mare does not produce any milk (this can be bought frozen)
  • A clean bucket in case you need to milk the mare if the foal won’t suckle
  • A plastic milk bottle with a teat
  • Transport – always make sure you have transport at the ready in case of emergency
  • Don’t forget hot drinks, food and warm clothes for you – it could be a long night!

Remember, breeding is undeniably exciting but it’s also a gamble. Don’t be lulled into believing that it’s a cheap route to your perfect new horse. There are so many variables at stake, much potential for disappointment and many costs involved.

References and useful links                                                          

AAEP, parasite control guidelines (2016)



Wendy graduated from Bristol University in 1999. She then went on to complete a residency at Liverpool University and holds a European Diploma in Equine Internal Medicine. After working in practice for 13 years, she joined Zoetis in 2012 as the National Equine Veterinary Manager.

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