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Pleun Broeren
20 april 2023 Reading time 3 minutes

Pregnant mare: nutrition and labor

For every breeder, spring is an exciting, but also anxious time. In the run-up to the birth, it is good to think about the feeding requirements of the mare before but also after the foal is born, when the mare is fully in lactation. And what about actually riding a pregnant mare?

Fertility and the mare

Typically, a mare will start her cycles in early spring and will be in heat every three weeks up till September. The fertile period of the mare lasts 3 to 7 days. If the mare is in a poor condition (too thin), fertility problems can arise. Besides ensuring regularity in daily life, a decent stable hygiene, sufficient movement and a stress-free environment, the following vitamins and minerals can also have a positive effect on the mare’s fertility:


  • Beta-carotene (or pro-vitamin A): Beta-carotene supports the start of the cycle early in the season, the mare will be in a better heat, it also decreases the risk of early embryonic death.
  • Vitamin E: A deficiency of vitamin E will result in infertility. In pregnant mares, the deficiency will result in deformation of the foal (white muscle disease) or abortion.
  • Folic acid: Folic acid is known for its positive effects on pregnant women, however little is known about the effects on pregnant mares.
  • Selenium: Has a similar effect on fertility as vitamin E.

The feed supplement Pavo Fertile contains, among other things, the abovementioned substances and can therefore support the fertility of the mare.

Gestating or lactating mare and roughage

Grass in springtime contains the ideal nutrients for mares, however, dried forage often contains far less proteins and minerals than people think. It also contains much less vitamin E compared to fresh grass. Forage from poor nutritional quality is sufficient for fat horses and coldbreds, but not for a pregnant/lactating mare. Many mares only have access to grass later in the season and do not always have access to sufficient grassland to meet their requirements. Feeding only dried forage is not sufficient and can cause a vitamin E deficiency, which in turn increases the risk that the placenta will Not come off.

Feeding the mare in gestation

During the first eight months of gestation, the mare’s regular diet will be sufficient, but during the last three months of gestation, the mare’s nutritional needs change enormously. During those last three months, the unborn foal in the experiences a major growth spurt. The nutrients needed for this growth are passed on to the foal in the uterus via the blood and after the birth through the mare’s milk. Deficiencies in certain nutrients may result in a disposition to bone disorders such as OC or OCD. Pavo Podo®Lac and Pavo Podo®Lac Muesli are developed especially for mares in foal and lactating mares and contains all the vitamins, minerals and trace elements that are necessary for an optimum development and growth of the (unborn) foal.

Feeding during lactation

After birth, the mare’s energy and protein requirements increase enormously. In the first days, a mare produces approximately eight liters milk per day, which gradually increases to twenty liters. A shortage in proteins is detrimental and will cause a reduced milk production and muscle mass reduction in the mare. In lactating mares, the energy and protein requirements are twice as high compared to a mare without a foal. During the first three months of lactation, you can continue to give your mare Pavo Podo®Lac or Pavo Podo®Lac Muesli. When the foal is about three weeks old, it will start to eat concentrates and therefore, the ration of the mare can gradually be decreased. As soon as the foal has been weaned, the mare can go back to her normal diet.

Put fat gestating mares on a diet?

A mare should not be too fat during her pregnancy. The reason is that foals of fat mares grow faster which is not beneficial for the quality of the bones. However, it is not wise to put the mare on a diet after the ninth month of gestation, as the foal is then going through the largest development. You can make sure that she does not becomes fatter and still got all the nutrients she needs, by using the breeding balancer Pavo Podo®Care instead of mare compound feed. Besides, more natural movement and some exercise (adapted to her condition) may help.

Riding a gestating mare

If the mare has no medical conditions that may increase the risk for complications during gestation or giving birth, you can continue exercising the mare as usual. Only in the last months of the gestation, the mare might get too heavy and/or her stamina and flexibility might decrease, which means you will have to adjust the intensity of your training schedule. Most importantly, you have to keep a close eye on your mare and use the signals that she gives to decide what she can still do. On the other hand, you should not all of a sudden stop exercising her, as it is indeed very healthy to exercise a mare until the last days. However, do not ride your mare in the last weeks, but give her some unloaded movement. After all, a good physical condition is a prerogative for an easy foaling process.

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