Horses are mammals, and like all mammals, they produce live offspring that are breastfed for the first part of life. A mare (one filly) can only produce one foal per year. A mare can give birth to a foal at about 18 months old, but if the mare is at least 4 years old, the mare and foal are healthier because the mare has reached her full size by this time. A mare may continue to have foals until she is in her twenties. A stallion (a male horse) can also continue to breed a mare into his 20s, although his sperm quality may decline with age.
A foal can stand for about 30 minutes after birth.They may eat grass, concentrate or hay for a few days after birth, although their breast milk will be the main source of nutrition. Although many breeders choose to keep mares and foals together longer, they may be weaned from their mothers within three months of birth. Although wild horses mate and give birth without veterinary attention, many problems can be circumvented by examining stallions prior to breeding and by properly examining and caring for mares during pregnancy.
average gestation period
A horse’s gestation period is usually between 330 and 345 days, or 11 months.Some mares will tend to foal earlier or later than average, and breeders will be aware of these tendencies. The gestation period of ponies is usually shorter than that of horses. In their natural environment, stallions breed mares in the summer and foals are born the following spring and early summer. This ensures that the foal is born when pastures are abundant and the weather is mild.
Mares are considered seasonally polyestrous, which means they go into heat (estrus) and receive stallions on a regular basis in the spring and summer.These seasonal estrus cycles occur approximately every three weeks. However, breeders looking to manipulate the breeding cycle, so foals born earlier in the year (as is often done in the thoroughbred racing industry) will use artificial lighting to simulate the longer days of spring and summer. Artificial sunlight stimulates the mare’s brain to produce the reproductive hormones needed to induce estrus. This allows mares to breed earlier and give birth to foals earlier in the following year.
Check for pregnancy
A mare may not have any obvious signs of pregnancy in the first trimester, other than not having an estrus cycle. Pregnancy can be confirmed by ultrasound about two weeks after insemination.Blood and urine tests can be done two to three months after conception. Alternatively, a veterinarian may be able to manually feel the small embryo in the mare’s uterus by rectal palpation after about six weeks of gestation.
It is very important to have a veterinarian check the health of the mare and the health of the foal early in pregnancy. Equine twins are rare, but can cause miscarriages in mares. If twin foals are brought to term, it is possible to lose both. For this reason, it is generally recommended to “pinch off” an embryo. This is done early in pregnancy. Miscarriages in mares are not uncommon, so repeat ultrasound, blood, or urine tests are recommended after about three months. Things like checking how a mare shakes her head, the expression of her eyes, or the way the needle moves as it moves over her belly can’t accurately determine whether she’s a foal or not.
After about three months, the foal will develop rapidly and begin to look like a pony. After about six months, the mare may begin to become visibly pregnant. Mares who have previously given birth to ponies may develop abdominal enlargement earlier than virgins. For the remaining months, the mare’s belly will continue to grow as the foal approaches the calving date. About two weeks before the due date, the mare’s udders will begin to swell and begin to produce a thick, yellowish fluid.
After approximately 315 days of gestation, owners should closely monitor the mare for signs of imminent calving. For example, the yellowish liquid becomes colostrum or colostrum. The breasts may drip and the muscles around her tail will become more relaxed. Her abdomen may sag as a foal’s birth position.At this point, labor is imminent and the mare must be checked frequently for signs of farrowing. Shortly before birth, the mare will appear restless and may paw and examine her sides (similar to colic symptoms). She should be parked in a large, clean compartment, preferably with straw bedding. The mare may lie down and get up repeatedly, but will give birth lying down. First, the amniotic sac can be seen, then the foal’s front hooves and snout. At this stage, foals are usually born within minutes.
Occasionally, the foal is “breeched” or born with the hindquarters first, or one or both forelimbs may be bent back. Sometimes a mare or foal is injured during labor or has other issues that require professional attention. Your veterinarian should carefully examine the mare and foal shortly after the foal arrives.
If you suspect your pet is sick, call your veterinarian right away. For health-related questions, be sure to consult your veterinarian, as they have examined your pet, know your pet’s health history, and can give your pet the best advice.