Looking after your Brood Mare

Looking after your mare during her pregnancy is extremely important to ensure the best chance of her producing and raising a healthy foal.

The mare’s diet needs to be carefully considered with the aim to increase the level of nutrition in the last three months of pregnancy.  A brood mare should not be allowed to become too thin or too fat.  The diet for the last trimester of pregnancy should be a proprietary brood mare diet or balancer. This will include the correct balance of minerals and nutrients for the foals development.  Follow the manufacturer’s guidelines initially, then feed by eye resulting in a gradual increase in weight prior to foaling.  If your mare is getting too fat on a brood mare diet then please call for more specific advice for your individual circumstances as a balancer may be more appropriate.

Your mare should be following a normal worming programme, ideally based on faecal worm egg counts as recommended by your vet.  In the last month before foaling, your mare should be wormed with an ivermectin-based product, such as Eqvalan or Bimectin.  This is because some worms can cross the mares’ uterus and others can cross into the milk and infect the foal when it nurses.  Foals also eat the mare’s dung as a normal process during the first few months of life so good mare worming is essential.

There is a number of vaccinations that should be considered for your brood mare.  Influenza and tetanus vaccinations should be up to date and ideally the mare should be given a booster vaccination within the last month of pregnancy, to boost the level of influenza and tetanus antibodies in the colostrum for the foal.

Equine Herpes Virus (EHV) mostly causes respiratory signs in horses.  However Equine Herpes Virus 1 and 4 can also cause abortion. Mares at risk are those at yards where horses are coming and going and thus may bring in infection or mares that will be in contact with yearlings and young horses (as young horses are the most prone to carrying and spreading the infection).  Additionally, most studs will require your mare to be vaccinated against EHV for her to be accepted on to the stud for foaling down.  Vaccination to reduce the risk of abortion caused by EHV should be performed at five, seven, and nine months of pregnancy.

Rotavirus is a viral diarrhoea that can affect foals in the first few months of life.  Young foals can become life-threateningly ill with this infection if not given intensive treatment and nursing.  Foals most at risk of infection are those being born at properties where there has been a history of rotavirus previously or where a lot of foals will be present in the same area such as stud farms.  To reduce the risk of rotavirus diarrhoea in your foal, the mare should be vaccinated during month eight, nine, and ten of pregnancy to ensure a high transfer of immunity through the colostrum to the new born foal.

It is usual to remove the mare’s shoes when foaling becomes imminent. This is to lessen the damage caused if the mare accidentally stands on the foal.  However, some mares may become foot-sore without shoes. Therefore, if you have any concerns call one of our stud vets for advice.  It is important to maintain hoof health with regular trims as a mare with overgrown, cracked, sore feet will not be able to remain fit and healthy for producing a foal.

If you are planning on foaling your mare down at a stud, it may be worth discussing with them what their requirements are now so you can make sure the vaccinations are performed correctly.  If in any doubt, call one of our stud vet to discuss your individual situation so more specific recommendations can be made.