By this time of the year, most horse owners who were planning on breeding have done so, and with most broodmares checked safely in-foal, the long wait for that new baby begins. Now is a great time to start planning for the increased care and nutrition that broodmares need during pregnancy so you get the best possible result from your breeding.
Early pregnancy body condition. Broodmares should be in good to slightly-fleshy body condition at breeding time, and this condition should be maintained throughout the full term of the pregnancy. Pregnancy is not time to try to keep a mare lean.
Feed during pregnancy. Quality feed is always important to promote optimal health in horses, but perhaps even more important during pregnancy. You should be conscientious and use the best forage possible for your mare during pregnancy. Do not skimp and think that your mare will somehow get by with lower quality feed. One of the main causes of developmental orthopedic diseases in young foals is poor nutrition to the mare during the pregnancy.
Exercise during pregnancy. I once asked an old cowboy when he stopped riding his pregnant mares. He said he just made sure that they didn’t have the saddle on when they laid down to foal. Although humorous, this is not far from the truth. You can continue to use broodmares in a way they are used to being used throughout most of the pregnancy. If they are under particularly hard work, it may be advisable to ease up on the routine in the last month or two of the pregnancy. But a fit mare will almost always have a better pregnancy and easier foaling than one that has been left to fall out of shape.
Late pregnancy nutritional requirements. If is very important to understand that the nutritional requirements of a pregnant mare drastically increase in the last 3-4 months of her pregnancy, especially as it applies to minerals and amino acids (protein). It is critical that broodmares not only have quality feed as mentioned above, but they should also be given a high-quality ration balancer that provides sufficient calcium and phosphorous in the correct balance, as well as trace minerals and quality amino acids. This will insure that the growing foal inside her will not deplete the mare of needed nutrients as it undertakes its massive growth spurt in the last few months of the pregnancy.
Vaccines and worming. Worming and vaccinating are critical for the pregnant broodmare. There some diseases that are correlated with increased abortion in broodmares for which there are effective vaccines. Your veterinarian should advise you on an appropriate schedule for both vaccinating and worming. And remember, only wormers that are labeled as safe for pregnant mares should be used.
Nutrition after foaling. Good nutrition should not stop once the foal is on the ground. For the months that the broodmare is lactating, her nutritional requirements remain highly elevated. Not only is she trying to recover from a taxing pregnancy, but she must be able to produce sufficient milk to feed her new foal. Continue providing only the best quality forage and supplement it with a quality ration balancer for the entire lactating period. Carry this program over to the foal when it is weaned to insure optimal growth for the young horse.
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