Ah, springtime. The gentle sounds of rain tapping against your window. Fresh flower blooms replacing the dirt ground with a kaleidoscope of colors. A warm breeze sweeping the smells of fresh grass across your nose. Spring represents a new start. Many animals give birth during Spring, horses included. Let’s learn more about horse pregnancy and how those cute foals come to be.
Facts About Horse Pregnancy
What is the Average Horse Gestation Period?
Typically, the gestation period in mares runs around 11 months (330-345 days). If the mare (female horse) gives birth a little earlier or later during this period, it could become a trend for their future pregnancies as well.
Traditionally in the wild, stallions (male horses) breed with mares during the summertime, meaning foals (baby horses) will be born the following spring. The timing happens this way so that the foal will be born when the grass in pastures is abundant and there is warmer weather.
When Can Horses Get Pregnant?
Horses, like other mammals, give birth to a live offspring. Mares can start successfully reproducing as early as 18 months old, but waiting until they reach full size is recommended for health reasons. Mothers are able to have one foal per year into their twenties.
Most healthy foals are able to stand up as soon as 30 minutes after birth (way better than us humans, eh?). They will gain their nutrients mainly through their mother’s milk, although they sometimes nibble on grass and hay as well. The foal might be weaned from their mother around three months, but it depends on the breeder.
How Can You Detect Horse Pregnancy?
There are multiple methods to test if a horse is pregnant. Some test different substances, and some can be performed by a vet or yourself. For the highest level of safety and accuracy, our horse health care team recommends that you seek assistance from a professional. Here are a few methods:
- Your vet will put their hand in the horse rectum and feel the uterus for signs of pregnancy. They will be able to feel things such as the uterine tone, shape of the uterus, and the presence and size of the sac containing the fetus (amniotic vesicle). NEVER try this on your own – for obvious reasons.
- Just like humans, horses can get ultrasounds to detect pregnancy. Once inserted into the rectum, the probe will send sound waves to detect a heartbeat, uterus, and placenta. An image of these can be viewed by external parties. Again, unlikely that you have a spare probe lying around, but leave this one to the professionals.
- Blood tests are most accurate between 40-100 days after breeding. They detect PMSG – a protein produced by the endometrial cups (a group of cells from the embryo that stay in the lining of the mare’s uterus temporarily). While there are DIY kits, we still suggest consulting your vet first.
- Like blood tests, urine tests can detect pregnancy with a sample. Urine tests sense or deny the presence of Oestrone sulphate, which is released from the fetus/placenta. DIY kits are available – just discuss it with your vet first.
How To Take Care of A Pregnant Horse
Horse pregnancy is a long process, but seeing the miracle of a foal being brought into the world will make the wait worth it. While you wait, make sure that your pregnant horse is getting the care that it needs.
You’ll have to make some adjustments to your daily horse routine, such as cleaning habits, diet, and more vet visits. Some exercise and training is ok, but knowing to start small and when to stop will ensure the health and happiness of your mare and the foal. These steps will make a big difference.
Looking For More Horse Pregnancy Help?
Learn more about how to care for your pregnant horse here. And if you have any questions about horse pregnancy at any point – don’t hesitate to reach out to a professional. Your vet, breeder, and horse health care specialists from BRD Vet Rx will be eager to help.