As the due date of your mare approaches, it is important to keep a watchful eye on her so that you can be present when foaling starts. This is an exciting time, and naturally, you want to ensure that the birth process proceeds as smoothly as possible. Regardless of whether you are an experienced breeder or not, it is a special and magical moment for everyone.
How long is the gestation length of a mare?
The average gestation length in the mare ranges from 320 to 362 days. Typically, a horse carries a foal for around 340 days, although the exact gestation period can vary from mare to mare and is influenced by the time of year. Waiting for your mare to give birth for over a year is therefore not uncommon.
Some mares give birth calmly two weeks before the due date, while others carry without problems for 4 weeks overdue. Therefore, predicting the exact time that your mare will give birth is very difficult. However, there are certain signs to watch out for that can help you predict the birth better.
I’ve put together a useful checklist to help you prepare for your foal’s delivery. Get your free copy by clicking the button below!
Which signs predict foaling?
A mare can exhibit a range of signs indicating that the foal’s birth is approaching. However, the exact timing of the birth can vary from one mare to another.
Usually, you can see changes in the mare from two to three weeks before the birth of the foal. For example, the mare’s udder becomes fuller, the mare’s legs become thicker, or edema or swelling appears under the belly. Another indication that the mare is close to giving birth is the loosening of the pelvic ligaments.
The closer the birth approaches, the fuller the udder becomes. Often, the mare will develop wax-like droplets on her teats shortly before giving birth. If you see this in your mare, the foal is usually born within 24 hours.
What are some of the typical behavioral indicators that a mare is about to give birth?
As a mare gets closer to giving birth, she will exhibit several behavioral signs that can indicate the onset of labor. Here are some common behavioral signs to look out for:
- Restlessness: The mare may appear agitated and restless, moving around her stall or paddock more frequently than usual.
- Loss of appetite: As labor approaches, the mare may lose interest in food and may not eat her usual amount of hay or grain.
- Increased urination and defecation: The mare may urinate and defecate more frequently than usual as her body prepares for foaling.
- Nesting behavior: The mare may start pawing the ground, rearranging bedding or straw, or other nesting behaviors to prepare a comfortable area for the foal.
- Separation from herd: The mare may separate herself from the herd and may appear to be in a trance-like state.
While some mares may exhibit various behavioral changes prior to giving birth, others may display only a few or none at all. It is always best to monitor your mare closely and consult with a veterinarian if you have any concerns.
Birth monitoring systems for horses
Mares typically deliver their foals during quiet periods in the stable, so it is crucial to minimize any disruptions to their environment. Although, it’s therefore important to keep an eye on the mare 24 hours a day. This can be done using various birth monitoring systems, such as a camera in the stable and/or birth alarms. As mares often give birth at night, it’s useful to have a camera with night vision. This way, you can easily keep an eye on your mare 24 hours a day, ensuring that you’re present when she goes into labor.
It’s crucial to check that the placenta is expelled in its entirety and on time. If not it is called a retained placenta. Would you like to know what to do if your mare has a retained placenta? Then read my blog: “What do I do in case my mare has a retained placenta?”
In my Online Foaling Course, I’ll teach you everything you need to know about the birth of your foal!
In my work as an equine veterinarian, I receive many questions from owners regarding foals. Not only the birth, but also questions about a sick foal or deworming and vaccination of foals.
In my online foaling course, I answer many questions about the birth and first week of your foal’s life! In my online course, you will learn what you can do best before, during, and after birth. Almost 500 participants have already enrolled and rate the course with 5 stars! Experienced breeders also say they have learned a lot from the course!