It’s an interesting thing about how we view pregnancy: We get the positive test, and we think that’s it and start planning to welcome a new foal to our family. The sad truth is that some pregnancies won’t hold, and up to 15 percent of broodmares who checked safe in foal at a check done around 45 to 60 days will have lost their pregnancies by late fall. A fall pregnancy check allows you to confirm if you’ll be hearing the pitter patter of little hooves in a few months or to determine why the pregnancy was lost, take steps to correct the situation if possible and start planning for the next opportunity.
The gestation period for mares is a pretty wide range of 320 to 380 days, with 330 days being the most commonly cited length. Without a fall pregnancy check, you’d be close to a year waiting and well into the next breeding season before you knew if a loss had occurred. Adding insult to injury, if you wait until your horse should have foaled to find out there is a problem, there will likely not be enough time to diagnose the issue, take steps to correct it and still allow time for rebreeding, meaning you’ll lose an entire year before you can try breeding your horse again.
Your mare can be confirmed safe in foal in the fall by either palpation or ultrasound, ultrasound providing the potential of sexing the foal, an option that isn’t available with a palpation check. If it is important for your planning, or you just prefer to know what sex of foal you’re expecting, ultrasound is the right choice for you. If you just want to know that your mare is still safe in foal and that everything is progressing normally, palpation checking is often a less expensive route to get that information.
Once you’ve either confirmed that your mare is safe in foal or that her pregnancy has been lost, you have better information for how to proceed with her care through the winter. If she’s safe in foal, you’ll want to take steps to improve the odds that she’ll have a healthy foal in the spring such as monitoring her body condition, adjusting her feed to accommodate the additional caloric needs of staying warm and the pregnancy and implementing a vaccination and deworming schedule to help protect her health and the health of her foal. If the pregnancy was lost, we’ll work with you to determine why, suggest and help implement a treatment plan to correct the issue if it can be addressed, and you’ll be able to start preparing to implement a rebreeding plan that may include such things as a lighting program and adjustments to her body condition. If it comes to that, we’d be happy to help you establish a rebreeding plan if you don’t have one in place already.
It is our hope every time we conduct a pregnancy check that we’ll be relaying good news back to the owner that “everything’s just fine,” but nature sometimes has other plans. Either way, a fall pregnancy check allows you to have all the information about your mare’s current condition and plan appropriately, regardless of the answer we provide.
If you have any questions about your mare’s pregnancy, need to schedule a pregnancy check or have questions about the breeding process, please contact our office to schedule an appointment.