What is Length of Pregnancy In Horses
Horses happen to fall in the mammal’s family, and just like every other mammal, they give birth to offspring of their kind. And that’s why today, we are going to look at the gestation period of horses, how it happens and how you can check for its pregnancy. But before we get into those, let’s have a peek at how their reproduction occurs.
The average gestation period in horses is often between 330 and 345 days, or 11 months to be exact.
HOW HORSES REPRODUCE
As I just stated earlier, Horses, like all mammals, give birth to offspring of their kind, where they nourish these offspring through their milk. Now, a mare (a female horse) can only give birth to one foal (baby horse) each year.
And a mare can only produce a foal when she is up to 18 months of age. However, just like a human girl child giving birth at the age of 16-18 years is risky, so it is for a mare to give birth while she is just 18 months old.
As such, it is would be of best interest to the mare and foal, if the mare is at least four years old before conception.
This is because, during that time, the mare must have matured enough, and reached her full size. However, a mare can only keep reproducing foals until she is in her late twenties.
And that’s the same case with a stallion (a male horse), as producing sperm during his twenties will start becoming difficult.
On the other hand, foals, unlike other infant mammals can walk and run a few hours after their birth. A few days after their birth, they often have the ability to nibble grasses, concentrate or hay.
Nevertheless, this is mostly not allowed by their mare, since it is often required for them to rely on their mother’s milk as the primary source of nutrition. After three months, every foal is often ready to wean from their mothers, and thus start grazing on their own.
HORSES GESTATION PERIOD
The average gestation period in horses is often between 330 and 345 days, or 11 months to be exact. But sometimes, mares are often forced to foal earlier, or later than the average time by breeders.
Nevertheless, ponies usually have a shorter gestation period than horses.
In a normal environment, stallions breed the mares during the summer period, and their foals will be given birth to the next year, during spring and early summer.
And they often do this so that the foals, will be given birth to when the weather is mild, and there is an abundance of pasture to graze on.
Mares are known to be seasonally “polyestrus”, which means they seasonally go into heat (estrus), and are only receptive to a stallion at specific times like the spring and summer. And these seasonal heat cycles always happen every three weeks.
But, some breeder who often demand for foals to be given birth to earlier in the year, always have their way of manipulating the cycle through the use of artificial lighting to prolong the days of spring and summer,
in the minds of the mares, thus leaving them with no option than to produce the reproductive hormones needed to initiate heat(estrus).
HOW TO CHECK FOR PREGNANCY
Other than the absence of a mare’s estrus cycle, you may not find any other sign of pregnancy in her for the first three months. So, if you want to find out if your mare is pregnant, you can do so by carrying out any of the below methods.
- Ultrasound: You can confirm if your mare is pregnant through the use of ultrasound, exactly two weeks after she mated with a stallion.
- Testing: Another way to confirm if your mare is pregnant is by conducting a blood and urine test, two to three months after conception.
- Call Your Vet: If you aren’t successful with the above methods, you should consider calling your vet to come to examine approximately the size of the belly, weeks after mating with a stallion.
And it is very important to have the mare checked by a vet early in her pregnancy stage, in order to secure not only her health but that of her foal too.
If the mare is about to have twins, it is very easy and common for her to abort the pregnancy. So, having a vet check early in the pregnancy stage will help him pinch off one embryo, thus leaving one to survive.
That way, the mare will be able to give birth to the one foal in her stomach. Other than the above ways, you can also know if a mare is pregnant from the way she shakes her head, and which way the middle moves, whenever she is being injected in her stomach.
If the mare keeps tilting to one angle, then it could be a sign she has a foal in her stomach.
THE ENDING STAGES OF A HORSE GESTATION
After about three months of pregnancy, the foal will quickly develop inside the mare. And after six months, the mare will start having a protruding stomach that will make it visible that she is pregnant.
However, mares that have given birth before may show an expanding belly sooner than how a maiden mare would. And over a remaining couple of months, the mare’s belly will keep expanding as the date to the foal’s birth keeps drawing closer.
One of the ways you can tell when she will put to birth is that at about two weeks before the due date, the mare’s udder will start expanding and then produce sticky yellowish fluid.
So, after about 315 days of pregnancy, if you’re a horse owner, you should watch the mare closely for anticipated signs of giving birth to her foal. And one of those signs is that the sticky yellowish fluid will now turn into the first milk.
Another sign is that the mare’s udder may drip, the muscles around her tail head will get more relaxed, and her stomach may seem like dropping as the foal positions itself to come out.
When it gets to this point, you should know that foaling is imminent, and you have to frequently check in on the mare.
Hours before the mare gives birth, she will seem restless, my paw the ground and check her sides, all signs which are similar to when a horse has colic. As soon as you notice this, place her in a big and clean stall, most preferably that which is bedded with straw.
When you’ve bedded her, mostly she will get up and lie down repeatedly. Don’t panic when this happens as it is a normal thing amongst mares during foal birth.
In the end, the mare will give birth while lying down. During the process, you’ll see the amniotic sac, and then the foal’s front hooves and nose. Minutes after this, the foal will be given birth to.
Gestation Table for Farm Animals
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That notwithstanding, after the foal’s birth, you need to bring in your vet to check the health of your mare and her foal, as sometimes, there could be an injury caused during the birth-giving process. Injuries that often require professional health attention.