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Signs and Stages of Pregnancy in a Mare

Updated on December 26, 2016
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Donna Campbell Smith is a published author and freelance writer and photographer.

Joined: 8 years agoFollowers: 580Articles: 160

Normal Gestation of the Mare

Spring is here and the long wait is coming to an end. Your mare’s due date is approaching. Normal gestation for a mare is 335-360 days, so you have about ten days leeway on your foaling date even if you have kept careful records noting the days she was bred. So don’t get too nervous if even day 360 rolls around without a newborn foal appearing. Some mares do go 12 months without a problem. But, if you are approaching day 360 it is a good idea to have your vet check on the mare just to be sure all is well.

The Mare's Last Trimester

It is the last third of your mare’s pregnancy when you begin to observe changes. About the last trimester you should have your mare moved to the area where you want her to deliver. This is so she is exposed to particular bacteria and viral antigens and her body can produce the antibodies to them and she can pass them onto her foal. Also, she will be comfortable in her new surroundings before the due date.

In the late stages of pregnancy you will notice the mare’s belly has enlarged and she will be less active than normal. In the last two to three weeks the abdomen muscles become more relaxed and the foal will “drop.” This is usually more obvious in older brood mares.

In another week’s time the muscles on either side of the tail head become very soft somewhat like Jell-o. Also in the last two week period the mare’s udder will begin to enlarge until during the last week the teats fill out. When you can see a clear secretion you are approaching the last week or days of pregnancy. By the last two days the secretion becomes thick and cloudy, sometimes leaving a milky droplet on the end of her teats. This is what is called “waxing.”

Do not be alarmed if in those last days your mare experiences edema along the center of her underbelly – called ventral edema. Turning her out in a larger area to move around more a few hours a day or hand walking her will help with this. It has nothing to do with her milk as some old wives tales indicate.


The long Awaited Day and a Healthy Foal
The long Awaited Day and a Healthy Foal

Four Stages of the Foal's Birth

Birth of the foal happens in four stages. In phase one the mare will be restless and even seem to have mild colic. She will lay down, get up, nibble hay, swish her tail and repeat. This indicates the last couple of hours before foaling.

In the second phase her water will break. The mare is usually standing up when this happens. The front feet of the foal will appear in this phase, which takes about fifteen minutes. If 20-30 minutes go by and the feet do not appear call the vet because she may be having trouble. Most mares deliver easily and quickly. If you need the vet walk your mare until she or he arrives.

In the third phase of normal birth the mare usually will lie down and labor begins. In a normal presentation the amnionic tissue with one foot appears (in phase two) with the sole of the foot downward, the other foot appears next and then the nose of the foal. Anything out of that norm is reason to call your vet.

The foal delivers quickly after that initial presentation. The mare will remain lying down for a few minutes. This gives her time to rest and the blood to flow from her to the foal before breaking the umbilical cord. The cord will break naturally when she stands up – do not cut the cord as this may cause hemorrhaging.

The passing of the afterbirth or placenta is the fourth stage and final one. This can happen a few minutes to one hour after the foal is born. Again the mare will experience contractions and behave as though she has colic. This may continue even for a few hours after the placenta is expelled. Examine the afterbirth to be sure it is intact. Any part left inside the mare can cause infection and serious consequences. Also, if the placenta is not expelled within two hours call your vet and a retained placenta can also cause complications.

It is very tempting to jump in and “help” the foal to its feet and guide it to the teats. This is not usually necessary. Just be sure the foal is breathing, remove any membrane that may be covering its nose, then let nature do her job. Have your vet come give the foal its first check up to be sure the heart and lungs are working normally. The mare’s milk contains important antibodies that will protect the foal from disease until its own immune system develops. The colostrum, or first milk, contain these healthy benefits only during the first 24 hours after birth so it is important that the foal nurse during that time. Some new mothers are reluctant to let their foals nurse and may have to be restrained at first. Once the foal has nurse and relieved some of the painful pressure the mare feels on her udder she is usually fine and will let her foal nurse without a problem.

Now you can call your friends to come see your beautiful new foal, and get the cameras rolling. But, don’t overtire the mother and baby; they need their rest.


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    • moonlake profile image

      moonlake 3 years ago from America

      Interesting hub. We saw a mare and her foal today. I tried to get a picture but I don't think I got a good one. Voted up.

    • Greg 4 years ago

      I have a mare 3 months to foaling she has quite a lot of central edema the vet saw her last week and she is having a corse off sulpha t paste and a weekly injection of atrenogest till foaling im a little worried still as she lost her foal before she foaled 2 weeks early any info would be great

    • DonnaCSmith profile image

      Donna Campbell Smith 5 years ago from Central North Carolina

      Shaunda, I couldn't venture a guess by a picture. The best thing is to have a vet check her.

    • ShaundaA 5 years ago

      Donna my mare should be 209 days pregnant now there are days when she definitely looks pregnant and others I question it when should she be showing. she is a registered thoroughbred very tall and lanky. I could send recent pix if this helps.

    • DonnaCSmith profile image

      Donna Campbell Smith 5 years ago from Central North Carolina

      Scudder, you really should have a vet look at her to know if she is in foal and how long before she is due. It does sound like she may be.

    • scudder 5 years ago

      I have a mare that I think is pregnant.I think I feel a colt moving around a little.she also has stuff that looks like honey from her bags .can you help and if it is a colt I feel moving how far along do they have to be before this feeling a colt can happen.ty

    • DonnaCSmith profile image

      Donna Campbell Smith 5 years ago from Central North Carolina

      She is probably establishing her position in the herd and wants to be "boss mare." Probably has nothing to do with if she is pregnant or not. If you suspect she is pregnant the best thing to do is have your vet check her out.

    • Marissa 5 years ago

      we just got a mare about 3 weeks ago an we just let her out with the other mares and she goes ofter them. an where she came from the stud just ran so could she be more grouchy if she is pregnet?? but we got her from an action an she still was nurseing her other baby could this be the problem why she goes after them?

    • DonnaCSmith profile image

      Donna Campbell Smith 5 years ago from Central North Carolina

      My recommendation is to have your vet check her out.

    • darlene 5 years ago

      hey im going crazy here i have a jenny that has made 3 udders and then thay go away and come back if this was a false pg would she keep making udder any one plz help me if you can

    • DonnaCSmith profile image

      Donna Campbell Smith 6 years ago from Central North Carolina

      I am glad my article was helpful, Mackenzie!

    • mackenzie 6 years ago

      That was very good info because we have a pony who was bred with and we did not know.It all at the place were kids with altism could ride, horses.Well turns out that the male horse, that she was in pasture with was not completely fixed.The other two mares she was in pasture with were bred with and are for sure pregnant and we, found out a month after we got her that she was bred with too.So,its been four months since we got her back and,she has gotten to were she is grumpy all the time and she is way fatter than she was when we got her.So, now that I have read what you wrote .I think we are going to call the vet to come and find out for sure.

    • DonnaCSmith profile image

      Donna Campbell Smith 6 years ago from Central North Carolina

      Gert, I am so sorry to hear this story. The only suggestion I can offer is to have a necropsy done on the foal in hopes of finding the cause. If the sac was not broken suffocation is possible. That is only a wild guess. Your vet can hopefully offer a better answer. Let us know what you find out.

    • Gert 6 years ago

      Hi. I have an Arab cross mare, she has delivered once. This foal is now a handsome two year old colt. I had her covered on the 11th September 2009 with my own Boerperd-Friesian cross stallion. She stayed in the veldt with a few other horses as most of my horses do and as always I brought her in once a month, did a check-up, groomed her thoroughly and took her back to the veldt again. Normally I bring my pregnant mares in to the stalls two weeks prior to their due date, and that is exactly what I did with her... She came on beautifully, all the right signs was there, a few days after her due date her teats began to expand, at last, and I monitored her more closely. Last night I slept at a friend's house, but early morning I went back. At 7:30 I found my mare with a bit of matted hair on her one side and somewhat tired. The foal was on the ground, still covered in it's embrionic sac, the sac was still intact. He was even still warm when I found him. The afterbirth was also intact and was lying nearby. The mare was fine, no injuries or even tight muscles or anxiety or nothing. The foal was quite big, but nothing she couldn't handle. The foal was 100% normal. Strangely, she foaled in an open part of the paddock, all my mares usually foal in the open stables where there is thick bedding, and there is also other shelter and trees in this specific paddock, but she walked around and foaled in almost the most open place where there is also usually a lot of activity during the day. Do you have a possible explanation of what could have happened? I am devestated because I had huge plans for this guy. And he really was one of the most beautiful colts I've ever seen, with a long sloping neck, long curly black mane and tail a buckskin coat, with long legs and exceptional conformation and well-formed hocks and knees. What went wrong?

    • isabella 7 years ago

      does anyone have a good site or good information on early signs of pregnancy. there is a pony and we think she may be pregnant but are not sure

    • Horse Care 7 years ago

      This page has helped me with my horse thanks for the great info.

    • DonnaCSmith profile image

      Donna Campbell Smith 7 years ago from Central North Carolina

      I want to hear about your mule babies - and send me pictures! hope all the mama's and babies do well.

    • XLdonkeys profile image

      XLdonkeys 7 years ago from Martin, TN

      Donna, good information! As I write we have a Clydesdale (first time Mama), and a high pedigree AQHA mare that are "overdue" with their mule colts. The QH mare is an exhibitionist and likes to have her foals in the afternoon with an audience. We shall see. It is that time of year again and we are looking forward to this year's mule foals with great anticipation! We will keep you posted.

    • pacwriter profile image

      pacwriter 7 years ago from North Carolina


    • DonnaCSmith profile image

      Donna Campbell Smith 7 years ago from Central North Carolina

      He sure has grown a lot from that day!

    • Tara 7 years ago

      That is one cute foal, but I'm partial! :-)

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