Stages of Pregnancy in Horses: Signs, Duration, and Birth

horse pregnancy stages pictures

Pregnancy is an important time for any animal, and horses are no exception. As a horse owner, it is essential to understand the different stages of pregnancy to provide appropriate care for your mare. The process of pregnancy in horses can be a long and complicated journey, with several milestones and important events along the way. In this article, we will discuss the various stages of pregnancy in horses and what you can expect during each phase.

How is the Pregnancy Going?

The first stage of pregnancy in horses is conception, which occurs when a mare’s egg is fertilized by a stallion’s sperm. After fertilization, the embryo begins to divide and eventually forms a ball of cells called a blastocyst. The blastocyst then travels down the fallopian tube and implants into the lining of the mare’s uterus.

Once the embryo has implanted, it begins to secrete hormones that prevent the mare from coming into heat. This is known as the “settling in” period and lasts for approximately 16-18 days. During this time, the mare may exhibit subtle signs of pregnancy, such as a decrease in appetite, mild abdominal discomfort, and a change in behavior.

Signs of Pregnancy

After the settling-in period, the pregnancy becomes more noticeable. As the fetus grows, the mare’s abdomen will begin to enlarge, and her udder will become more prominent. You may also notice a thickening of the vaginal wall and a softening of the cervix.

Other signs of pregnancy in horses include a decrease in exercise tolerance and an increase in appetite. The mare may also become more sensitive to touch, particularly around her abdomen and udder. In some cases, a veterinarian may be able to detect the fetal heartbeat using ultrasound.

Duration of Pregnancy

The gestation period for horses is approximately 11 months or 340 days. However, this can vary slightly depending on the mare’s age and breed. For example, mares that are older or have a history of reproductive problems may have a longer gestation period.

It is essential to monitor your mare closely during the last few weeks of pregnancy. Some mares may exhibit signs of impending labor, such as restlessness, sweating, and a decrease in appetite. However, not all mares will show these signs, so it is essential to keep a close eye on them.

Preparation for Foal’s Birth

As the due date approaches, it is important to make sure that your mare is prepared for childbirth. This involves ensuring that she is in the good physical condition and has access to adequate nutrition and water.

You may also want to consider setting up a foaling stall or a designated area where the mare can give birth. This should be clean, dry, and free from any hazards that could harm the mare or the foal. You should also have a foaling kit on hand, which includes essential items such as clean towels, disinfectant, and a thermometer.

The Birth of a Foal

When it is time for the foal to be born, the mare will typically lie down on her side and begin to push. The foal will emerge headfirst, followed by its front legs and shoulders. Once the foal’s shoulders are through, the rest of the body should slide out easily.

It is important to monitor the birth closely and make sure that the foal is breathing and nursing within the first few hours of life. You should also watch for any signs of distress in the mare, such as excessive bleeding or difficulty breathing.

What to do After Birth?

After the foal is born, you should allow the mare and foal to bond naturally. The foal will typically attempt to stand within the first hour of life and may start nursing shortly thereafter. It is important to make sure that the foal is nursing and eating properly, as this is essential for its overall health.

It is also important to monitor the mare closely after birth, as some mares may experience excessive bleeding or difficulty passing the placenta. If any issues are present, contact your veterinarian immediately. 


What care does a pregnant mare need?

During the first five months of pregnancy, a pregnant mare should be provided with adequate exercise. This can include hand-walking or light riding, depending on her individual needs. Exercising a mare during the early stages of gestation helps maintain muscle tone and encourages strong development in the foal.

What are pregnant horses called?

Pregnant horses are known as “mares”.

How long is a mare in labor?

Mares are generally in labor for 12 to 18 minutes, though maiden mares (mares foaling for the first time) may take up to an hour. During this period, the mare will typically experience heavy contractions and may also show signs of restlessness or anxiety.

What is the best food for a pregnant horse?

A pregnant mare should be fed a balanced diet that is high in energy and protein. High-quality hay or pasture grass and concentrates such as oats, barley, or corn are beneficial for meeting nutrient requirements during the stages of gestation.

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