What Is The Best Feed For A Pregnant Mare?

I know you’re here because you want to identify the best feed for pregnant mare. However, the topic of feeding a pregnant mare is a complex one. A mare’s needs change throughout the experience of pregnancy. She will need a regular, nourishing maintenance diet prior to breeding and can continue on this diet throughout the first trimester of her pregnancy.

During the second and third trimesters, her nutritional needs may change. Other influences such as the weather, the type of forage available, the mare’s age, whether or not she’s been bred before, whether or not she is currently nursing a foal all affect the precise nutrition needed for each individual mare.

It’s easy to see that for all of these reasons, it’s not possible to answer simplistic questions such as:

  1. How many carbohydrates does a pregnant mare need?
  2. How many vitamins does a pregnant mare need?
  3. How many lipids does a pregnant mare need?

There are no set numbers to be given in answer to these questions. As with almost everything regarding horse care, it is important to remember that every horse is an individual and every situation is different. That’s why it is so very important to develop your own horse sense and to consult regularly with your veterinarian to determine the condition of your horse and identify its precise needs in every circumstance.

What Should I Feed My Pregnant Mare?

In this article, will review some of the basic guidelines for feeding your pregnant mare and provide good resources to help you move forward during this exciting time. Read on to learn more.

How Do You Determine Your Broodmare‘s Diet?

How Do You Determine Your Broodmare‘s Diet

It’s important to provide proper nutrition for your mare through every phase of her pregnancy. While this can be complicated, it really doesn’t have to be overwhelmingly difficult.

Here are eight guidelines you can follow to simplify your process and be sure that both your mare and your new foal are healthy and strong.

1. Know exactly what a healthy horse looks like

Before you ever breed your mare, you should be familiar with equine body scoring. Be certain that your mare is in optimum condition right from the start.

Once your mare is bred and the pregnancy advances, she will naturally gain weight, especially in her stomach. You must make certain that the key points of fat deposition as described in this video remain similar throughout the entire pregnancy. Your mare should be in a moderate to a moderately fleshy body condition from start to finish.

Is not a good idea to keep your broodmare at a body condition score higher than six during pregnancy. This is a slightly obese condition and will add weight to your mare’s skeletal structure unnecessarily. Excessive weight during pregnancy can cause complications such as metabolic and soundness issues, arthritis and more.

You might make an exception to this if this is a mare who has been bred before and you have noted that she loses weight quickly when the foal starts nursing. In this case, you may want to keep her a bit plump towards the end of the pregnancy.

2. Your mare is not really eating for two

Be careful not to feed excessively, especially during the first two trimesters of your mare’s pregnancy. You are not feeding two horses. You are feeding one pregnant mare. Just as with people, obesity during pregnancy is ill advised.

During the first two trimesters the developing foal will not grow at an even rate. As a matter of fact, most of the growth of the foal will happen during the third trimester. This is why your mare’s needs for calories and energy will not be greatly increased during the first two trimesters.

Just be sure that you’re keeping your horse in a body condition that can be described as moderate to moderately fleshy during the first two trimesters. During the last trimester of a mare’s pregnancy, the fetal foal will grow about 80%. This naturally takes a toll on your mare, as does lactation. In fact, a lactating mare has higher nutritional needs than a pregnant mare.

3. Choose a high quality supplement in the third trimester

At the onset of your mare’s pregnancy and indeed through the first two trimesters she won’t really need a vitamin and mineral supplement. During this time, feeding high quality grain and forage and providing ample turnout time will give your mare all the nutrition she needs.

Be sure to choose feed that is well fortified and provides the right balance of vitamins and minerals for good overall and equine nutrition. If your mare needs more calories, you may want to add a balancer pellet which also provides a boost in vitamins, minerals and protein.

One problem you may encounter is the fact that during the third trimester when your mare needs extra nutrition the most, she may lose her appetite because the expected foal begins taking up a great deal of room in the abdomen.

4. Talk with your vet about adding a supplement

Talk with your vet about adding a supplement during the last trimester when the foal will need lots of protein and calcium for rapid growth and development.

When you choose a vitamin and mineral supplement, follow these general guidelines for content:

  • 30% Protein
  • 4% Calcium
  • 3% Phosphorus
  • 250 to 300 Ppm Copper
  • 600 to 900 Ppm Zinc

Generally speaking, a mare’s caloric requirements are 28% higher during pregnancy. She will also need 42% more protein, and her needs for calcium and phosphorus may be increased by as much as 80%.

Just increasing the type of food she has been eating will not be enough to provide for these needs. You must provide the minerals, vitamins, protein and calories she needs to knit together a developing foal by adding balancer pellets and/or vitamin and mineral supplements to her diet at this time.

Remember that even though high-protein feeds may deliver a larger percentage of protein than forage such as good hay, it’s better to give your horse more hay that can be eaten freely throughout the day than to provide the concentrated calories available in feed.

5. Evaluate your mare’s needs for extra calories

Evaluate your mare’s needs for extra calories and energy during the third trimester and after foaling.

If your broodmare does not have enough calories, vitamins and minerals in her diet, she will draw these from her own body tissues, muscles, stores of fat and even her bones.

When the foal is born, your mare will need even more nutritional boosts because lactation is very demanding on her body. Lack of calcium and phosphorus, for example, can cause osteoporosis in your mare as her body removes these minerals from her own bones to provide them for her baby.

To ensure that your mare is getting all of the nourishment and all of the calories she needs, keep her steadily supplied with high-quality hay and grazing. These simple, natural foods are the perfect solution for the constant caloric and nutritional intake needed by pregnant equines.

The last trimester is the time to add balancer pellets and to switch gradually to a feed that is specifically designed for pregnant mares. When the foal is born, re-evaluate her needs and consider adding a supplement designed for lactating mares if you do not have ample pasture and forage.

Keep a close eye on your mare’s body condition scoring. Evaluate it at least once a week and make adjustments as needed.

During the third trimester, the fetus will become heavier, and your mare’s abdomen will drop. Gravity may cause the skin over your mare’s ribs to be pulled very tight, and this may cause her to look underweight because you will be able to see her ribs.

Don’t be alarmed, as long as she maintains proper fat deposition along the crest of her neck, her shoulder bed, over her croup and near the top of her tail, she is fine.

You may also wish to add calories to your mare’s diet during the third trimester by adding vegetable oils such as canola oil or soybean oil and stabilized rice bran.

6. Provide all the extra essentials

Remember that your pregnant mare needs to have plenty of fresh, clean water at all times. You must also provide a salt block or feed loose salt to meet her needs for this important mineral.

7. Be sure that your pasture is safe

Watch out for toxic plants and especially the grass known as fescue in your pasture and in your hay. This type of grass is known to be infected with an endophyte (internal fungus) that produces toxins and can cause a wide variety of complications for pregnant mares. Among these are prolonged gestation, difficulty in delivery and scarcity of milk.

This booklet from Oregon State University explains the dangers related to this fungus.

8. Work closely with your veterinarian and/or an equine nutritionist

Remember that your mare is an individual and so is the greatly anticipated foal. Your situation is different than any other, and the resources you may have at hand may also be unique to you. Stay in close communication with your vet and confer with an equine nutritionist as needed to be sure that all of your mare’s needs are met during this important time.

This PDF document from Texas A&M provides a good overview of nutritional needs of the broodmare before, after and at every stage of pregnancy.

Nicky Ellis
Nicky has been an editor at Horses & Foals since 2017. Horses have been in her life from her earliest memories, and she learned to ride a horse when she was 5. She is a mom of three who spends all her free time with her family and friends, her mare Joy, or just sipping her favorite cup of tea.


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