Mare & Foal

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Colostrum - you know it as the mare’s first milk. It is a complex fluid, rich in nutrients and immune-regulating compounds, all designed to give the newborn foal the immune support he needs to thrive. Unlike humans who are born with an initial level of immunity, newborn horses do not benefit from any placental transfer of immunoglobulins; therefore, they must consume colostrum in the first few hours of life in order to survive.

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Recent advances in genetic research have paved the way for more effective identification and screening of genetic diseases in the horse. With these developments come new ethical considerations with respect to breeding practices, testing, and disclosure.

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Good nutrition throughout pregnancy is essential to the health of both mare and foal. Adjust your broodmare’s diet as gestation progresses to meet her changing nutrient needs.

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Traditionally, horse breeders look to the stallion for pedigree lines to produce the superior performance offspring with the desired characteristics of speed, conformation, and health. But the lineage of mares plays an equally important role not only in the genetic quality of the foal but potentially in the breeder’s selection for fillies or colts. In addition, a mare’s maternal heritage influences the length of gestation.

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When to Watch - When to Act - Ask anyone who has bred horses, and they’ll tell you it’s no easy feat. However, when it is done properly (and everything goes right), having an energetic and healthy foal is an exciting and rewarding experience. Dr. Stephen Manning is a board-certified theriogenologist and an associate professor at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM) in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

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Q - I will be breeding my mare using cooled semen. Is there anything I can do to increase her chances of becoming pregnant on the first try?

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By Juan C. Samper, DVM - Waiting for the birth of a foal seems to take an eternity, but the day when your newborn foal will stand beside its dam and nurse for the first time is almost here. Most mares will foal without problems, but if you have a high risk mare you should alert your veterinarian of potential problems early, and monitor her closely during her pregnancy to protect your emotional and financial investment.

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