by: Christina Cable, DVM, Dipl. ACVS
April 01 2003, Article # 4265
Eleven months is a very long time to wait for a foal. I know from personal experience that the further along the mare is, the more your hopes and dreams for your "perfect foal" grow. It doesn't matter if the foal is bred to gallop to the wire or jump to the moon, or whether you are dreaming about lots of markings or a perfect blanket, everyone wants one thing--a healthy foal. So, it's no wonder that breeders want to do everything possible to ensure the good health and well-being of the pregnant mare, maximizing the chances for a healthy newborn. One of the most frequently asked questions in our practice is: What supplement(s) should I give my mare to keep her healthy and pregnant? I wish there was a magic pill to ensure that every mare would deliver a perfectly healthy, full-term foal, but there isn't. This article will discuss the actual, basic nutritional requirements for a mare during her pregnancy and early lactation to help ensure a healthy mare and foal.
What a Girl Needs
It's no wonder I get asked about supplements so frequently. All you have to do is open any horse-oriented magazine to be bombarded with glossy advertisements for a vast array of supplements, not to mention new medications. So, what is a concerned horse breeder to do? You can't afford to buy all the supplements that are advertised. And even if you could, are they all necessary to ensure a healthy foal?
The bottom line for pregnant mares is good, basic nutrition. The majority of pregnant mares do not need any supplements when they have access to good-quality hay, grass, and a mineral block. Good nutrition (not over-nutrition) is the key for allowing pregnant mares to provide the essential nutrients to their unborn foals. This is true with two exceptions--vitamin E and selenium. These two nutrients are very important to the mare and the unborn foal, and they are in scarce supply in some parts of our world. So how do you know when to supplement? Read on.