The Pregnant Mare (Book Excerpt)

Editor's Note: This is an excerpt from Breeder's Guide to Mare, Foal, and Stallion Care by Christine Schweizer, DVM; Christina Cable, DVM; E.L. Squires, PhD. This book is available from

The role of the broodmare on any farm is to produce a live, healthy foal and thereby pass her genes on to a new generation of horses. All of an owner's hopes and management efforts culminate in that hour when the mare begins to labor to deliver her foal, and success is measured in the foal's first breaths and unsteady steps. In the wild, the mare must rely on strength, experience, instinct, and luck to deliver her foal and the placenta. She needs those same qualities to see that the foal nurses that first vital colostrum and bonds with her so that it recognizes and follows her. Failure to accomplish any of these tasks could result in the death of the foal and even the mare.

The foal's initial strength and vitality also determine the outcome, as the foal plays an active role in its own birth and survival right from the beginning. When considering the potential for disaster at almost every point in this scenario, along with the fact that mares have been delivering foals on their own for eons, it becomes apparent that nature knows what she is doing. Intervention by humans, on the other hand, actually can be counterproductive.

Having said that, it is also important to recognize that our domestic environment imposes conditions (such as concentration of disease pathogens) that can interfere with or create problems for the broodmare and her foal. Those who undertake the responsibility of managing the foaling mare must learn to recognize what is normal and what is not, to identify potential problems, and to troubleshoot. Planning and preparedness can help prevent illness or loss of the mare and foal.
The wild mare has no choice but to rely on luck. It is best for the domestic mare that her caretakers leave as little to luck as possible. Otherwise, all of the time, effort, and money that went into bringing the mare to this moment of delivery may have been for nothing.

About the Author

Christine Schweizer, DVM, Dipl. ACT

Christine Schweizer, DVM, Dipl. ACT, is presently a lecturer in theriogenology at Cornell University. She authored Understanding The Broodmare, published by Eclipse Press and available at or by calling 800/582-5604.Dr. Schweizer is a 1990 DVM graduate of the NYSCUM at Cornell University. She practiced in Cazenovia, N.Y. prior to an Equine Medicine and Surgery Internship at Rochester Clinic, Rochester, N.H. She next did a Residency in Theriogenology back at Cornell. Dr. Schweizer is also a Diplomate in the American College of Theriogenologists.

Stay on top of the most recent Horse Health news with FREE weekly newsletters from Learn More

Free Newsletters

Sign up for the latest in:

From our partners