Hi everyone! DISCLAIMER: I did not breed this mare, I really bought her foal from last year and she came as a package deal - she was essentially a rescue. There was a possibility when I got her that she was bred back but it wasn't certain - well now we know and there is no changing that. She will not be bred again. I'm not an idiot and I do know how to deal with pregnant mares and births, I've delivered many foals, just never my own before. So please, looking for helpful advice here!
I have some questions about my mare, Freyja. I got her last July with a colt at heels. At the time I got her I was told she had been pastured with the stallion since the birth of the foal, so was possibly bred back, though I had my doubts at the time due to the poor condition the mare was in.
Well, it became clear the mare was definitely bred. The vet has been out several times for various purposes and has always given her an exam each time he has been here, and last week he came and gave her an update of shots, etc. Health wise she is in good shape now, she had reached good body weight by fall and held her weight and gained through the winter. I have worked at a couple different stables over the years, and had lots of hands on experience with delivering foals, but this is the first time with my own horse and I am seeing some inconsistencies in relation to what I have experienced in the past so I am hoping you guys might have some thoughts for me.
As I mentioned, I got the mare in July. The breeder was obviously not the careful type, it took her a while to get back to me with the birthdate of last year's colt, and I'm uncertain it wasn't a guess. Assuming the breeder WAS correct, the colt was born April first. Now, guessing that Freyja was bred back to the stallion on her foal heat, around April 10th, that would put her due around March 18th, based on a 342 day pregnancy. However....
That would mean she is on day 294 now. She had gotten so huge in the last few months - she showed very early (probably partly due to being underweight) and she is also doubtlessly carrying quite a big baby. Her last years colt is huge, and this baby is out of the same stallion - an 18 hand Shire. The mare is half shire, half paint, but although built heavy she is not overly drafty, and stands at about 15.2 or 15.3. So figuring on a huge baby. As of yesterday her belly very noticeably dropped - she went from all sticking out to the sides to all hanging below - her sides are nearly flat, so the baby has clearly moved. In the last four days she has had a lot of udder development - she's not engorged yet, but better than half full. Yellow fluid, but no proper colostrum when expressed. The muscles around her tail have relaxed down and she has no tail resistance at all. Her back end is puffy and elongated. To my experience, these signs usually show up when a mare is about a week or two off from being due. But even two weeks would put her at only around day 309 or 310 of her pregnancy - premature by anyone's standards.
I assume this mare has just been bred year after year, back to back most of her life. She's a ten year old now. In my previous experience, I have seen mares develop some early signs - particularly early udders - when they have been frequently bred - almost like they have some kind of body memory and just prepare a bit earlier. I'm not overly concerned about that. But I haven't often seen clear signs that a baby has turned until very close to the due date, and that is what has me worried. Should I be preparing for a potential preemie? My barn is old, and cold - it's 7 degrees out today. I had gone ahead and moved the mare into her foaling stall a few days ago, however she is still being turned out in the pasture during the day. Anything beyond the standard stuff I ought to have on hand? I've not raised a preemie foal before - several preemie goat kids and lambs and dogs in the past, but not horses, so I wouldn't be sure where to start, if it comes to that. Do you tube feed preemie horses? Would I need to give a dose of penicillin straight off?
I'm also wondering this - I wouldn't be surprised if the breeder was off by a month on Finn's (the colt) foaling date. I thought when he arrived, that he seemed awful big for a not quite three month old, but I hadn't been around that many 3/4 Shire colts to have a good gauge. Right now, at (supposedly) 9, almost 10 months he is 14.3 and a good 690 lbs last taping. I think there is a possibility that the colt was born a month earlier, and then Freyja bred a month earlier than what the breeder said - which would put her due date on or around Valentine's day. This would put her current signs right on track with what I am used to seeing, and mean she is on day 325 of her pregnancy now - which all seems to fit. However I have no way of being sure. The breeder couldn't give me any good information on the mare - no idea of her typical pregnancy length, if she showed signs early or anything - I think frankly the woman just has way too many horses and far too few organizational skills. She said she knows the baby is born when she walks out in the pasture and sees it.
So, for those of you who have experience with this sort of thing - is it common to see mares exhibiting these sort of signs a good 6 weeks or more before they are due? I know no mare can be 100% predictable when it comes to foaling and many don't play by the "rules"
. I know I might well be worrying for nothing. I just want to be prepared in any event.
Thanks so much!