It's a VERY long story.
I have a 22 year old Kentucky mountain mare. She was my technical first horse, and was a mess training wise. Nearly ten years, many hours learning on different horses, many tears and smiles later she has become my dream horse. About two years ago now I started to realize that, despite her being in extremely good shape period, especially for her age, that maybe I could try breeding her so that I would have something of her behind when she did pass.
So I did research. I bought lots of books and read as many articles as I could. I knew it would already be a long shot because of her age. I knew that it would be an even longer shot because as far as I knew she was a maiden. I knew it was going to be expensive and I was prepared to pay. It didn't matter as long as I though I could have a chance and a hopeful dream. I understood the risks to my mare, but I trusted my vet, as he was not concerned about her being able to deliver safely.
Spring 2019 was a very weird spring for our area. It was VERY rainy and dark with very little sunlight (other mares foaling this year in our area are almost 2 months off because of a late transitional period) I have observed previous years where she had a typical transitional period of one raging, long heat, in which she showed for our geldings, and then heat cycles where I couldn't notice it very well or not at all. Spring 2019 this was not the case. She's had no heats until very late, almost May
Last April I had a BSE from our vet and he said she would be good to go, despite her age, and via palpation said she was in fact had been developing a follicle, her first heat cycle of that year. So we took her to the breeders about a week later, in which it was early May. When we got there she was in full heat, and the breeder hand bred her later that day with the main stallion. I believe it was inexperience of detecting subtle heat cycles on my part, the very dark/weird spring we had, and the fact that I had usually relied on her showing at least a little for the geldings, or having a clear discharge. On a vast majority of her heats, she has a clear discharge. Anyway, she stayed in a week, and we brought her home. 3 weeks later she came back into heat, took her back, but I think I probably caught the end of it (once again, my stupidity). We had a vet check, and she was confirmed via palpation to be open. So we gave her one last chance. The third time, the week of July 27th, she was bred and confirmed pregnant 3 weeks later via palpation.
It is important for me to point out that we live in a very rural area. The closet professional barn is about an hour away, and, (while I trust our local vets and in no way wish to discredit them or their experience) they are most experienced with cattle reproduction, since most of the animals in this area are cattle. The only other work they do as far as equine reproduction is the farm where my mares was sent to. They do not use US for detecting equine pregnancy or ovulation. My point is, equine reproduction is not their area of expertise. These rural vets MUST be a jack of all trades and I admire them for it, but they do not explicitly practice equine reproduction.
Anyway, my mare's progression up to late June (her due date) was normal. I stupidly believed that because of that, I didn't need to have her checked mid pregnancy. The breeder in my area does not have them checked mid term either. I regret it severely and I have learned my lesson from it. While I know that a mare can loose a foal, and because of hormones, not have heat cycles that year, I have not seen any heat cycles or any sort of uncharacteristic behavior, not signs of delivery or abortion.
June came and went and it began to be late July. During a routine visit, I asked the vet about how close she was to foaling. He said she probably had another month, which would put us at late August, which would be 12, almost 13 months. I understood that it was not abnormal for horses to go beyond even 12 or 13 months, but I began to worry about everything (as is my nature). While I had been careful to keep her away from fescue, and grass seed heads in general, I worried that she could be suffering from fescue toxicity. I switched her to a diet of alfalfa hay in June, which was later than I wanted to get her on good hay. I had wanted to get her on good alfalfa hay much before, but it wasn't possible at that time. But for the most part I think I have kept her away from fescue.
Early August, during my routine checks, I noticed her starting to develop a bag. During the entirety of that month, she bagged up enough of clear liquid to be able to have some milked from her, but not enough to develop a very big bag, which also caused me to worry. I did not notice her behavior change. I did not see any discharge. No signs of abortion or birth.
I tried to convince myself everything was fine, but after September but I began to worry again, and this morning I had the very come to check her. Via palpation, he said she was open. I asked him when he thought she may have lost it, and he thought maybe within the first few months. I am extremely puzzled because she was able to look deceptively pregnant when he saw her last in July, and it was enough to make me think I was seeing her progress. She has never been a fat mare, although an easy keeper, and I can feel but not see her ribs. I do not think she is overweight, despite the fact I have been feeding her like a pregnant mare, with supplements and alfalfa. I know you can't judge if a mare is pregnant by looking at them, her belly looks as though she is pregnant, although not big like a broodmare who has foaling many times has. But I chalked that up to being a maiden. She has never had a really big belly like that either. Not to mention the fact that she had started bagging up for a month of clear ("witch's milk"?") liquid. I have also felt what I believed to be a little bit of muscle relaxing in the hind, but maybe i am imagining things. If she had aborted in the last few months, wouldn't I have seen signs of labor or a fetus? Plus, wouldn't she have bagged up more? And if she had aborted early, why in the world is she just now developing a bag? She has been in a pen by the house where I can watch her and I have seen nothing. If it weren't almost 14 months now, I would say that perhaps the vet missed it because of the weight of the fetus pulling the uterus down, but being so long overdue, I don't know if she could be so far without showing more signs of birth. She still has clear liquid in both teats, and while still flaccid and not full like a bag should be, it's still enough to be able to milk.
My uncertainty is not because I am not ready to accept that she is not pregnant after so long. I knew it was a miracle she was even able to get in foal or carry a pregnancy at all. I'm extremely upset and I know the logical thing is that she is simply fat not and not pregnant, but after reading some threads of vets missing foals via palpation in the later months, I can't help but have a small hope that perhaps this is the case.
Does anyone have any stories or knowledge that can help me understand what I have been seeing? Or any more stories of vets missing foals? I don't want to take much action as far as getting her to back into her work until I know why I am seeing such odd things, just in case a missed foal were to be the case, or at the very least some medical issue. I am going to have a conversation with my vet next week with my questions, but I am hoping to get some insight from this forum.
Thank you to all who even read half of my inexcusably long post. I'm SO sorry it is so long. Still reeling from this morning. Some I felt was needed because other people on other forums have attacked me for breeding an older mare, or breeding period and I felt it best to explain everything to avoid it all if I could.
I have photos of her if anyone wants to see her condition throughout pregnancy, if that will help.