From the Foaling Barn

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Gestational length

One of my mares had a pregnancy that lasted 372 days, or about five weeks longer than a normal pregnancy. The resulting foal was average in size, if not a little smaller than normal. Most equine pregnancies are considered full-term at 335 to 342 days. Occasionally, a viable foal may be born as early as 305 days. Although not common, my 372 day foal was not considered to be unusual or endangered by the prolonged gestation. There is some conjecture that these long pregnancies may be the result of fetal arrested development early in the pregnancy.

While this hypothesis has yet to be proven, what is certain about equine gestation is that it is notoriously variable. For example, foals born early in the year are usually 5 to 10 days later than foals born late in the spring. However, if mares are put under lights sixteen hours a day, then the winter affect is mitigated by 5 to 10 days. Maternal nutrition and health can also determine pregnancy length. Male foals tend to be born later than females.

I keep detailed records of each of my mares, so over the years, I can usually detect a pattern in gestational length for each one. The 372 days over-due mare was three weeks late with her second foal. Each pregnancy has gotten shorter until last April, she foaled on her due date. I have an older mare who is consistently 10 to 14 days early. But then, there are a couple of mares in my band who are consistently inconsistent.

Right now, I’m waiting for a foal that was due five days ago. While the mare started bagging up five weeks ago, she doesn’t look as though she is close to foaling. Her udder is not turgid and there has been no sign of waxing. Last year she foaled nine days late. Her records show that her fillies have arrived several days early while all of her colts have been late. Also, in the past she has streamed milk for two days before foaling. So given all I know about her, I’m pretty confident that she won’t foal for at least three or four days. At the least, I ought to have a good night’s sleep tonight.


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