A conscientious owner might have many questions in her mind when her mare starts expecting. One of these questions is whether you can ride a pregnant horse or not? This topic stirs a lot of debate in the horse world, but we’re about to put an end to it once and for all.
It should be kept in mind that each pregnancy has a different impact on the pregnant horse, so the guidelines mentioned are general and shouldn’t be considered as medical or professional advice.
So, Can You Ride a Pregnant Horse?
According to the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP), you can ride a pregnant mare for the first 7 months of its pregnancy without any worries. However, you should avoid riding your mare in the last 2 to 3 months, that is, before foaling. No strenuous activity should be required of her and you should allow only the slightest of exercises which she wants to do on her own.
We need to make sure that at no point, the health of the pregnant horse shall be compromised. With that said, the AAEP recommends that you treat your pregnant horse just like any other in the first 7 months of pregnancy. This means allowing her ample amount of exercise and not changing her diet, as we’ve noted in our article on horse pregnancy.
However, there is a chance of miscarriage if the horse performs strenuous exercise in the last 6 weeks or so. PetMD also notes that bacterial, fungal or viral infections, usually in the uterus or placenta, may cause sudden abortions as well.
When Can You Ride a Horse After Foaling?
You can usually start riding a horse 6 to 8 weeks after foaling given that the foaling process and pregnancy were normal. The broodmare needs recuperating after giving birth to the foal. She’ll be ready to be ridden once again if you provide her an adequate time to heal.
However, keep in mind that the mare and the foal shall not be separated from each other when you start riding again. Make sure to keep her foal close by so she doesn’t get anxious.
Ground-work and riding can not be productive if the mare is distracted or stressed. If such a situation persists, try considering a “babysitter” for the foal. Geldings are very suitable for such a job. Once this problem is solved and the horse has recovered, you can ride her again.
Riding the mare again when it’s safe for her is very beneficial for her health as it has a reconditioning effect. If you are a novice, you should consult your veterinarian on when to start riding your horse again. Also, you might see some changes in her temperament after birth. This is normal and is often caused by the hormonal imbalances in the mare’s body.
During this time, appropriate care should be provided to both the mare as well as the foal. Negligence in care may cause the broodmare to withdraw from work and you might not be able to ride her for a while.
Benefits of Riding a Pregnant Horse in the first 7 Months
Did you know that in the first 7 months of a horse’s pregnancy, it’s safe to ride her like normal? Well, let me rephrase that a bit.
Riding a pregnant horse in the first 7 months is not just safe, it’s better for the horse. Here’s why.
1. Fewer Mood Swings
Pregnant horses often become very moody due to hormonal changes occurring in their body. Life can gradually become a nightmare for them if you don’t keep them busy. Riding a pregnant horse can make her feel relaxed and soothed during this time.
2. Maintaining Concentration
Pregnant mares often become sluggish. A lazy horse will eventually produce a lazy foal. So as to retain their fitness, your horse should be ridden during the first 7 months of pregnancy. This way, the horse maintains concentration and remains active.
3. Better Temperament
Since a pregnant mare doesn’t experience estrus cycles, some horses end up with an improved temperament. This allows them to enjoy the riding process a lot more.
4. Less Defensive Interactions
Pregnancy has a positive impact on the horse’s mutual interactions as well. A pregnant mare doesn’t receive any advances from stallions, and hence it reduces the defensive attitude of the horse. (Here’s a piece on the breeding behaviour of horses if you’re interested in that) Some mares also tend to become more tolerable to riding and working when they are pregnant.
Risks of Riding a Pregnant Horse in its Final Trimester
We have stated many times that a pregnant mare should only be ridden until the seventh month of pregnancy. Apart from that, continuing to ride your pregnant mare may have the following risks:
1. Problems in Balancing Weight
Mares start showing misbalance only in the last trimester. When they do, she should be rested. If you continue riding a pregnant mare in the last trimester, then there is a chance you’ll hurt yourself and the mare as the latter may lose her balance and fall. Not to mention, a person atop the mare’s back will only make matters worse.
2. Physical Discomfort
Pregnant horses also have a feeling of discomfort especially when the pregnancy reaches its later stages. At this period even the horse herself won’t allow you to ride her and even if you manage to ride her somehow, it won’t be a good experience. Riding a pregnant horse in the eighth month can have serious adverse effects.
3. Problems in Fitting Tack
Due to pregnancy, the saddle or tack may not fit properly on your horse, causing pressure sores. Even if you do manage to find or buy new tack that fits your horse in, let’s say, the 8th month of pregnancy, chances are that it won’t in the ninth.
Exercising a Pregnant Horse
As mentioned above, during the first 7 months, you should treat your pregnant mare as if she’s not pregnant. Remember that gentle running and exercising produces no stress in the fetus. Furthermore, experts say that there’s no difference between the heart rate of a pregnant exercising mare in the first seven months and one that isn’t pregnant. This suggests that exercising at this time is nothing but beneficial for the mare.
Exercise helps relieve stress in pregnant horses. It is seen that the pregnant horses that exercise daily or once in a while do not have to cope with the stress of pregnancy as compared to those who don’t exercise at all.
However, after 7 months, the exercise should be limited and no strain should be imposed on the pregnant mare. Exercising beyond this point can lead to drastic effects and even miscarriage.
When the pregnancy reaches the eighth month, you should provide the horse with an open stable where she can walk around when she feels like it.
FAQs About Riding a Pregnant Horse
Horse pregnancy can be quite tricky to handle which is why many of our readers ask several questions related to it. Some of them are as follows:
Can you ride a horse while you’re pregnant?
Yes, you can ride a horse while you are in your initial stages of pregnancy. The reason is that in the first trimester, the baby is in the pelvic girdle which protects it, so there’s minimal risk involved. Once you cross the first trimester, the risk to your baby increases as it moves higher in the abdomen and receives lesser protection.
The pelvic girdle is a bony structure found below the abdomen just at the level of your hips. This bony structure can protect the baby if you fall off from the horse or get kicked. So if you are a trained horse rider and have years of experience in riding, you can ride a horse.
But it’s better to stay safe as you never know what life brings you. As the pregnancy progresses to the second and third trimester, the size of the baby increases and it moves upward in the abdomen. At this stage you should certainly stop riding horses as the jostling motion of your horse can separate the placenta from the uterus.
What do you do with a pregnant horse?
You should ride your horse normally in the first 7 months that your mare is pregnant. You should also monitor your horse’s nutrition and gauge when she needs an increase in her diet. Discuss this with your vet to know what dietary changes are needed for your horse. Furthermore, you should talk to your vet and keep her up-to-date on vaccines as the fetus would require immunization at this point.
All these measures are important to be taken while your horse is pregnant. Negligence may lead to an unwanted miscarriage of the fetus and it can have drastic effects on the pregnant horse as well.
How long is a mare pregnant?
Mares are pregnant for 11-12 months. However, most horses would foal between 330-345 days of pregnancy. Some cases are also seen in which the mare had gestation periods of 365 to 370 days, but that is quite rare.
The gestation period of a horse sometimes varies due to stress as well, which is why it’s recommended not to ride them after 7 months of pregnancy. A normal gestation period requires normal stress levels along with a good healthy diet for the pregnant mare.
Can pregnant horses race?
Pregnant horses can race up to 4 months of pregnancy (120 days). After that, the horse should not race as the exertion may cause a miscarriage. A blow or injury to the pregnant horse might have negative effects on the foal even after birth.
The total pregnancy of a horse lasts for about 11 months. The first 4 months, however, the horse can run and race at full speed. After 4 months of pregnancy, the horse should not be put in races as it quite certainly will be overweight as well. More weight needs more balancing and a little imbalance can put both the mother and the fetus in great danger.