Hello there! My name is Neil Draper and today we’ll be discussing proper nutrition for pregnant horses. In this article, we’ll cover the importance of feeding your mare clean and nutritious hay, as well as providing clean water for her. We’ll touch upon the horse’s delicate respiratory system and why it’s crucial to keep their hay free from dust, dirt, and mold. Additionally, we’ll explore the recommended feeding schedule, the appropriate amount of hay to feed, and the significance of maintaining a healthy weight for your pregnant horse. Moreover, we’ll emphasize the necessity of clean water, the amount a pregnant horse should drink, and the importance of keeping the water free of algae and parasites. So, let’s dive right into the vital topic of proper nutrition for pregnant horses and ensure the well-being of your mare and her foal!

The Importance of Nutrition for Pregnant Horses

Understanding the vital role of nutrition in pregnancy

When it comes to the health and well-being of a pregnant horse, nutrition plays a vital role. Just like in humans, proper nutrition during pregnancy is essential for the growth and development of the foal, as well as supporting the overall health of the mare. A well-balanced diet ensures that both the mare and foal receive all the necessary nutrients, vitamins, and minerals for optimal growth and immune function. It also helps prevent complications during pregnancy and ensures a healthy start for the foal.

Factors influencing the nutritional demands of a pregnant horse

The nutritional requirements of a pregnant horse can vary depending on several factors, such as the stage of pregnancy, the mare’s age and body condition, and the expected foal size. As the pregnancy progresses, the mare’s energy needs increase, along with the demand for specific nutrients like protein, calcium, and phosphorus. Furthermore, factors like the mare’s activity level, temperament, and environment should also be taken into consideration when planning her diet. Consulting with a veterinarian or equine nutritionist can help determine the specific nutritional needs of a pregnant horse.

Proper Forage for Pregnant Horses

Significance of clean and quality alfalfa

Alfalfa is often recommended as an important component of a pregnant horse’s diet due to its high nutrient content. It is rich in protein, calcium, and other essential minerals that support proper bone development in the foal and help maintain the overall health of the mare. It is crucial to ensure that the alfalfa is of high quality, free from dust, dirt, and mold. Horses, especially pregnant ones, have delicate respiratory systems, and dust or moldy hay can lead to respiratory issues and other health problems.

Balancing alfalfa with grass hay

While alfalfa is beneficial for pregnant horses, it should not be the sole source of forage. It is essential to balance the diet by incorporating grass hay. Grass hay provides essential fiber and helps maintain healthy gut function in horses. By combining alfalfa and grass hay, pregnant horses receive a more complete and balanced diet. The ratio of alfalfa to grass hay can vary based on the individual horse’s needs, so it is crucial to consult a veterinarian or equine nutritionist for guidance on the appropriate proportions.

Importance of feeding from a clean eating environment

Providing a clean eating environment is crucial for pregnant horses to ensure their health and well-being. Feeding from a clean trough or ground helps prevent ingestion of dirt, dust, and other contaminants that can lead to digestive issues or respiratory problems. Regularly cleaning the feeding area, removing manure, and ensuring fresh, clean water is readily available are simple yet effective ways to maintain a healthy eating environment for pregnant horses.

Feeding Habits and Schedule

Why feed at least twice a day

Pregnant horses, like all horses, have natural grazing behavior. In the wild, horses graze for long periods throughout the day, taking breaks to rest and eat again. Therefore, it is essential to mimic this natural feeding pattern by offering feed at least twice a day. Providing frequent meals helps to prevent digestive issues like colic and supports the horse’s metabolism. Feeding multiple times a day also promotes a happier horse by satisfying their natural grazing instincts.

The natural grazing behavior of horses

Horses are grazing animals, meaning they have evolved to eat small amounts of food frequently throughout the day. This grazing behavior is essential for maintaining proper gut function and preventing digestive issues. By allowing horses to eat in small increments, their digestive system functions optimally, reducing the risk of colic and other digestive problems. Providing hay or pasture access for pregnant horses allows them to graze naturally, benefiting both their physical and mental well-being.

Effects of over-feeding and obesity

Overfeeding pregnant horses can have detrimental effects on their health and the health of their foals. Excessive weight gain can lead to obesity, which is associated with various health problems such as metabolic disorders, laminitis, and difficulties during foaling. Additionally, overfeeding can strain the mare’s digestive system and lead to digestive upset, colic, and nutrient imbalances. It is crucial to monitor a pregnant horse’s body condition and adjust the feed amount accordingly to prevent overfeeding and obesity.

Understanding the Horse’s Digestive System

The limitations of a horse’s colon in digesting food

Horses have a unique digestive system that is designed for a consistent intake of forage throughout the day. Their colon has a limited capacity, and overloading it with large amounts of food can disrupt the normal digestive process. Overfeeding, particularly with concentrated feeds or excessive hay, can lead to fermentation issues, hindgut acidosis, and colic. It is important to provide a consistent and appropriate amount of feed to support the horse’s digestive health during pregnancy.

Possible health issues related to over-feeding

Overfeeding pregnant horses can result in various health issues. Apart from the digestive problems mentioned earlier, overfeeding can contribute to hormonal imbalances, gestational diabetes, and even intrauterine growth restriction in the foal. Additionally, excessive weight gain and obesity put additional strain on the mare’s joints, increasing the risk of lameness and musculoskeletal issues. Maintaining an appropriate feed regimen is crucial for preventing these complications and supporting the overall health of the pregnant horse.

Why horses can only use certain amounts of nutrients

Horses have specific nutrient requirements that need to be met for optimal health and fetal development during pregnancy. However, horses can only utilize a certain amount of nutrients based on their size, metabolism, and digestive capabilities. Providing excessive amounts of certain nutrients, such as protein or minerals, does not necessarily benefit the pregnant horse or the developing foal. In fact, it can lead to imbalances or deficiencies, which can have negative effects on their health. It is important to follow appropriate guidelines and consult with professionals to ensure the correct nutrient intake for pregnant horses.

Calculating the Correct Feed Amount

Determining the right quantity based on the horse’s weight

Calculating the correct feed amount for a pregnant horse starts with determining her weight. Accurate weight estimation is essential for calculating the appropriate nutrient requirements. There are various methods to estimate a horse’s weight, including weight tapes, body condition scoring, or measurements. Once the weight is determined, guidelines recommend feeding approximately two percent of the horse’s body weight in forage per day. It is crucial to monitor the mare’s body condition regularly and adjust the feed amount as needed to maintain a healthy weight throughout pregnancy.

Adjusting feeding amounts during pregnancy

During pregnancy, the nutritional demands of a mare change as the foal grows and develops. The amount of feed should be adjusted accordingly to meet the increased energy and nutrient requirements. As the pregnancy progresses, the mare’s weight and body condition should be closely monitored to ensure she neither becomes underweight nor overweight. Consulting with a veterinarian or equine nutritionist can help determine the appropriate feeding amounts at each stage of pregnancy for optimal health and development.

Ensuring Sufficient Protein and Nutrients

Role of protein in a pregnant horse’s diet

Protein is a crucial component of a pregnant horse’s diet as it plays a vital role in growth, tissue repair, and immune function. During pregnancy, mares require increased protein intake to support the growth and development of the foal. Ensuring a balanced diet that provides sufficient protein is essential for proper fetal development, milk production, and overall health of the mare. High-quality forage, such as alfalfa, can be an excellent source of protein for pregnant horses, supplemented if necessary based on individual needs.

Other essential nutrients for pregnant horses

In addition to protein, pregnant horses require a wide range of other essential nutrients for optimal health and fetal development. Key nutrients include carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, and minerals. Carbohydrates supply energy, while fats support nutrient absorption and hormone production. adequate amounts of vitamins, such as vitamins A, D, and E, are necessary for proper immune function and overall health. Essential minerals, like calcium and phosphorus, are vital for skeletal development in the growing foal. A well-formulated diet that supplies these nutrients in appropriate amounts is essential for supporting the health of both the mare and the foal during pregnancy.

Adjusting nutrient intake as the pregnancy progresses

As the pregnancy progresses, the nutritional requirements of the mare change. The nutrient demands are highest during the last trimester when the foal undergoes rapid growth. It is important to adjust the nutrient intake accordingly by increasing the amount of high-quality protein, energy-dense feeds, and appropriate mineral supplements. Regular monitoring and adjustments in consultation with a veterinarian or equine nutritionist ensure that the pregnant horse receives optimal nutrition throughout each stage of pregnancy.

The Importance of Hydration

The quantity of water a horse needs

Water is a critical component of a horse’s diet, and pregnant horses have an increased need for hydration. On average, a horse requires anywhere from five to ten gallons of water per day. However, during hot weather or intense physical activity, this requirement can rise to twenty or thirty gallons. Pregnant mares may also require additional water due to the increased demands of the developing foal. Providing access to clean and fresh water at all times is crucial to ensure the horse stays adequately hydrated.

How pregnancy increases a horse’s water requirement

Pregnancy places additional demands on a mare’s body, including the need for increased water consumption. As the fetus grows, the mare’s blood volume and overall fluid requirements increase. Adequate hydration supports the proper functioning of the reproductive system and helps prevent issues such as dehydration, decreased milk production, and reduced fetal blood circulation. Monitoring water intake and providing access to clean water sources throughout pregnancy is essential for the health and well-being of both the mare and the foal.

Maintaining Clean Drinking Water

The risk of algae and parasites in the water

Providing clean drinking water for pregnant horses is of utmost importance. Stagnant water or water contaminated with algae and parasites can pose significant health risks. Certain types of algae can produce toxins that, when ingested by horses, can lead to severe health issues and even death. Additionally, parasites present in the water can cause gastrointestinal problems and compromise the immune system. Regularly inspecting water sources and taking measures to prevent or remove algae and parasites safeguard the health of the pregnant horse.

Importance of cleaning water buckets regularly

To ensure the quality and safety of drinking water, it is essential to clean water buckets regularly. Over time, algae, debris, and bacteria can accumulate in water buckets, compromising the water’s cleanliness and palatability. Regular cleaning helps remove these contaminants and reduces the risk of health problems. It is recommended to clean water buckets at least once a day, using mild detergent or a mixture of vinegar and water to remove any build-up. Providing fresh, clean water daily supports hydration and overall well-being for pregnant horses.

Recognizing and Avoiding Health Issues through Nutrition

Common health problems in pregnant horses

Pregnant horses are susceptible to various health issues, including metabolic disorders, gestational diabetes, colic, and nutritional imbalances. These conditions can have serious consequences for both the mare and the foal if not addressed promptly. By providing a balanced and nutrient-rich diet, many of these health issues can be prevented or managed effectively. Proper nutrition supports the immune system, maintains weight and body condition, and reduces the risk of complications during pregnancy and foaling.

How proper nutrition can prevent these issues

Proper nutrition plays a critical role in preventing or minimizing the risk of common health issues in pregnant horses. A well-balanced diet supports weight management, which can help prevent metabolic disorders and obesity-related problems. Providing adequate nutrients and minerals, such as magnesium and chromium, can help regulate glucose metabolism and prevent gestational diabetes. Ensuring sufficient fiber intake supports proper gut function and reduces the risk of colic. By tailoring the diet to the individual needs of the pregnant horse and providing appropriate supplementation, many potential health issues can be avoided.


Proper nutrition is of the utmost importance for the health and well-being of pregnant horses. By understanding the nutritional demands of pregnancy, providing the right forage and balanced diet, and ensuring optimal hydration, horse owners can support the growth and development of the foal and maintain the overall health of the mare. Regular monitoring, consultation with professionals, and adjustments in feeding strategies throughout the various stages of pregnancy are crucial for ensuring a healthy horse and a successful foaling process. By collectively taking responsibility for proper nutrition, we can help ensure the well-being of both the horse and her foal.