Is Your Horse Pregnant? 8 Clear Signs to Tell

horse that is pregnant

How to Tell If a Horse Is Pregnant

Whether you are breeding your horse for profit or pleasure, the experience can be both intense and rewarding. It is important to know some of the common signs that your horse has conceived so that you can continue to provide them with the best care possible throughout their pregnancy. 

How can you tell if a horse is pregnant? Many signs may point to the fact that your horse is pregnant. The only certain way to tell, however, is to have your veterinarian perform an ultrasound. An ultrasound can be used as early as 2 weeks after conception to confirm a pregnancy although many owners choose to wait until the pregnancy is further along before paying for an ultrasound scan.

Luckily, there are several other ways to determine if your horse is pregnant without the help of an ultrasound or even a veterinarian. The better you know your horse’s normal behaviors and responses, the more easily you will be able to recognize these common signs of pregnancy.

8 Signs That Your Horse is Pregnant

The gestation period of a horse is usually between eleven to twelve months long! Because of this, your horse may not appear pregnant for several months, if at all. For this reason, it is important to recognize some of the other signs of pregnancy so that you can adjust your horse’s diet, exercise, and accommodations appropriately.

Absence of An Estrus Cycle May Indicate a Horse Is Pregnant

The absence of an estrus cycle is often one of the first signs you will notice when your mare conceives. In fact, the biggest sign for the first three months of your mare’s gestation period may be that she does not go into heat. 

When you are breeding your horse, you should be closely observing their estrus cycle and making notes of when your mare is in heat. This will allow you to breed your horse when she is able to conceive.

If your mare is bred during while she is in heat and does not exhibit the normal signs of estrus during her next cycle, she may be in foal! It is important to note that some horses may exhibit signs of estrus even after they conceive. Because of this, you should not rely solely on the presence or absence of estrus to determine if your mare is pregnant. 

Changes in Behaviour & Responses Can Indicate Pregnancy 

Although this is not a scientific sign by any means, a change in your mare’s behavior or response to stallions can indicate that she is pregnant. Most mares begin to act moody or flirt when a male horse is nearby, especially when she is in heat. 

If you notice that your mare seems disinterested in a male companion, there is a good chance that she has conceived! You will be able to more quickly recognize these changes in behavior as you learn more about the normal responses of your mare.

Your horse may exhibit other behavioral changes early in pregnancy in addition to a disinterest in stallions. As she progresses through the late stages of pregnancy, your mare may begin to act cranky or restless. 

Elevated Progesterone Levels Are a Sign a Horse Is Pregnant

Another sign that your horse may be in foal is to measure her progesterone levels through a blood test. Most mares will have an elevated progesterone level throughout their pregnancy. This is only one of several blood tests that an equine reproductive specialist can perform to determine if your mare has conceived. 

Blood tests are not always reliable, however, as mares who are not pregnant have been known to have an elevated level of progesterone. As with any of these other signs, a blood test that indicates pregnancy should be followed with an ultrasound scan to confirm your findings. 

Bloated Stomach Can Be a Sign of Pregnancy 

pregnant horse with bloated stomach

When your mare is in foal, you may notice that her stomach begins to look bloated, even though she is healthy. In most cases, however, you will not notice visible signs of pregnancy until at least six months after conception. 

It is important to remember that, much like humans, each mare will carry her foal in a unique way. While some mares may begin to show visible signs of pregnancy during the first few months, others may not appear pregnant to the untrained eye until days before they give birth! In fact, I have heard of several instances where the owner did not know the mare was pregnant until she was in active labor.

Changes to Mare’s Udders Can Indicate a Horse Is Pregnant

One of the latest signs that your horse is pregnant will be changes to her udders. A few weeks before your mare foals, you will begin to notice her udders fill with milk. There may be other visible changes to the appearance of her udders and teats as she nears delivery. 

If for some reason you have missed the other signs of pregnancy and notice these changes to your mare’s udders, you must contact an equine reproductive veterinarian immediately as your mare is weeks away from foaling.

Changes in Movements Can Indicate Pregnancy 

While this is the least scientific method of determining if your mare is in foal, many equestrians agree that mares who are pregnant will alter their movements. For example, they will avoid any abrupt, sudden movements. It is also common for a pregnant horse to avoid shaking her body in an attempt to protect the foal.

It is important to look for other signs that your horse is pregnant. However, changes in her movement may support the other common pregnancy signs included in this list. Your horse may also seem more lethargic during the first month of her pregnancy and the last few months before foaling. If she is hesitant to participate in an activity, it is best to trust her intuition. After all, she is the one carrying the foal! 

Ultrasound Scan Is The Best Indicator That a Horse Is Pregnant

Of course, the only way to tell for sure that your mare is in foal is to have a veterinarian perform an ultrasound scan. This can be done as soon as two weeks after conception. You can also choose to wait to perform the first ultrasound until several months after conception if you are confident in the other signs of pregnancy that your mare has exhibited.

If you are interested in finding out the sex of the foal, an ultrasound can provide you with that information starting around month 4 of the gestation period. For this reason, many owners choose to wait until this benchmark to request an ultrasound scan.

Regular ultrasounds and preventative care from an equine reproductive specialist will allow you to provide the best care possible to your horse and her unborn foal.

Lack of Clear Signs That a Horse Is Pregnant 

Vet looking for signs that a horse is pregnant

More often than you may realize, horse owners discover that their mare is in foal just hours before the foal is delivered. Some mares may not exhibit many signs of pregnancy, or the owner simply may not be expecting the cause of the mare’s odd behavior to be pregnancy. While this is unlikely if you bred your mare intentionally, it is important to prepare yourself for the possibility. 

It is also important to remember that false pregnancies are rather common in horses as well. If your horse is exhibiting one or more of these common pregnancy signs, it is best to have them examined by an equine reproductive specialist to truly determine their current status. 

Caring for a Pregnant Horse

While horses bred, carry, and deliver foals on their own in the wild, a little extra care and attention will ensure that they remain healthy throughout their gestation period. At the beginning of your horse’s pregnancy, you will find that many aspects of her care remain the same. 

With the exception of the first month, your horse will be able to eat her regular feed, exercise as normal, and be ridden until she is around 6 months pregnant. Of course, it is important to follow any special guidelines your veterinarian provides during this time to prevent a miscarriage or injury to your horse. 

Most equine reproductive experts suggest light activity during the month following conception as those weeks are the most critical for the survival of the foal.

Once your horse is roughly six months into her gestation period, it is a good idea to discontinue riding her until after she has recovered from foaling. However, daily exercise should continue as it is one of the best ways to prepare her for a safe and productive delivery.

During the last three or four months of your horse’s gestation period, the foal will begin to grow at an astonishing rate. In fact, most foals gain around 1 lb. each day for the months leading up to their birth. Because of this, you will need to alter your mare’s dietary plan, providing her with additional feed, vitamins, and minerals. 

When your mare is pregnant, she is more susceptible to illness and disease. For this reason, it is important to closely monitor her health and wellbeing throughout her pregnancy. While this can begin to wear on you as the owner, it is truly the best way to ensure that your mare and her foal are safe and healthy.

By recognizing the earliest signs of pregnancy in your mare, you will be able to provide both her and her foal with the best quality care throughout the long gestation period. 

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My husband and I started Equine Helper to share what we’ve learned about owning and caring for horses. I’ve spent my whole life around horses, and I currently own a POA named Tucker. You can learn more here.

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