During the early months of pregnancy the mare demands no special care beyond that included in the term "good stable management", and usual labour can be exacted with impunity. But towards the sixth month she should be more carefully treated than she would be if not in foal. If she is worked, and especially if the work should chance to be of a fast kind, then it ought to be, if possible, not so rapid, and be gentler and more uniform - violent paces or irregular and severe efforts are attended with danger, all the more imminent as pregnancy is advanced, and particularly so towards its finish. Within a week or two of foaling all work should cease, but exercise ought to be allowed if the mare is not in a paddock, though with care farm-mares may be permitted to do light, steady labour until within a few days of foaling. It must be remembered that exercise is beneficial, and indeed necessary, for all breeds of mares during pregnancy; but if they are allowed to run out-of-doors this should be on as level ground as possible, with a soil in which the feet will not sink, and without ditches or holes.
Mares when in foal, and especially when near foaling time, have a greater tendency to indulge in rolling than at other times when lying down, and if there are hollows, open drains, or ditches, they may become fixed in one of these, and in their struggles to get up so strain themselves as to make parturition difficult, or lead to abortion or death of the foal. All the walls or fences enclosing the fields or paddocks in which pregnant mares are kept should have no gaps or stakes projecting inwards, and all doors and gates through which such animals may have to pass ought to be sufficiently wide to permit them to pass through quite easily. Pregnant mares should not be pastured with young horses or cattle, nor exposed to anything likely to cause excitement.
The same care ought to be observed if the mare is stabled. She must be protected from annoyance or injury by other horses, and if kept in a stall this ought to be of ample width, to allow her to turn round easily in it. The floor should also be as level and horizontal as possible, so that the mare may stand and lie easily, and the weight of the abdominal contents not be thrown too much backwards. The mare should also be fastened by the head in such a manner that there may be no danger of her getting cast.
But it is always judicious to have a mare about to foal kept in a convenient loose-box or temporary shed, where there is plenty of room for her to move about, with protection from inclement weather, freedom from draughts of cold air, and good ventilation.
For litter, straw is suitable, though when parturition is near this should not be new, as some mares have a kind of morbid appetite at this time and would consume it greedily, thereby producing abdominal distention and consequently dangerous pressure on the uterus and its contents. Long new straw also becomes twisted and rolled round the feet, and so impedes movement. It is therefore advisable to use slightly soiled but dry litter that has been under other horses - this is soft and broken, so that the mare's feet will not become entangled in it, and being soiled she will not eat it.
With regard to food, the kind and quantity allowed will depend upon the stage of pregnancy which the mare has reached. If she is working, the quantity and quality should be sufficient to maintain her in good health and efficient condition - if anything it ought to be better in quality and a little more in quantity than that given to similar-sized horses not in foal, and it should, if possible, be presented more frequently. Whether the mare is or is not working, it is advisable not to allow her to become fat - indeed it is preferable to keep her in what might be termed moderate condition. There is nothing better than good hay and oats for pregnant mares; but for farm in-foal mares at work, mashes, or bruised oats or barley mixed with pulped roots, and chopped hay or straw damped with linseed-cake water, have been recommended. Maize is generally considered unsuitable for pregnant mares.
Many mares at pasture receive nothing but the grass they pick up, and when there is plenty of this and it is of good quality, the mare may do well and produce a well-developed foal; but during unfavourable weather, or when the pasturage is scanty or poor, a suitable quantity of hay and oats should be allowed, especially for morning feed; indeed at all times an allowance of oats, even if small, is advantageous.
All food should not only be of good quality, but be also capable of easy digestion. When the mare is near parturition she may beneficially, two or three times a week, have mashes of boiled linseed mixed with bran, and made more enticing by the addition of an ounce or two of salt in each mash. A very excellent adjunct to the diet is a lump of rock-salt placed in a position where the mare can conveniently get at it to lick it.
Medicines should never be administered to pregnant mares except under skilled advice.
With regard to drink, the water should be clean and pure, and allowed frequently. If the mare is stabled it should be always beside her, as then there will be no danger of her drinking too much at a time. Soft water is better than that which is hard.