Pregnant mares are a special category in terms of their need for nutrients, because they do not just cater for themselves, but also for their unborn foal.
Good feeding schemes prevent problems
Experts agree that many problems concerning pregnancy, birth and foal can be prevented with the right vitamins and minerals. Osteochondrosis (OCD) is a well-known example of a disorder that can be curbed with correct feeding schemes for mare and foal. ‘The importance of feeding schemes for pregnant mares is something that is often underestimated,’ says Anneke Hallebeek, ‘genes are switched on-and-off during gestation and this keeps having an effect throughout the foal’s life. Feeding plays a substantial role in this. So you don’t just feed a mare for the growth of her foal, but also for the milk production, quality of the beestings and maybe even performances in the sport.
Mare cubes from seven months into pregnancy
There is no need for feeding mare cubes in the first months of the pregnancy. From around seven months into pregnancy mare cubes come into the picture. Good-quality mare cubes usually contain the necessary vitamins and minerals like copper, selenium and vitamin E. ‘Also be aware that gestating mares shouldn’t be too fat’, Hallebeek warns. ‘That could cause problems at the time of foaling. Then maybe mare cubes are too rich in energy. So again, the feeding regime must be based on the mare’s condition.’
Grazing as well as minerals
Once the birth has taken place and both are turned out in the field then the grass, especially the rich grazing we have in the Netherlands, will provide sufficient energy and proteins for dam and foal. ‘Feeding extra minerals remains advisable’, the feeding specialist recommends. ‘And sometimes it can also be necessary to feed extra mare cubes. Feeding means prevention, this is not something you want to leave to chance.’
Dr Anneke Hallebeek completed her studies at the Veterinary Faculty in Utrecht in 1992 and subsequently specialised to be a Specialist Veterinary Animal Feeds. Via her company ‘Voedingsadvies Paard’ (Equine Feeding Advice, ed.) she advises a wide range of horse owners about feeding regimes for their horses.