It’s happening again. Breeding time! Here are some tips to ensure those maiden or empty mares are well prepared for breeding, and to optimise your pregnant mare health and the delivery of a healthy foal.

The Oversexed Mare
We all know these, it feels as though they are more in season than not. The pleasant ones are simply a nuisance: they present to anything and anyone, rub their tail constantly and drive the geldings crazy. The bad ones are nasty: they can call all day, run around, and attack their paddock mates or even their humans. Both are easy to quieten down with ONE herb:

Chaste Tree
Yes, my only regret with Chaste Tree is that I didn’t give it to my human daughters when they were teenagers ….seriously, you only need to give them about 1/4 cup a day, just mixed in their feed and that will do the trick. When they quieten down, a single Tbsp (ie half the dose) is enough to keep them that way. If they hot up again, build up to 1/4 cup, and so on.

Will that stop them from getting pregnant?
Not at all, it will just stop both the extended heat and the “PMT” type behaviour. When you wish to breed your mare, just stop the Chaste Tree. Voila!

The undersexed mare
These are actually more complicated because there could be a host of reasons why they don’t cycle. First you need to insure their nutrition is at a premium by feeding them yeast extract, vitamin E, Zinc. They need more protein; so feed them extruded grains such as Lupins as they are not only richer in protein but also more readily digested. MAKE SURE THE MARE IS NOT ON RED CLOVER PASTURE.

The herbs for these mares are: Nettle Leaf, Rosehip, Chamomile, Borago, Hawthorn Leaf and Dong Quai. 1/4 of a cup per day of any two or three of these herbs. Use less Rosehip as it packs really tight and you get more per volume.

This will work on the mare’s fertility but won’t change the behaviour of those “butter would not melt in her mouth” mares. For those silent ladies, often you just need the vet to check by ultrasound that she is indeed producing follicles.

Safe herbs in pregnancy:
Chamomile, Nettle Leaf, Liquorice, Thyme, Dandelion Leaf, Burdock, Rosehip, once again: 1/4 cup of two or three of those per day (rotate them.)
Less of Rosehip and Burdock as they pack tight.
Also Echinacea: 1/4 cup a day if needed to boost immunity for a week or two, not continually.

How about Raspberry Leaf?
Raspberry Leaf is excellent for woman and mare but not at the beginning of pregnancy. Women should start after the first trimester; for mares it is better to start when the mare is 6 months pregnant. Raspberry Leaf is wonderful to tone the uterus and helps with a swift delivery. You need to give your mare 1/3 cup per day in her feed.

Lactation herbs:
Fortunately mares are usually much better at lactation than the human species, if your mare does not seem to have enough milk first look at her nutrition and her stress levels. The herbs to help with lactation are Fennel, Fenugreek (both of these benefit for being cracked first or soaked in water overnight 1/4 cup 0f each) or Goat’s Rue.

Herbs contra indicated in pregnancy:
Dong Quai, Chaste Tree, Red Clover, Meadowsweet, Sage, Pennyroyal, Tansy, Thuja, Wormwood, Willow Bark.

The above are also contraindicated in lactation.
So, if your mare has a cold you can use Thyme (not Sage), if you do exercise her and she is a bit stiff do not use Willow Bark or Meadowsweet (which are great for all other horses), exercise your mare with kindness so that she doesn’t get stiff and sore.

Note about dosages:
It is well worth buying a set of measuring cups dedicated to the horses to keep in your feeding shed. This way, no mistakes, no problems

Happy Foaling!

© 2008 Dr Elyane Brightlight is a naturopath/acupuncturist with 30 years experience with humans and 10 years experience with equines. She keeps her five horses happy and healthy with the daily use of herbs.

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