What is a ‘phantom pregnancy’?
Simply, it’s when an animal or human displays many of the symptoms of being pregnant, but without being so.
It can even go so far as for the teats to start producing milk, the belly swelling and marked behavioural changes.
However, with the advent of ultrasound scanning it’s a relatively easy manner to confirm. The behavioural problems can be a challenge to deal with – a mare may try to “adopt” other animals – there has even been a case of a wild lion adopting a young wildebeest, probably much to the latter’s consternation.
With dogs and cats, a stuffed toy may become the object of fixation, but horses are more complicated.
How long is a horse pregnant for? (Gestation time)
Eleven months from date of conception but like all animals, a few days either side is to be expected under normal circumstances.
How do I know if my mare is pregnant?
Your vet will be able to check for a foal’s heartbeat and perhaps perform an ultrasound scan to confirm both the existence of a foal and its rough age, giving you an approximate birth date.
Mares start showing at about four months but can be hard to detect in some heavy breeds.
How do I look after my mare during her pregnancy?
Regular vet checks are the main thing and if you are worried about anything check it with the vet.
However horses are very resilient and nature is a wonderful thing so chances are everything will be fine.
Make sure she has a good balanced diet, I don’t mean pump her full of protein just give her the best of everything and increase her feed slightly as she gets nearer to foaling, pregnant mares get tired the same as pregnant humans so make sure she has a safe, comfortable place at night.
This is also important as she is likely to foal in the early hours of the morning when all is quiet. Keep her as relaxed as possible avoid any stress.
About two weeks before she is due you may want to start night checks but be careful not to disturb her when you do this, mares can hold onto the foal if they are not relaxed.
When she gives birth make sure the afterbirth has come away too, this is very important, if in doubt call the vet straight away.
Basically try not to worry too much as she will pick up on it, keep everything relaxed and let both of you enjoy her pregnancy.
How can I tell my mare’s about to give birth?
There are several clues available.
A mare will often start lactating (oozing milk from her teats) several days before birth.
Her behaviour may also change markedly, such as being grumpy, irritable or splitting herself off from the herd.
The position of the foal also changes shortly before birth and you may notice a change in her belly’s shape.