Search Results for: broodmare considerations

Bringing the Broodmares In

Yesterday was Groundhog Day and by some accounts across the country, he didn't see his shadow! Which means, Spring is supposed to be around the corner.

Here's hoping…

In addition to the folklore, for us it was also the day to bring our broodmares in. With some early spring foaling dates, we like our mares to have at least a month or more of being inside the barn at night so they can get used to the surroundings where we hope they will foal. We find there are many benefits in regards to the health and well-being of our broodmare band in doing so. Giving the mares at least a month's leeway gives them a chance to acclimatize to a warm barn (versus the outdoors) and we can get them used to straw bedding at approximately 2 weeks prior to their due date. Also, bringing them in from the pasture every night allows us to take a good look at each mare and see how the pregnancy is progressing. And finally, putting them into the stalls of our foaling barn every night helps them build up antibodies in their colostrum for the foal's new surroundings.

On the contrary, bringing them inside with less than a month before the estimated due date, or even at their due date, only serves to stress the mothers-to-be out. And with expected due dates of early March, leaving them outside to foal is out of the question since March temperatures can be bitterly cold here in Regina, SK.

So for the next few days on My Stable Life let's talk about some other important considerations to keep in mind, in preparation for foaling.


• All pregnant mares must have body condition scores (BCS) of 5 or greater. This is because maintaining pregnancy becomes very difficult when the BCS of mares drops below this level.

• A body condition score of 5 is defined as “moderate” in the equine BCS scale. It is described as a mare that has a level back and her ribs cannot be visually distinguished, but can be easily felt. The wither appears rounded over the spinal vertebrae and the shoulders and neck blend smoothly into the mare's body. Also, fat around the tailhead feels spongy.

• The mare should foal at a BCS of 6 or greater and this degree of body fat needs to be established during the first 8 months of pregnancy, since digestive capacity of considerably reduced during the last trimester.

• Lactating mares, on the other hand, must also have body condition scores of 6. Since it is still very difficult for mares to gain weight while nursing, this body condition should have been established long before the foal is born. Mares will also experience a small to moderate weight loss once the foal is born and nursing – and the mare can only eat so much to maintain herself, plus ensure she has the energy for lactation. It is not possible for her to also eat during this time so that she actually gains weight.

• A body condition score of 6 is defined as “moderate to fleshy.” It is described as a mare that has a slight ridge along her back. The fat over her ribs feels spongy and fat around the tail head feels soft. Fat packets are also deposited (and can be felt) along the sides of her withers, behind the shoulders and along the sides of her neck.

Ensure your broodmare is prepared for foaling by first ensuring she has the right body condition score.

Tomorrow, MSL will focus on broodmare nutrition throughout various stages of pregnancy, plus other things you can do to ensure your foal has the best start in life!


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Beyond Deworming – PT 2

If you caught My Stable Life’s Beyond Deworming post last week, you may have seen that reader, Valerie Smith posted some very good questions for further discussion. Those questions were as follows:

1. What dewormers do we use at what time of year? There are so many kinds out on the market right now, it can be confusing. Is there a chart? or Website?
2. Does your geographic location matter?
3. Does your weather factor into what type of dewormer you use, like if in Oct you are moderately dry – does that factor into it against someone that is very wet in the same time of year?

Today, Western Horse Review Health Editor, Susan Kauffmann helps answer some of Smith’s queries. (For broodmare deworming considerations, check out Vet Q&A For Pregnant Mares):

“A few years ago, WHR published exactly the information you are looking for, Valerie. These recommendations were put forward by Dr. Ray Kaplan, a leading parasitologist at the University of Georgia. Here is what he had to say, from our previous article:”

Recommendations for Worm Control in Adult Horses in a Cold Northern Climate

Worm control programs are best viewed in the context of a yearly cycle starting at the time of year when worm transmission to horses changes from negligible to probable.  In the northern states with cold harsh winters, this is in the spring when temperatures begin to moderate and grass begins to grow.  Eggs of intestinal strongyles of horses do not survive and develop on pasture to any significant level during the cold winter months, although small numbers of infective L3 already on pasture in the late fall may survive into the spring.  However, L3 that survive over the winter, will die fairly rapidly once the temperatures rise in the spring.  Since worm transmission begins again in the spring, this is the time when the worm control cycle begins.

The objective of a worm control program is to optimize the health of horses — not to kill all worms.  Small numbers of small strongyle worms cause little harm and treating low level infections can actually cause more harm to the horse than not treating.  With this in mind, the goals of the worm control program laid out here are to: (1) keep FEC low thereby reducing future worm transmission, (2) control all important parasites by using the right drug in the right horse at the right time of the year, and (3) reduce the development of drug resistance so that the drugs we have now will remain effective into the future. Horses classified as high, moderate and low egg shedders will be managed differently since their treatment needs are quite different.  Please keep in mind that this suggested program is just one of many possible programs and there is room for differences of opinion among parasitologists and veterinarians. Ultimately, each farm (with veterinary guidance) should
develop its own program tailored to the needs of the farm.  Furthermore, program recommendations must be modified to fit the needs of different regions because differences in climate and management practices can have a major influence on program requirements.  The take home message must be that there is no such thing as a one size fits all program, but there are general principles that do not change.

Before a rational program can be developed, one must know which drugs work and which drugs do not.  Therefore, a prerequisite for establishing a rational program is performing a fecal egg count reduction test (FECRT).  This is rarely done but is of utmost importance.  Extremely high levels of resistance to dewormers are present in the important small strongyles of horses.

The program outlined below is for adult horses in a northern climate.  Foals will require a different program.  The first treatment of the worm control cycle should be given in April and the last treatment given in October or November.  [NOTE: In Kentucky, we do not know the precise epidemiology of strongyle transmission, but it is possible that in years with warm winters it is significantly greater than the typical situation in the northern states.  Likewise, in years with cooler summers, transmission might be significantly greater than the typical situation for southern states in the summer.  However, in most years it is likely that from June through August and again from December through February, temperatures are sufficiently high or low to prevent any significant transmission.  However, because the necessary research has not been done on the seasonal transmission in the “border” states, and weather may vary considerably from year to year, it is difficult to make precise recommendations for this region.]



Which Horses?    Treat all horses regardless of FEC

Drug(s) of choice:    ivermectin or moxidectin with or without praziquantel

Why these drugs? These drugs will kill any migrating large strongyles and any strongyles (both large and small) that are in the intestinal lumen. These drugs are also very broad spectrum so will kill a variety of other worms that might be infecting the horses.  They also have the highest efficacy against strongyles, ensuring that egg shedding will be extremely low during this critical time (mid to late spring) of the worm transmission cycle.  If the farm has a history of tapeworm problems or even periodic positive fecals for tapeworm eggs, now is a good time to give a treatment for tapes using one of the products containing praziquantel.  This will prevent shedding of tapeworm eggs at a time when the orbatid herbage mites are coming active once again.

Is there a reason to use one over the other? Moxidectin has the advantage of also killing large numbers of the encysted small strongyles and prevents worm eggs from reappearing in the feces for 4-8 weeks longer than ivermectin.  However, at this time of the year there is little in the way of larval refugia on pasture. Therefore some parasitologists are concerned that using moxidectin at this time of the year may be placing more pressure on drug resistance.  If FEC are performed ahead of treatment, using moxidectin only in horses with FEC >500 or in horses known to have chronically high FEC (High Contaminators), and using ivermectin on the remainder would be a rational decision.  Also worth considering is the fact that late winter/early spring is the time when larval cyathostomosis is most common.  Moxidectin is the only drug that can prevent this serious but rare disease.  Therefore, any horse that has had chronic diarrhea over the winter or early spring should be treated with moxidectin.

Should I perform FEC?    Yes – on all horses.  This is probably the single most important FEC to perform all year (assuming that you follow this program and have not dewormed in the past few months).  The reason for this is that by not deworming for several months, the FEC seen will be a strong indicator of each horse’s innate immunity of small strongyles (strongyle contaminative potential).  Based on this FEC you can then categorize your horses to low (500 epg).  This characteristic of individual horses has been shown to be highly repeatable between seasons and years.  The exception to this is if worm control has been severely inadequate over the past year(s).  In such cases, many horses may show up as high egg shedders.  However, once a good parasite control program is instituted and monitored for effectiveness, then the FEC results can be used to profile the horses into their respective egg shedding groups.


Which horses? All those with FEC > 500 epg on the September fecal check.  Any horses that had a FEC between 150-500 epg in April should have a FEC performed and then only treated if epg >100.  Any horses that had a FEC of 500 epg) and low ( 500 epg in April, any horses that had FEC > 150 epg in June, and any additional horses with FEC > 150 epg now.

Drug(s) of choice:    ivermectin or moxidectin

Why these drugs? These drugs will kill bots that were acquired since the spring, kill the stomach worms Habronema and Draschia that are transmitted by flies and cause summer sores, sterilize Onchocerca females preventing transmission, and kill pinworms (Oxyuris equi). These drugs will also kill migrating large strongyles and any strongyles (both large and small) that are in the intestinal lumen.

Is there a reason to use one over the other? By July, small to moderate numbers of strongyle eggs have been deposited on pasture by the low egg shedders that have not been treated since April, so now there are refugia built up.  Therefore the resistance issue is less of a concern and moxidectin would be a reasonable choice as would ivermectin. Again, using moxidectin in horses classified as high egg shedders and ivermectin in the other horses would be a good option, but either drug could be used in all horses.

Should I perform FEC?    Yes – on all horses.  It is important to know how well your program is working – it is important to keep egg shedding down to low levels at this point of the summer.


Which horses?  Based on FEC.  Only treat horses with FEC >150 epg unless the horse is known to be a High Contaminator.

Drug(s) of choice: Different drugs can be used depending on the horse and what has been used previously.  Moxidectin would be a good choice for all horses that are High Contaminators (or consistently have had the highest FEC), but only if moxidectin was not already administered in July.  Oxibendazole and/or pyrantel can be used on the horses that have FEC >150 but have not shown high FEC through the year.

Is there a reason to use one over the other? Horses with chronically high FEC likely also will have large numbers of encysted larval cyathostomes and moxidectin has the greatest efficacy against these encysted stages.  Oxibendazole and/or pyrantel for all the same reasons these drugs were recommended for the June treatment.

Should I perform FEC?    Perform FEC on all horses with >150 epg on the July fecal exam.  Any horse with FEC 150 epg.

Drug(s) of choice:    Will depend largely on which drugs were used for previous treatments.

Should I perform FEC?    Yes – on all horses that were not treated in September, or were treated in September with oxibendazole and/or pyrantel.


Which horses?  Treat all horses (regardless of FEC)

Drug(s) of choice: ivermectin/praziquantel or moxidectin/praziquantel

Why these drugs?  Tapeworm transmission peaks in late summer and autumn so treatment with a drug that kills tapeworms at this time will remove all the tapes acquired over the summer and autumn.  Praziquantel is the most effective drug for tapeworms and is only available in combination with ivermectin or moxidectin.  Another good reason to choose one of these combination products is that bot transmission will have ended with the onset of cold weather (hard freezes) so treatment with ivermectin or moxidectin now will remove all the bots acquired since the July treatment and no new bots will infect horses until next spring when the bot flies become active again.  Also any of the other worms targeted in the July treatment that were picked up in the intervening few months will once again be killed.  One of the pyrantel products labeled for tapeworms could also be used together with ivermectin or moxidectin.  Using ivermectin will prevent significant egg shedding until January and using moxidectin until February.  Because no worm transmission will be occurring in the winter months, treatments can stop until the April 01 treatment.

Is there a reason to use one over the other?    As per previous discussion .

Should I perform FEC?    Yes – on all horses.  It is important to know if the horses with low FEC in April still have low FEC and if you have been successful in keeping FEC low in the horses that had high FEC in April.


This program is designed to specifically target bots (Gasterophilus), tapeworms (Anoplocephala perfoliata), spirurid nematodes responsible for producing summer sores (Habronema, Draschia), Onchocerca, pin worms (Oxyuris equi), large strongyles (Strongylus spp), and small strongyles (cyathostomes).  A few other uncommon and lesser important nematode, arthropod, and cestode parasites likely will also be controlled by this program, except in rare unusual circumstances when specific measures may be needed.  Treatments in April and November with ivermectin or moxidectin (+/- praziquantel) should control all of the worms listed above for the entire year (with the exception of cyathostomes, which will require additional treatments in some horses).  Some horses with naturally strong immunity to cyathostomes (demonstrated with very low FEC on each fecal exam) will need no other treatments because the spring and fall treatments have covered the needs of the other parasites and these horses are naturally protected from cyathostomes.  In traditional worming programs, repeated treatment of these horses accomplishes little to nothing.  Some horses in the herd will need a 3rd treatment for cyathostomes, but only a few horses (should be less than 30% of the herd) should need a 4th or 5th treatment and only 5% or less should need more than this.  Now compare this to what you are doing now.  Many farms are treating all horses 6 times each year, and likely are getting results that are significantly less than what will be achieved on the program recommended here.  When examining the program above it is important to remember that the different drugs have differing egg reappearance periods following treatment.  It is important to know these time intervals to understand why the recommendations are made.

If you are concerned that doing all these fecal egg counts will be too expensive, then think again.  A recent cost analysis performed by veterinary students at the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine found that the cost of deworming every horse 6 times per year is about the same or more than treating based upon this schedule and performing the FEC as suggested.  In addition, using this system you know whether your worm control program is working.  By treating blindly there is no way to tell and we know that drug resistance is highly prevalent.  Treating a horse with a drug that does not work because of resistance is very expensive – you waste the money spent on the drug and you risk failure of your worm control program.  Treating a horse that does not need to be treated wastes money and promotes drug resistance, which will have future adverse consequences to the health of your horses.

Vet Q&A For Pregnant Mares

When it comes to looking after the health protocol for +40 horses, some things are fairly straightforward. Deworming, vaccinations, dental and hoof care are all regular considerations we schedule, organize and then record to ensure our herd is at the peak of its health. However, when it comes to these same aspects regarding our broodmares (or mares that we have gotten in foal for the upcoming year), we often think twice. Some regular health protocols all of a sudden aren’t so regular if a mare is partway through gestation and may need to be held off in between pregnancies. Or it may be that different protocols might come into place altogether concerning broodmares.

Dr. Chris Berezowski DVM, DACT, DABVP (Equine) of Moore Equine Veterinary Centre in Calgary, AB, has kindly offered to help answer some of these common broodmare concerns.

Q. Deworming in broodmares is something that has me really concerned – Can you please outline a proper deworming schedule for broodmares year-round?

A. Deworming protocols always seems to be a scary topic for most people. It is true that Ivermectin is the most commonly recommended safe dewormer. Other options for dewormers that have been proven safe for pregnant mares include fenbendazole and moxidectin. Quest Plus and Eqvalan Gold are not approved for use in pregnant mares.

My general recommendation for deworming pregnant mares is to use a rotation of ivermection, moxidectin and fenbendazole during pregnancy and then a Quest Plus after foaling but before rebreeding.

Q. Do you need to keep lights on in your foaling barn, after the foal is born, if you are planning to breed your mare on her foal heat? And do lights help a mare cycle any better if she is already pregnant?

A. Yes, if a mare foals early in the season (Jan – April) but is not under artificial light, she will most likely not be having fertile heat cycles until late April or May.  Even though she was pregnant, she still needs the artificial lighting to stimulate her to cycle early.

Artificial lighting won't help a mare cycle better if she is already pregnant.  The benefit of artificial lighting is to have an earlier start to the breeding season.

Q. Would you do a pregnant mare's teeth? Is anesthetic ok for them?

A.  I prefer not to sedate any mare during pregnancy unless it is absolutely necessary. The reason is that the sedation given to the mare also makes its way to the fetus.  Situations where the mare has a medical issue that necessitates sedation (colic, laceration, etc…) is when I would use it, as the benefit outweighs the risk. For things like a yearly dental, I would wait until the mare is not pregnant. This is a good thing to do prior to rebreeding next spring.

Q. I understand that Ventipulmin may not be safe for mares in late gestation? If so, why not?

A.  It is true that Ventipulmin is not safe to use in late gestation mares. The reason is that it can interfere with the activity of oxytocin and the normal contraction of the uterus during labor.

Q. If you had a mare that gave birth to a foal that did not receive enough colostrum from her this year, would you breed her again? Would embryo transfer be a safer bet?

A. If a mare has produced either a low amount or low quality colostrum on a previous foaling, there is a significant chance that it will happen again on a subsequent foaling.  In these situations, you can use high quality colostrum from another mare and feed it to the newborn foal or you can administer IV plamsa to the foal.  Embryo transfer is an option but there is no guarantee that the recipient mare will produce adequate colostrum either.

Breeding the Older Mare, PT 4

Alrighty! We're down to our last segment in our Breeding the Older Mare series. Parts One, Two & Three discussed some of the challenges breeders face with aging broodmares. These include uterine health, contamination and infection, past foaling history and / or traumas, infertility and keeping your older mare in foal, once she is confirmed pregnant.

So with all these considerations, what if you, as a breeder, decide that the pros absolutely do not outweigh the cons when it comes to breeding your older mare this year? The good news is, if you'd still like a foal from her, you do have options.

Dr. Chris Berezowski DVM, DACT, DABVP (Equine) of Moore Equine Veterinary Centre in Calgary, AB, helps My Stable Life out today with some Q & A insight into the world of embryo transfer regarding older mares.

Credit: PS Video

Q – At what age can a breeder no longer obtain embryos from a mare?

A – It can be variable depending on the total reproductive health of the mare.  In a lot of cases, we are able to get embryos from mares into their mid-twenties.

Q. Do her aging eggs become a concern/challenge at any point for embryo transfer?

A – The fact that the eggs (oocytes) are older can lower the overall pregnancy rate, as these older oocytes have a higher chance of having damaged DNA.

Q. At what age should a breeder consider embryo transfer from a mare? (If you have a good one you want to continue getting foals from)

A – Usually the deciding factor is when the mare is not able to carry pregnancies on her own anymore.  Either because of poor uterine health or other physical ailment. As long as the mare can still become pregnant and maintain it for the first seven days, then an embryo transfer can be successful.

Another reason for doing embryo transfer in an older mare is to maximize the number of foals from a valuable mare as she gets near the end of her reproductive life.

Q. What are some things an owner can do to ensure optimum health in the older broodmare?

A – Probably the biggest factor is just overall health.  Good nutrition, deworming, teeth, etc…

Luckily with the advent of new technology and tools (for instance embryo transfer and oocyte / embryo freezing to retain genetic material,) your old broodmare can be what she used to be.

Winter Prep Time

As the Canadian show season comes to a close this month, many horse owners will choose to turn their regularly stabled horses out for a pasture vacation at this time. For many horses, this means they will be turned out from November through February, and will return again to riding work in the spring. And they will need to adapt to sub zero temperatures and inclement weather conditions early on in the process – a big change from the heated barn and cozy stall they may have been used to.

Will you be kicking your horses out for a pasture break this winter? If so, there are several considerations you should take into account to help ensure your mount gets the most out of his time off and stays healthy while out on the Back 40. Here are some basic recommendations for your horse’s needs this winter:

1. A Winter Coat

If time can afford you as the owner, to allow your horse a chance to grow somewhat of a winter coat before turning him onto the pasture, you are already one step ahead of the game. A good coat will offer your horse some waterproofing protection and obviously, warmth. Some horses adapt better to winter than others. Thoroughbreds, for example, have thinner skin than some Quarter Horse, Paint or Appaloosa-types and therefore can lose their body condition more readily. Body fat plays a large role in heat conservation of pasture horses for the winter. And the benefits of a thick, full tail are also important, since it protects the horse’s hindquarters during windy days.

2. Good Body Condition

You will have to monitor your horse’s body condition closely in his time off, to help you gauge whether or not your equine companion needs additional nutritional needs, or a blanket to help compensate for the cold. If horses are forced to dig through thick ice and deep snow to get to grass, they may not be able to consume enough feed. At this point, a responsible owner must provide extra hay or roughage, etc., to help the horse stay warm. Pasture horses also require a proper mineral supplement.
All horses, and especially broodmares, should have some source of essential trace minerals and salt throughout the winter.

3. Water

If anyone ever tells you, “Horses don’t need water in the winter – they can just eat snow…” they are absolutely wrong. Water is a major nutrient concern for pasture horses, so it’s important to provide your animals with good sources throughout the season. An adequate water source is a vessel that is continually full with fresh, clean water and does not freeze on a regular basis. If you don’t have the luxury of an automatic water system, installing water heaters in your outside troughs may prevent you from having to break ice each morning. Some heaters even have the capability to warm the water slightly, making drinking that much more desirable for your horses. This practice can prevent dehydration of your animals in the winter and the potential for colic caused by impaction.

* AN IMPORTANT NOTE: Automatic waterers must be regularly and properly maintained throughout the winter as unfortunately, they do have the ability to freeze from time to time. Or a short in the wiring could electrocute / shock a horse each time he goes for a drink – if so, you may not know how long he has gone without water and you must fix the problem immediately. Once faulty wiring is repaired it could take your horse time to regain his confidence enough to return to the waterer.

4. Shelter

Shelter is the final necessity required for winter pastured horses. If you can’t provide your animals something with a roof on it, a wind break may suffice. Trees and shrubs, gulleys, cliffs and valleys are considered “natural wind-breaks” and can provide protection from the wind and elements to some extent. However, a sided and overhead shelter that is free from hazards like protruding nails or jutting edges is the ideal shelter for pasture horses. Moisture or humidity, added to a strong wind means your horse is subject to the worst kind of bone-chilling weather. For this reason, wind and moisture are a pasture horses’ two main adversaries. Shivering is one of the horse’s defenses against the cold because it creates movement within his muscles. But excessive shivering means the horse cannot warm its body enough to reach a comfortable body temperature again.

Winter is a beautiful time, but it’s often a six-month (or longer) span in Canada that also comes with many perils. Keep your horses safe and healthy with the above 4 basic considerations for our coldest season of the year.