Broodmare Nutrition

If you caught yesterday’s MSL (Bringing the Broodmares In), you’ll know we’re on a bit of broodmare care kick these days! And the timing is good, since Spring is (hopefully) on its way and foaling season is right around the corner. If you have broodmares and you need time to make some changes to their management and upkeep, now is the time to do it!

Today, let’s talk a bit about broodmare nutrition.

It used to be thought that nutrition for pregnant mares was the same as a horse at maintenance for the first 2/3 of her gestation. This was because it is a well-known fact that fetal growth occurs at great rates in the last trimester (therefore an increase in energy and protein is always recommended during this time).

However, more recent studies are coming to light that suggest in addition to increased protein and energy in the last trimester, a pregnant mare should also have certain vital nutrients increased long before the 9th month. Keep in mind that the foal still gains approximately 0.5 lbs a day in the first 2/3 of gestation.

The publication of the National Research Council’s latest revision of Nutrient Requirements of Horses now recommends that broodmares be fed the same as a horse at maintenance up to month 4, and every month after that should be treated as a separate “period”, meaning there are 8 distinct periods in her pregnancy. And her needs during this time are not usually met by forage alone – she will require additional supplementation.

The thinking behind this theory takes into account the nutritional requirements for the creation and maintenance of gestational tissues such as the placenta and mammary glands, in addition to the mare’s body weight and fetal growth.


To support development and maintenance of nonfetal tissues, Nutrient Requirements of Horses recommends that protein and energy requirements be raised 5 to 8% above maintenance during midgestation for an average (500-kg) mare (see chart). Unlike protein and energy, the requirement for additional minerals seems to appear later in the gestation, at approximately seven months.

This can be attributed to the fact that nonfetal tissues require mostly protein and energy and very few minerals for accretion and subsequent maintenance.

In the last trimester (last 3-4 months) however, there is maximum growth of the foal. As such, the mare’s nutritional requirements increase greatly (protein requirements go up to 12-13%). And they increase again for lactation (protein requirements go up to 14-16%).

The broodmare should be consuming 2-2.5 lbs of hay per every 100 lbs of her bodyweight, every day. And this consumption should increase accordingly with her gaining weight. The hay should be good quality, alfalfa mix. She will also require a concentrate / supplement to ensure her energy, vitamin and mineral requirements are being met (Vitamin A is especially important for broodmares). Be sure to introduce concentrates into their diet slowly! If you have not already started your mare on a supplement / concentrate early on in her pregnancy, now is not the time to start her on full scoops!! Check with your veterinarian for a feed recommendation and feeding dosage for your specific circumstance.

Equine Reproduction Course at REACH

 A two day course “Equine Reproduction for Mare Owners” is being offered at the Regional Equine & Agricultural Centre of Huron (REACH) on Saturday February 12 & Sunday February 13, 2011 in Clinton, Ontario.

“Now is the time owners should be thinking about getting their mares ready for next breeding season” says Doug Nash, workshop instructor, “and what to do from nutrition to lighting regimes will be discussed.”
This two-day course is for those who wish to learn how to prepare mares for breeding, select a stallion and perform proper AI  or natural cover techniques. Hands-on experience using the REACH mares is provided in a safe, quiet, supervised environment. In addition to learning about equine reproductive anatomy, nutrition, health management and environment of the mare in preparation for breeding will be investigated. The stages of gestation, right up to and beyond foaling are discussed. This course is designed for anyone wishing to update their knowledge and practical skills in breeding practices, or to use artificial insemination in their breeding program now or in the future. Cost for the two days is $480, which includes HST, course materials, instruction, hands-on learning in our teaching barn, refreshments and lunch each day. Dorm rooms are available for those who travel from out of town for a small additional fee.  Details are available at
“This course is proving to be popular,” says Melanie Prosser, REACH’s Director of Program Services. “We are pleased to have participants from as far away as Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia in past course offerings.”
The facilities at REACH include a complete reproduction teaching lab, heated teaching barn, high-tech classrooms, dorm rooms and a community kitchen. For further information about the course or REACH, please visit

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!

Care of Horses in a Winter Cold Snap

In light of the fact it looks like another cold snap is working its way across the prairies again, I thought it might be helpful to post the following tips for horse care in winter. They may be redundant but it never hurts to have a refresher course, part way through the season.

1. Winter tends to be a time when horses lose weight, and a heavy winter coat can hide a thin horse. Make sure to check your horse's body condition every 30 days. This means putting your hands on your horse's body and feeling around for fat deposits or a lack thereof.

2. Horses require additional energy from their diet to maintain body weight when temperatures drop below -20 degrees Celsius. Remember that pasture grasses do not grow during the colder months – and digging through snow to try and get at any left over grasses from the summer uses up the horse's precious energy stores. Providing good quality hay at 2% of the horse's body weight should meet his nutrient requirements for maintenance. Feeding hay also generates heat during digestion by gut microbes, and that helps horses stay warm.

4. Use hay feeders during the winter. Up to 20% of hay is wasted by horses when fed on the ground.

5. Consider adding fat to the diet in the form of oil or bran in order to increase the amount of energy in the diet. Fat packs more energy in each pound than carbohydrates.

6. Improve how your horse utilizes the feed you give him during winter by having their teeth checked and floated if necessary and by deworming the horse prior to the winter months.

7. Horses might decrease their consumption of cold or freezing water during the winter leading to an increased risk of colic. Make sure your horse is consuming at least 10 gallons of fresh clean water each day. Use tub and/or bucket heaters to help reduce ice formation and to keep the water lukewarm. Check all water sources and remove ice daily.

8. Horses in work or pregnant mares might require grain along with hay to maintain body weight. Avoid feeding large amounts of grain in one meal feeding in order to reduce the horse's risk of colic.

9. Provide salt blocks in fields and stalls. Although salt intake is more important during the hot summer months to replace sodium and chloride lost in sweat, horses do not meet their daily salt requirements by consuming forage alone.

10. Keep in mind that older horses have additional needs during the winter. Feeding a diet based on beet pulp prior to and during winter can help them maintain their weight during the winter.

11. Be mindful of your horse's temperature after a workout in the winter. If you must move the horse outside once it has become sweaty and heated, the horse will first need time to cool out and likely a fleece cooler to help prevent a chill from coming on – especially as you step outside. The longer hair coat your horse has, the longer he will need to cool out properly.

Wolf Teeth Question & Answer

With all the young 2-year-olds currently in our barn beginning their training, it was time to bring a vet in and have a look at their teeth. Since the youngsters are learning how to wear bridles and snaffle bits, we needed to ensure none of them had any wolf teeth – which would surely impede their training progress and may even cause them pain in the process.

It’s amazing how a tiny little tooth can affect so much.

As such, I thought it might be helpful to enlist the expertise of Dr. Larry Hanson, owner of Sherwood Animal Clinic in Regina, SK, to explain the importance of extracting wolf teeth from riding horses for MSL readers. If you are a seasoned horse owner, this information may be somewhat of a refresher course for you but if not, read on. As a mixed animal practitioner, specializing in equine for 25 years and a breeder of Standardbred race horses, Dr. Hanson has a wealth of knowledge pertaining to the horse.

Only one wolf tooth was extracted from the 2-year-old mare pictured above. However, if you note how long the root of the tooth is (pinkish part), it's no wonder that a bit striking against this tooth would be painful.

Q. Can you please describe in your own words, what wolf teeth are?

Dr. Hanson – Wolf teeth are the first premolars that usually erupt directly in front of the second premolar. This second premolar is the large tooth found first in the arcade, after the canines.

Q. How common are wolf teeth?

Dr. HansonWolf teeth are quite common and usually erupt between 6-12 months of age.  They are most commonly found in the upper arcade but can occur in the lower arcade. They are found in males and females with equal frequency.

Q. Why should horse owners be aware of wolf teeth in their horses?

Dr. Hanson – Wolf teeth are important for two main reasons. Loose tissue in the mouth can be drawn into the wolf teeth by the bit and can cause injury and pain to the horse. Secondly, wolf teeth can prevent the first large tooth from grinding properly against their counterpart and can cause formation of abnormal points and hooks in the mouth.

Q. How can an owner determine whether or not their horse has wolf teeth?

Dr. HansonOwners can feel the gum in the area behind the canine teeth. The wolf teeth will be felt as a smaller tooth in the area between the canine and first large tooth.

Two wolf teeth extracted from a 2-year-old stud colt.

Q. And if their horse does have some wolf teeth, what are you recommendations for dealing with them?

Dr. HansonWolf teeth are most easily removed by a veterinarian at the time of castration in males, while they are anaesthetized. They can also be removed under sedation at anytime, usually when the horse first has their teeth floated. This is recommended at 2-3 years of age, when the horse enters training.

Q. What is a “blind” wolf tooth?

Dr. HansonThey are un-erupted wolf teeth. Blind wolf teeth can be problematic because they can irritate the overlying gum and be painful if bumped with the bit.

Q. Are there any additional comments you would like to add regarding wolf teeth?

Dr. Hanson People often confuse wolf teeth with canine teeth. The wolf teeth are difficult to see and can be hard to feel, depending on exact location and size. Canines are the large “fangs” that are found just behind the incisors in both the upper and lower jaw.  These are most commonly found in geldings, so people often think, possibly in error,  that their mare does not have any wolf teeth.  You do not remove canines in horses.

Dr. Larry Hanson (right) - owner of Sherwood Animal Clinic, Regina, SK. He has been a mixed animal practitioner, specializing in equine for 25 years. He is also a breeder of Standardbred race horses and enjoys all aspects of the horse community.

In Full Effect

The Equine Information Document (EID) became effective July 31. It is designed to preserve the integrity of the food safety of horse meat that is processed in Canada. Bill desBarres chairs The Horse Welfare Alliance of Canada and the Breeds and Industry Committee for the Alberta Equestrian Federation and is also an Alberta Farm Animal Care (AFAC) board member.

He states, “The purpose of EID is to make sure that no improper medications are administered to the horse in the 180 days prior to processing or indeed in some cases for his lifetime. Things like Bute are not permitted for processing, but there are many that have a 180 day period that it is out of the system and the horses are okay.”

Photo Courtesy: Ingrid Schulz

The Equine Information Document is a great process for people to keep better track of the health of their horses. They should be completing this document and keeping it up to date and it’s available on the Horse Welfare Alliance of Canada website The horses’ identification must be very clear and unquestionable. We have to learn about the horses that we’re receiving from the United States for processing and/or other countries, all of the information that identifies the horse absolutely and the medications that the horse has been administered.”

~ Alberta Farm Animal Care in partnership with the Alberta Veterinary Medical Association.

Baby Talk

Alright, I had meant to post this yesterday. And I had every intention of doing so, but things got busy and life got in the way. I’m sure you know how it goes! However, if it’s any consolation, I couldn’t sleep last night.

At any rate, last week it was time to separate our filly weanlings from the colt weanlings. As the yearlings have now graduated to the barn to begin their training, some space opened up in the pastures to allow us to do so. Which is a really good thing, because at the age of 6, 7 and 8 months or more, little colts can sometimes get bad ideas! And at these young ages, we have no need for “accidents” in the pasture.

First, the JDF crew ran all of the weanlings together into a laneway. A smaller area would allow Clay and his helpers to catch and halter them in a more efficient manner.

Then the idea was to halter the colts and lead them to where a new pasture awaited. The weanlings seemed to think this was pretty exciting. They ran up and down the laneway.

And up and down the laneway again.

All except for one… One little straggler just didn’t see the urgency in running down the laneway.

Or running anywhere for that matter. So Lacey ventured out to give him a little direction.

Finally, all 7 weanlings were right where Clay and Lacey wanted them.

The next step was to halter the boys and while all of our weanlings have been handled several times before, this is still a task easier said than done.

Therefore, a bribe was in order.

That’s when the troublemaker showed up. When Clay wasn’t looking, she got a hold of one of the extra halters and made off like a thief in the night!

Troublemaker didn’t get far however. She stopped when she got to the bribe in the bucket. At that point, Clay was easily able to slip a couple of halters on.

Except on this little guy, who was determined to have the bucket bribe all to himself…

But a few minutes later, Clay and Lacey had all 3 colts caught and haltered and began leading them to their new pasture.

Our old gelding, TK Texican was there waiting for his new boys. For the last couple of years, we have used “TK” as the all-around horse on the ranch to bring in cows, trail ride and as a demonstration horse. Having already paid his dues, TK is required to work only minimally these days. So the rest of the time, we use him in the pasture to teach young stud colts a few manners. And TK is more than happy to do so. In fact, I really think he cherishes his job as a “babysitter gelding.”

Here, one of the weanling colts meets TK for the first time and as you can see, his mouth is open. The colt has engaged in “baby talk” with TK, acknowledging that TK is the alpha horse.

Then the bunch of them started gallivanting around the new pasture again. It takes a few minutes for things to settle down and even though he is right behind them every step of the way, TK is careful not to play excessively with any of the new colts. The only time he gets a little more assertive is if one of the colts steps out of line and is need of some discipline.

It’s a perfect arrangement. Other than hoof care, deworming and vaccinations the colts will be allowed to be horses for the next 12 months. And then next December, the little guys will make their way into the barn for training and the cycle starts again with a new foal crop taking their place for TK to look after.

Feed Better Hay

With higher amounts of lower quality feed this year, Les Burwash, manager of horse programs for Alberta Agriculture and Food, emphasizes the importance of feed selection.

He says, “The most important thing to realize is good quality forage is the basis of all horse rations.”
Horses require a minimum of one per cent of body weight of long forage. This means a 1,000 pound horse will need a minimum of ten pounds of hay per day. Overall, in winter they require feed of about two-and-a-half per cent body weight which amounts to 25 pounds of hay per day. For most idle horses Burwash feels the daily ration can be supplied by good quality hay, alone.
“Look for hay that is free of dust and mould. Primarily, mould is what we’re concerned about,” cautions Burwash. Hay should be free of weeds. He also recommends hay that has a high leaf to stem ratio with soft stems and is packaged in a form that can readily be handled.
Feeding programs should be adjusted according to body condition. He says body condition scores of less than five on the Henneke (pro. Hen-ah-key) nine-point scale need increased calories. This can be done by increasing the amount of hay or adding one to two pounds of hay per head per day. Those with a body score of five or greater should be fed to maintain body weight.
Burwash explains that, when using the Henneke nine-point scale, horses with a body condition score of five are flat over the back, ribs cannot be visually seen even when they have their summer hair coat but the ribs can be felt very easily. Fat around the tail-head will start to feel spongy. The neck and the shoulders will blend smoothly in the body.

You Oughta’ Know: Banamine

After the first foray into dispelling some myths about popular horse first aid essential Phenylbutazone, we have received some requests for the other most popular equine med: Banamine.

Banamine is the brand name of the generic drug flunixin meglumine, but Banamine was the only brand name of the medication available for quite some time, and so the name stuck.  Other brand names of flunixin are Flunixamine and Cronyxin.  For the purpose of this post, we will use  the the name Banamine to refer to all flunixin products.

Banamine is a non-sterodial anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) the same as phenylbutazone (Bute), but it has different properties and uses.

Banamine is most often used for the relief of muscle or joint disease and pain associated with colic.  It is a potent pain reliever  and also has antipyretic (fever reducing) properties.

The following are a few points we think “You Oughta’ Know” about Banamine.

1) Banamine has a fast onset.

Studies show that when given orally in a paste or powder form, Banamine starts producing effects within two hours with peak periods of relief between 12-16 hours.  The duration is generally 24-36 hours.

With IV injections, some studies report that the drug is active within 15 minutes. Banamine has been shown to provide relief from colic pain in 15-30 minutes, but may take days to be effective for musculoskeletal pain.

2) Banamine provides more potent pain relief than Bute.

Banamine is almost four times stronger than Bute on a mg to mg basis for pain relief, however your veterinarian should adjust for potency with the dosage size (higher dose of Bute will then equal a smaller dose of Banamine).  Banamine is far superior for relief of colic pain than Bute, although the reason is not known. Bute is more effective for the relief of musculoskeletal pain.

3) Again, Banamine is a prescription drug, available only through a veterinarian.

Although you may have leftover doses that you wish to give a colicky horse rolling around in pain – Don’t.  Always consult your veterinarian before administering even one dose to your horse.  Banamine may be very effective at reducing or eliminating your horse’s pain – but it is not fixing the problem – it is only masking symptoms.  You may see your horse stop all signs of colic, only to find them in critical condition – or dead- in the morning.  Your vet will be able to advise you whether it is acceptable to give your horse Banamine for the colic symptoms they are showing.

4) Adverse effects are possible.

There are adverse effects with the use of Banamine, but not as common as with Bute.  With all NSAIDS, including Bute and Banamine, there are risks of gastric and colonic ulcers developing, as the medications limit the actions of prostaglandins in the body, including healthy and much needed prostaglandins which protect the gut lining.

5) Banamine is given to pregnant mares, and significant amounts will not pass through to the milk of lactating mares.  Still – consult your veterinarian before giving pregnant or lactating mares any amount of Banamine.

6) Banamine is not toxic like Bute.

They are both intended to be used at low doses for a short amount of time for the most benefit and least adverse effects for your horse.  However, Banamine showed no toxicity in horses even when give at three times the recommended dosage for twice the recommended period of time.  Although no toxicity was observed, other side effects such as ulcers and kidney damage may be occuring.  The point is, that the dosage window for Banamine is slightly larger than the extremely small one for Bute.

7) The IM Injection.

This is the most hotly debated aspect of Banamine for horses. Yes, your vet may tell you that you can adminster Banamine to your horse through an intra-muscular (IM) injection.  For the majority of horses this is a viable option. However,  in some cases, IM injections of Banamine have lead to thousands of dollars in vet bills and fatalities. The reason is that the IM injection may be quite irritating to the skin tissue and cause reactions such as localized swelling, sweating and stiffness.

There are also spores of bacteria that lie dormant in healthy muscle called Clostridium. They can begin to multiply if the muscle is damaged (such as during an injection). NSAIDS are acidic and cause local tissue damage.  These Colstridial infections cause bacterial toxins which severely damage the muscle and perpetuate the spread of these anerobic (not requiring oxygen) bacteria. These infections are extremely severe, and require immediate emergency veterinary care. The areas of infection must be surgically opened up to let air circulate in, which means the cuts are sometimes through muscle and down to the bone.

Although this side effect is considered rare, it is a real possibility anytime you administer an IM injection of Banamine.  There are no such side effects when Banamine is given orally or as an IV injection.

~ We would like to thank Dr. Suzon Schaal and Dr. Trisha Dowling for their insight and the “vet proof” of this post.