Broodmare Nutrition During Late Gestation

Broodmare Nutrition During Late Gestation

With a rapidly growing unborn foal, the transition time from mid- to late-gestation can pose nutritional challenges for pregnant mares.


Shoreview, Minn. [February 24, 2017] – Up to 60 percent of an unborn foal’s growth happens during the last three months of pregnancy. As such, late gestation can pose nutritional challenges for pregnant mares.

Comparatively, unborn foals grow very slowly (approximately 0.2 pounds per day) during the first seven to eight months of gestation, causing very little nutritional stress on the mare.

“Dry mares in early gestation can be fed like a mature, idle horse,” says Karen Davison, Ph.D., Director and Nutritionist for Equine Technical Solutions at Purina Animal Nutrition. “Good quality pasture or hay along with a ration balancer or vitamin/mineral supplement may be all that is necessary to meet the mare’s nutritional requirements.”
However, during the last 90 days of pregnancy, the fetus gains approximately 1 pound per day and has a significant impact on the mare’s nutritional requirements for protein, vitamins and minerals.

Additionally, the increased size of the fetus takes up more room in the mare’s body cavity, which may result in the mare eating less hay or forage. This reduction in forage intake, coupled with increased nutritional demands of the pregnancy, requires mares to be supplemented with a nutritionally-balanced feed ration to meet total nutrient requirements.

“Even in situations where forage alone is maintaining mares in acceptable body condition, it is important they receive quality concentrate supplementation,” advises Davison. “While good quality forage may be able to provide sufficient calories to maintain body condition of the mare, other nutrients such as protein, vitamins and minerals, will be deficient.”


Research has shown foal birth weight can be negatively affected when mares are not fed adequate protein during late gestation, even when mares are maintained in fleshy condition.

“It is not uncommon to see fat mares have small, weak foals when the mares’ diets are adequate in calories but low in quality protein sources,” says Davison. “Even when mares are fed high-protein forage, such as alfalfa, the diet can still be deficient in important amino acids.”

Davison suggests supplementing mares in late gestation with a feed ration containing quality protein sources to help meet amino acid requirements for optimal foal development.

During the tenth month of gestation, the greatest amount of mineral retention occurs in the unborn foal. Adequate trace mineral supplementation for the mare is critical for normal fetal development and provides sufficient minerals for the developing foal to store and utilize immediately after birth.

“In the first weeks of life, foals will not eat sufficient amounts of fortified feeds and may not have adequate absorption of dietary trace mineral sources at this early stage of development,” says Davison. “Proper mineral nutrition of the mare in late gestation helps ensure the foal receives an adequate supply of these important nutrients to use during very early growth stages.”
Thin mares

It is important to properly support good body condition through late gestation to ensure the mare is in good shape at foaling.

“When mares are thin with ribs showing during late gestation, it’s an indication the mare isn’t meeting her own calorie requirements for maintenance. As such, it’s likely the growing foal inside isn’t receiving adequate calorie nutrition for proper development,” says Davison. “The day the mare foals, her calorie requirements increase dramatically. If the mare is thin when she foals, her milk production and the early development of the foal could be negatively affected.”

In these cases, Davison advises feeding a calorically- and nutrient-dense feedto supply the needed energy and weight gain without feeding excessive amounts of grain.


Fat mares
If a mare is significantly overweight during late gestation, where ribs cannot be seen and are difficult to feel, Davison says it is important to provide adequate protein, vitamins and minerals to support optimal fetal development without adding unnecessary calories.

For overweight mares, Davison suggests a concentrated protein, vitamin and mineral supplement designed to be fed at 1 to 2 pounds per day. This type of supplement or ration balancer will meet the nutrient needs of the unborn foal without causing weight gain in the mare. It may be necessary to restrict hay intake to 1.5 percent of the mare’s body weight if she is significantly overweight.
Proper nutritional management of the broodmare during late gestation will give her foal the best start in life. With the time and money invested in getting a foal on the ground, it’s important not to skimp on mare nutrition during this critical time.


For more information on broodmare and foal nutrition,


Believe In Bertie Sets New Stakes Record in Daisy Devine Stakes

Trainer Brad Cox scores his 600th career victory in style with Believe In Bertie capturing the 49th running of the Daisy Devine Stakes while setting a new track record of 1:40.31 for the about 1 1/16 miles over the Fair Grounds turf course. Hodges Photography / Amanda Hoddges Weir

Believe In Bertie
by Langfuhr – Saint Bertie by Street Cry (IRE)
Breeder: Richard Klein & Bertram Klein
Owner: Richard Klein & Bertram Klein
Trainer: Brad H. Cox
Jockey: S. Bridgmohan

Richard Klein and Bertram Klein’s Louisiana-bred Believe in Bertie set her second track record of the season in New Orleans when posting a half-length victory in the $75,000 Daisy Devine Stakes over 1 1/16 miles on the Stall-Wilson turf course.

The Brad Cox-trained 4-year-old daughter of Langfuhr broke her first track record of the season with an emphatic gate-to-wire victory in the Pago Hop Stakes in December, and she was quickly sent on her way in similar fashion by rider Shaun Bridgmohan in the Daisy Devine. Setting early splits of 23.56, 47.36 and 1:10.66, she completed the trip in 1:40.31 to lower the course record. Her nearest pursuer in the early stages, Winter Quarter Farm’s Tom Proctor-trained Cambodia, settled two lengths behind but was unable to keep pace under Florent Geroux and was ultimately outrun by a neck by Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey’s Mike Maker-trained Kitten’s Roar for second. Miguel Mena, who was aboard for Kitten’s Roar’s victory in last month’s Marie G. Krantz Memorial, had the return call Saturday.

She’s a fast filly and very talented. It’s great that a Louisiana-bred loves running at the Fair Grounds,” Cox said after earning his 600th lifetime win. “It’s a nice accomplishment [600 wins], especially in a stakes. Now we’ll focus on 700. I think she’s a graded stakes filly and I’ve said that in the past. I continue to believe in her. I am not sure she wants to go much farther than a mile. She has one speed and it’s ‘fast’. She takes that as far as she can. Shaun has figured her out and you just have to get along with her and be a good passenger.”

Believe in Bertie earned her fifth win in 10 lifetime starts, banked $45,000 to boost her career earnings to $298,882 and returned $3.20, $2.20 and $2.10. Kitten’s Roar paid $2.80 and $2.10, and Cambodia returned $2.10.

Master Derby: A Fair Grounds Favorite

Master Derby: A Fair Grounds Favorite
Photo: Blood-Horse Library

Master Derby (blaze) swings for home in the 1975 Preakness Stakes

As New Orleans readies itself for the Feb. 28 Mardi Gras festivities, it’s not surprising that Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots, in the midst of its winter season has scheduled six stakes (four graded) for its Feb. 25 card.

Highlighting the day’s events is the 45th Risen Star Stakes (G2), a prep for the April 1 Louisiana Derby (G2).

Originally the Risen Star Stakes was the Louisiana Derby Trial Handicap, until its namesake won that event in 1988, finished third in the Kentucky Derby (G1) before securing the last two legs of the Triple Crown, and earned an Eclipse Award as the 1988 champion 3-year-old male. Little wonder that by 1989 the name of the race was changed.

In 1975 the Louisiana Derby Trial was also won by a 3-year-old who went on to compete in the Triple Crown, finishing fourth in the Derby, taking the Preakness Stakes (G1), and placing third in the Belmont Stakes (G1).

Trained by Smiley Adams, Golden Chance Farm’s Master Derby, a glorious chestnut with a bold blaze, was quite at home at Fair Grounds, winning seven of nine starts (four of them stakes) over a two-year period. His two losses (both at six furlongs) were at the hands of fellow 3-year-old Colonel Power (Diplomat Way), who has a race named in his honor that is also part of the Feb. 25 card.

Robert Lehmann raced Master Derby’s sire Dust Commander to win the 1970 Kentucky Derby, and bred Master Derby from the Royal Coinage mare Madam Jerry in Kentucky. Lehmann died in 1974, and his widow, Verna, continued the Golden Chance colors.

Ten 3-year-olds lined up in the Louisiana Derby Trial starting gate, including Master Derby’s nemesis, Colonel Power, who was favored off his Lecomte Stakes triumph. As expected, Colonel Power set sail for another gate-to-wire sortie and established a five-length advantage at the six-furlong mark of the 1 1/16-mile race.

Master Derby, guided by regular rider Darrell McHargue, was content to bide his time and energy. By the turn into the Fair Grounds stretch, Master Derby had converted a seven-length disadvantage into a 2 1/2-length victory over the floundering Colonel Power. Bold Chapeau finished third.

The pair met again in the Louisiana Derby with a similar scenario playing out over nine furlongs. On this occasion, Master Derby prevailed by a length over Colonel Power and headed to Kentucky where a victory in the Blue Grass Stakes put him among the favorites for the Derby, in which he finished fourth behind Foolish Pleasure. Master Derby turned the tables in the Preakness, scoring over runner-up Foolish Pleasure.

As a 4-year-old, Master Derby again wintered at Fair Grounds where, after getting back into stride with a six-furlong victory in January, he contested the Feb. 7 Whirlaway Handicap, now known as the Mineshaft Handicap (G3) and also part of the Risen Star card. The mile and 40 yards of the Whirlaway proved a tour-de-force for Master Derby, as he won at will by eight lengths over runner-up Strictly Business, owned by William S. Farish III, who bred and raced Mineshaft to Horse of the Year honors in 2003.

Master Derby retired to Gainesway Farm near Lexington, where he sired 31 stakes winners. He died in 1999 at age 27.

Equine Herpes Virus Confirmed in Denton County Texas

AUSTIN, TX – Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC) confirmed Equine Herpes Myeloencephalopathy (EHM), the neurologic disease linked to Equine Herpes Virus (EHV-1), in a Denton County barrel racing horse on February 21, 2017.

The horse showed signs of ataxia, loss of coordination of the muscles, and other neurologic signs consistent with EHM when evaluated by a local veterinarian. The premises is under quarantine and TAHC staff is working closely with the owner and veterinarian to implement testing protocols and biosecurity measures.

Prior to confirmation, the positive horse attended barrel racing events at the NRS Arena in Decatur, TX on February 15 and Northside Arena in Fort Worth, TX on February 14. The TAHC has been in contact with event management and veterinarians to ensure enhanced biosecurity measures are taken on the premises and event participants are notified.

While the risk of exposure to the virus was likely low at these events, owners of horses potentially exposed are encouraged to take precautions. Exposed horses should be isolated and have their temperatures monitored twice daily for at least 14 days after last known exposure. If an exposed horse develops a fever or other signs consistent with EHM, diagnostic testing may be performed. Owners should work with their veterinary practitioner to establish appropriate monitoring and diagnostic plans for any potentially exposed horse(s). To learn more, visit

Symptoms of EHV-1 include fever, which is one of the most common clinical signs and often precedes the development of other signs. Respiratory signs include coughing and nasal discharge. Neurologic signs associated with EHM are highly variable, but often the hindquarters are most severely affected. Horses with EHM may appear weak and uncoordinated. Urine dribbling and loss of tail tone may also be seen. Severely affected horses may become unable to rise.

It is important to remember these signs are not specific to EHM and diagnostic testing is required to confirm EHV-1 infection. Many horses exposed to EHV-1 never develop clinical signs. If you suspect your horse has been exposed to EHV-1, contact your veterinarian.

For more information on protecting your livestock from EHV-1, contact your local TAHC regional office To learn more about EHM visit

The equine industry is encouraged to obtain the latest information on this outbreak and other disease events across the country by visiting the Equine Disease Communication Center at:

More Than 100 Head Catalogued to Texas Juvenile Sale

The Texas Thoroughbred Association is pleased to announce that it has catalogued more than 100 horses for the second annual Texas Two-Year-Olds in Training Sale. It is to be held at the Texas Thoroughbred Sales Pavilion on the grounds of Lone Star Park on Tuesday, April 4, at noon. The under tack show is set for Sunday, April 2, at Lone Star starting at 11:00 a.m.

“We have almost 25 percent more juveniles in this sale than we did at last year’s inaugural sale,” said Mary Ruyle, executive director of the Texas Thoroughbred Association. “Our sire power has also increased significantly, and we have a strong mix of horses bred in Texas, Louisiana and Oklahoma, and of course also Kentucky, so I think this auction is headed in the right direction.”

Among the nationally prominent sires represented are Bodemeister, Creative Cause, Into Mischief, Midnight Lute, Munnings, Quality Road, Tale of the Cat, Tapizar, The Factor and Twirling Candy in addition to first crop sires Shanghai Bobby, Paynter, Overanalyze and Morning Line.

“I am very pleased with the national sire power our consignors have pointed to the sale,” commented Tim Boyce, sale director, “plus we have horses by top Texas sires like Too Much Bling, Grasshopper and My Golden Song that will also turn some heads. Our sale-topper last year looked like a Richard Stone Reeves print wherever she stood.”

Boyce was referring to Texas-bred Bling on the Music, a daughter of Too Much Bling who sold for $95,000 to Danny Keene from the consignment of Asmussen Horse Center. 

“She had the fastest breeze for an 1/8 in the under tack show and was just as gorgeous standing as she was moving,” said Boyce. “And then she went on to win two stakes and place in a Grade 2 at Churchill Downs.”

Videos for the under tack show will be posted online again this year and an enhanced, interactive online catalog will be available allowing consignors to showcase their offerings with additional photos, videos and information.

Graduates of the sale will be eligible for the Texas Thoroughbred Sales Futurity to be run in two $100,000-estimated divisions at Lone Star Park this year.

The catalog is now available online at and will be mailed out shortly. The sale will again be live-streamed on the TTA Sales website. 

Supplements are still being taken for the sale, and additional consignments will be announced.

Broussard Balances Riding and Motherhood

Broussard Balances Riding and Motherhood
Photo: Marshall Blevins

Jockey Ashley Broussard’s mounts have won more than $5 million in purses

They’re up there in the dense fog. Circling. You can hear them, but you can’t see them. It’s a long migration from Canada to the rice fields of Rayne, La., but geese don’t rely on GPS.

Inside her modest kitchen, jockey Ashley Broussard is fixing breakfast for her 2-year-old son Bentley while going over a mental checklist for the day: exercise two horses at the Evangeline Downs Training Center, need talcum powder, check the oil in the car, take down the Christmas tree, out of cough medicine, call Mom, clothes in the dryer, macaroni and cheese for Bentley, leave a note for Uncle Cliff the baby sitter, ride five horses tonight at Delta Downs.

It’s not easy being a single parent, but like the geese, Broussard knows where she is going and how to get there.

The challenges of being a mother and maintaining her riding career have proved a steep climb full of surprises.

“In the beginning it was sleep deprivation,” Broussard admitted. “Having to wake up every three or four hours was a mental stress that was hard to overcome. My brain was totally consumed with different issues. I have always been around kids, but putting in a car seat was a new experience. I used to be in the gym all the time before I had Bentley, but now there is not a lot of time to go and lift weights.”

Broussard tipped the scales at 138 pounds during her pregnancy. She now weighs a fit 101.

“Chasing Bentley around keeps me in shape,” Broussard said with a laugh. “The everyday routine of working horses and riding puts you into a level of fitness. You have to have a strong core as well as back and legs. All of that translates into your arms, wrists, and shoulders so when you get on a really tough horse you find out what you got.”

The sharp turning, balance, and maneuverability against the clock of barrel racing contributed to Broussard’s skill as a jockey. The rodeo sport also revealed her tenacious urge to compete. As a teenager, she was ranked first in Louisiana for multiple years and was fifth in the world on two occasions.

Broussard was also raised with horse knowledge. Her father was a match-race jockey on the local bush tracks and became a longtime assistant to trainer Gene Norman. With a cowboy reputation of being able to handle the toughest horses, Clarence Broussard kept his daughter away from the racetrack but close to the farm and breaking babies.

“The animals are not strangers to me,” the 24-year-old Broussard said. “I’ve learned that every horse has its own personality and character. The trick is to persuade them to do things without being forceful or making them do it. When you treat them with kindness, it’s amazing how much smarter they are than humans.”

The gift of an exercise saddle from one of her father’s clients stimulated the dream of Broussard (then 16) to become a jockey. She sat down with her parents and told them she wanted to be a jockey, with a plan and the patience to carry it out. At 18, she got a job at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots with trainer Steve Asmussen. Then, in the spring of 2013, Asmussen needed an exercise rider at Keeneland, and he needed one immediately. It was time to put up or shut up.

“I still had a lot to learn, but it was time to take a jump,” Broussard said of her decision to pack her bags. “I figured I might not ever get another chance to work for a Hall of Fame trainer. I’ve never been one to do things half-assed. If I am going to do something, I want to go all the way, so I took a deep breath and took off.”

Far from home for the first time, Broussard stayed in a cheap hotel on the interstate and went to the track early each morning. She “manned up” and there was no relief. Some days she was legged up on a dozen horses. Her next milestone was a move to Churchill Downs to get serious about becoming a jockey. She secured a salaried position with trainer Kellyn Gorder, received gate approval from the stewards, and was given her jockey license. She won her first race at Ellis Park in August 2013. She had been galloping horses for more than three years.

“A lot of people nowadays that have never been around a racetrack decide one day that they want to be a jockey,” Broussard said. “Three weeks later they are in a race somewhere. I’m not sorry or apologizing for taking so long. I wanted to learn everything from the ground up.”

The 2014 fall/winter meet at Fair Grounds landed Broussard in the same jock’s room as the meet’s leading rider, Rosie Napravnik, who drilled Broussard like it was basic training for the Navy SEALS. Her learning curve shot through the roof, and Broussard went on to become the meet’s leading apprentice rider.

“First of all, she looked good on a horse,” Napravnik remembered. “Ashley is smart and level-headed, and she somehow manages to listen to the right people that can help. You can preach, preach, preach to some young riders, but Ashley listened and then went out on the racetrack and applied what she learned.”

Broussard’s sacrifice has paid off. Despite the detours of child birth and an accident (broken collarbone and busted ribs) that kept her away three months, her mounts have won more than $5 million in purses. Her 130 wins in 2016 ranked 110th of the jockeys’ list in North America. The multiple stakes-winning rider is currently second in the standings at Delta Downs. She has had too many riding triples at Evangeline Downs to count. She won honors as the Jockey’s Guild’s Jockey of the Week after winning six consecutive races for five different trainers last Dec. 14 at Delta Downs. Two weeks prior to that performance, Broussard booted home five winners on a single card at Delta.

Wherever Broussard’s internal compass tells her to go, she has the markings of a bright future, and son Bentley will be right there with her.

“I just want him to stay healthy and follow his dreams,” Broussard said. “My parents never pushed me in any certain direction. They let me find my own path and just made sure I was safe along the way. I do want him to see that nothing happens in one day. That you have to work for what you want. Horse racing has offered me many life lessons, and if that is the path he loves, then I will be right there to follow him.”

This story first appeared in the Feb. 18 edition of BloodHorse Magazine. To purchase a copy including the full version, visit

Study Aims to Improve Safety of Horse Farm Workers

Study Aims to Improve Safety of Horse Farm Workers,

Results in Free Bilingual Safety Materials

Using direct input from horse farm employees, managers, and owners, a group of researchers based at the University of Maryland, Baltimore and the University of Kentucky College of Public Health has put together a set of bilingual safety training materials* designed to equip horse farm managers and workers with information needed to stay safe on the job.

The Thoroughbred Worker Health and Safety Study was a five-year research project aimed to improve the occupational safety and health of thoroughbred farm workers. The study was co-led by Jennifer Swanberg, PhD, professor, University of Maryland School of Social Work, and Jess Miller Clouser, MPH, research associate, the University of Kentucky College of Public Health. The project was funded by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health/Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as part of the University of Kentucky Southeast Center for Agricultural Health and Injury Prevention.

The research consisted of three phases, all of which were informed and guided by industry and community advisory councils:

  • 32 surveys and 26 in-depth interviews were conducted with farm owners, managers, and human resource personnel about the work environment and context of injuries and illnesses experienced by workers;
  • community-based surveys were conducted with 225 Latino thoroughbred farm workers about their experiences of the work environment and occupational injury and illness; and
  • an industry and community-engaged process was utilized to create educational materials based on study data to provide to farms and workers.

The research team is now releasing the three main educational materials resulting from this research. These materials are available on the project’s website at

The series of 12 bilingual, graphic safety illustrations may be used as a training booklet or safety posters and aims to help educate both English and Spanish-speaking workers about safety procedures on thoroughbred farms and provide a shared language of safety. To create the content of the illustrations, the research team convened a working group of eight industry representatives including farm managers from small, medium, and large thoroughbred farms; workers’ compensation and insurance representatives; human resource personnel; and communications associates. Iterative feedback was then obtained from more than 80 farm managers, safety professionals and Latino thoroughbred workers.


Randy Gilbert, the farm manager at Shawnee Farm in Harrodsburg, Ky., former president of the Kentucky Thoroughbred Farm Managers’ Club, and a member of the project’s Industry Advisory Council, was a participant in the working group that drafted the safety illustrations.

“At Shawnee Farm every year we have guys that come on visas to work with the horses and maintenance and communication is key for safety. These safety posters will definitely help with communication,” said Gilbert.

Laurette Durick, human resources manager at Godolphin, a global thoroughbred breeding and horse racing team in the United Arab Emirates, also served on both the project’s industry advisory council and working group for the safety illustrations.

“These safety posters and booklets are fantastic. This is a first of its kind, as I have never seen anything like this for horse handling and the equine industry,” said Durick.

Tom Evans, owner and manager of Trackside Farm, in Versailles, Ky., and a member of the safety illustration working group added, “I would wager that my employees are 100 times more likely to study an illustration versus read text.  I think the illustrations provoke thought and show our employees that somebody cares about their safety.”

In the in-depth interviews conducted with thoroughbred farm representatives, participants described promising practices they employed to help improve employee safety and well-being, especially among non-English speaking workers. The From the Field report details those practices as a vehicle for farms to learn from one another.

Participating farms often stated that they wanted to learn what the study’s findings were. Main findings have been summarized in a series of 10 research briefs that are organized by topic area (e.g., injuries, respiratory symptoms, communication, musculoskeletal discomfort) and are available at


All materials are accessible for free on the project website at As funding permits, printed copies of the materials may also become available.  For additional information or to be added to a wait list for printed materials, please contact Jennifer Swanberg,


*While these materials were created with and for the thoroughbred industry, they may be relevant to other occupational or recreational groups. The researchers provide permission for use of the materials in other disciplines, but do not imply that the procedures depicted are universally applicable to all industries or contexts.


How to Predict When a Mare Will Foal

How to Predict When a Mare Will Foal Most deliveries transpire smoothly with no ill effects. But when a problem does occur—even a simple issue such as an easily correctable dystocia (difficult birth)—things can go south rapidly.

For some breeders, the waiting game starts as soon as the mare is inseminated. For others, it starts when she’s confirmed in foal. Still for others, it starts when she her belly grows large. Whenever that waiting game starts, all breeders want to know: When will my mare foal?

Igor Canisso, DVM, MSc, PhD, Dipl. ACT, Dipl. ECAR, previously of the University of Kentucky Gluck Equine Research Center and now an assistant professor of equine theriogenology at the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine, offered some tips on how to predict when a mare will foal.

Most deliveries transpire smoothly with no ill effects. But when a problem does occur—even a simple issue such as an easily correctable dystocia (difficult birth)—things can go south rapidly, Canisso said. Additionally, “in certain situations, we don’t want let the foal suckle on its dam due to risk of developing a condition such as neonatal isoerythrolysis,” or acute hemolytic anemia caused by ingesting antibodies in the mare’s colostrum and milk that are directed against the neonate’s red blood cells, he said.

“That’s why each foaling should be attended,” he explained. “If there is a simple problem, it can easily be corrected by an experienced foaling attendant. Or, if there is a more serious condition, the mare can be referred to a clinic, or a veterinarian can be called to check the mare.

“Usually, it is best not to wait (to call the veterinarian), as after 30 minutes from ‘water break,’ every 10-minute delay in foaling decreases the foal’s survival rate by 10%,” Canisso said.

And because the vast majority of foalings take place between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m., he said, it’s important to know when you might want to start brewing coffee for overnight foal watches.

Here are some of the options owners and veterinarians can use to predict when a mare will foal.

Estimated Foaling Date—The average equine gestation length is between 335 and 345 days. So you should be able to easily calculate your mare’s estimated foaling date if you know when she was bred. For example, if your mare was bred on Feb. 10 and has an average gestation, you can tentatively expect a foal between Jan. 12 and Jan. 22 of the following year. Canisso cautioned, however, that gestation length varies substantially between breeds, time of the year (it’s usually longer when the mare is due to foal in the late winter and early spring), and individual mares, so use this method only as a guide.

If you’re unsure of when your mare was bred, your veterinarian can perform an ultrasound exam to estimate the mare’s stage of pregnancy and calculate an estimated foaling date.

Physical Signs—As the mare’s due date approaches, start watching for physical signs indicating she’s preparing to foal, including:

  • Tailhead relaxation—Canisso noted this is harder to identify in overweight, heavily muscled, or maiden mares;
  • Vulva relaxation and elongation—Canisso cautioned that some older mares might have very pronounced vulvar relaxation well before foaling while others mares will show minimal or no appreciable changes, so don’t rely solely on this factor to predict foaling; and
  • Mammary gland enlargement—Canisso said most mares’ mammary glands will begin getting larger about a month before their due date, with the most notable changes in the last two weeks prior to foaling. Maiden mares might not show substantial udder enlargement until close to parturition, he said.

Canisso cautioned that maiden mares might not display the same physical signs as seasoned broodmares.

Mammary Gland Secretions—For the last three decades many veterinarians and breeders have used mares’ mammary gland secretion electrolyte levels to predict foaling. In the normal mare, the mammary gland secretion’s calcium and potassium levels rise while sodium decreases closer to foaling. However, measuring these electrolytes to predict foaling requires a machine to analyze the levels and serial measurements. Canisso said that, commonly, breeders and veterinarians have submitted these electrolyte samples to a laboratory, which can be expensive and prohibit the practice’s use for mares not located close to a laboratory–essentially, most mares in most regions.

Because calcium is the most reliable and commonly used electrolyte, commercial kits are now available for breeders to use to estimate the mammary secretions’ calcium carbonate content and, thus, help predict when the mare will or will not foal. The commercial calcium carbonate test’s limitations include the costs and required dilutions to obtain an accurate reading, said Canisso.

Recently, Canisso and colleagues tested another method by which to predict foaling using mammary gland secretions. This time, however, they measured the secretions’ pH levels. Using commercially available pH test strips, owners can test the mammary gland secretions once daily; when the normally slightly basic secretions (pH> 8) drop to below 7 on the pH scale, the mare will likely foal within 24 hours, Canisso said. In his recent study, 11 of 14 mares foaled within 24 hours when their mammary gland secretion pH levels were 7 or lower; the remaining three study mares foaled without significant pH changes, he said.

In the same study, Canisso and colleagues compared the secretions’ pH levels with their calcium, sodium, and potassium concentrations. They found that the pH measurements were equally as effective as electrolyte measurements at predicting foaling, suggesting that pH can replace electrolyte measurements, he said. Canisso also noted that measuring pH is advantageous over electrolytes because the tests cost less; are more practical, as no dilutions are needed to determine pH; and require only a small drop of secretion to complete—this is especially beneficial for maiden mares, he said, as many maiden mares have a very small amount of pre-foaling mammary gland secretions, making electrolyte measurement very difficult.

Electronic Devices—Next, Canisso described some electronic devices breeders can use to alert them to impending foaling:

  • The Foal-Alert is a magnetic device that a veterinarian sews into the mare’s vulva. When the magnets are separated as the vulva expands during foaling, an alert is sent to a pager or cell phone, or an alarm sounds in the barn. Canisso said while this device can be used successfully, it can also cause many false alarms. Additionally, the alarm might not sound if the foal is malpositioned in the uterus or if its feet don’t penetrate the mare’s vulva.
  • The Breeders’ Alert is a position-monitoring device shaped like a small box that attaches to the mare’s halter and sounds an alarm when it detects that the mare is in lateral recumbency (the position in which they deliver a foal) for more than 15 seconds. Like the Foal-Alert, Canisso said, this device causes a lot of false alarms.
  • The last device Canisso described is the Birth Alarm. Like the Breeders’ Alert, the Birth Alarm monitors a mare’s position; however this device is located on a surcingle. When the mare lies down for more than about 8 seconds, an alert is sent to the individual monitoring the mare. As with the other two devices, Canisso said this can throw false positives, and it might be cost-prohibitive for some breeders.

Video Monitoring Systems—Finally, Canisso noted that many breeders and veterinarians employ video monitoring systems that allow them to keep an eye on the mare for signs of foaling from afar.

So which method should breeders select? Canisso said many breeders opt for a combination of the available options to give themselves the best chance to accurately predict when a mare will foal.

“Since there isn’t a single and perfect way to predict foaling in all mares, the best approach is to combine different strategies to maximize the results,” he said.


Erica Larson, News Editor

Erica Larson, news editor, holds a degree in journalism with an external specialty in equine science from Michigan State University in East Lansing. A Massachusetts native, she grew up in the saddle and has dabbled in a variety of disciplines including foxhunting, saddle seat, and mounted games. Currently, Erica competes in eventing with her OTTB, Dorado.

February is for Foal Sharing

February is for Foal Sharing
Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt

If you’re a breeder on a budget, a foal-share deal can lower both your front-end costs and your risk compared to the standard “live foal” contract. Front-end costs are lower because you pay nothing until the sale (typically at auction) of the foal produced from the arrangement. Downside risk and upside return are moderated, because the payment for stallion services is proportional (typically at 50%) to the sale price.

February is often a good time to approach stallion managers with foal-share propositions. The breeding season is gearing up, and if a stallion’s book is not full, his stallion manager is looking for ways to attract more mares. Foal-share deals are a time-honored approach to generating incremental revenues.

Finding foal-share seasons involves the same screening procedures that you go through when looking for live-foal or no-guarantee deals, but one part of the search process is turned on its head. Normally breeders are looking for “bargain” stallions that are underpriced relative to their prospects, but your chances of finding a foal share deal increase with the degree to which a stallion is overpriced. Managers of overpriced stallions are more likely to be amenable to foal-share deals to increase a stallion’s book, because they haven’t been able to sell sufficient seasons at the advertised price.

Identifying “overpriced” stallions is part art and part science. Though in today’s highly competitive market for mares, “deals” of all kinds are more plentiful than they were prior to the great recession. Stallions that are less likely to be candidates for foal-share deals include top-class, first-year stallions and stallions high on the leading sire lists. In contrast, third- and fourth-year stallions and stallions that are having atypically quiet years are prime candidates for foal shares.

Though third- and fourth-year stallions are especially risky propositions, the right choice can pay for mistakes. Breeders who signed on for fourth-year Storm Cat, Unbridled, Tapit  , or Super Saver   deals can attest to that. Finance professionals who look for “turnaround” candidates will appreciate quiet stallions. Moreover, a quiet stallion that has produced top-class runners is less likely to suffer from technological obsolescence than a corporation.

Most farms have a standard foal-share deal with respect to shared expenses, often splitting sale expenses and registrations. The most frequent 50-50 split means that foal-share breeders need to breed to a better stallion than what they would breed to if paying the stud fee. If you have an outstanding mare, you might expect that you can negotiate a better split, and occasionally you can, but more likely you will need to shop for a stallion that justifies giving up half the sales proceeds.

There are a variety of ways to start the screening process for foal-share prospects. For proven stallions, I work down from the top of my stallion list (see, arrayed by adjusted percentage of graded stakes winners, looking for likeable stallions that I consider overpriced. The most recent Jockey Club breeding statistics are also helpful. If a quality stallion bred less than 100 mares, his handlers may be looking for help.

Charismatic Dies

Charismatic | Shigeki Yusa


Charismatic (Summer Squall–Bali Babe, by Drone), winner of the 1999 GI Kentucky Derby and GI Preakness S., died Sunday at Old Friends Thoroughbred retirement facility in Georgetown, Kentucky. The cause of death is not known. The 21-year-old stallion had been repatriated to the U.S. after standing much of his stud career at JBBA Shizunai Stallion Station in Japan. He arrived at Old Friends in early December.

“Right now, everyone is pretty much inconsolable,” said Old Friends president Michael Blowen. “Last night, at 6:30, he was fine. He was a really tough horse and he deserved a much longer retirement. But none of us, unfortunately, has a magic wand. Everyone at Old Friends takes solace from the few great months that this great champion gave us.”

Bred by Parrish Hill Farm and W. S. Farish, Charismatic was campaigned by Bob and Beverly Lewis and trained by D. Wayne Lukas. He graduated from the claiming ranks to capture the Derby as a 31-1 outsider and added the Preakness two weeks later. Favored to complete the Triple Crown sweep, the handsome chestnut suffered career-ending injuries just before the wire in the GI Belmont S. In an enduring image, jockey Chris Antley quickly dismounted and held Charismatic’s injured left front leg off the ground, preventing further damage and likely saving the colt’s life.

Charismatic was named champion 3-year-old and Horse of the Year in 1999. On the board in 11 of 17 starts, he won five times and earned $2,038,064.

Charismatic began his stud career at Lane’s End in 2000 and stood there for three seasons before relocating to Japan in 2002. He is the sire of 2005 GII Pennsylvania Derby winner Sun King and multiple graded stakes winner Gouldings Green, as well as Japanese group winner Wonder Acute (Jpn).

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