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Managing a Mareish Mare


Does a fire breathing beast replace your normally sweet, docile mare every time she comes into heat? Don't despair! There are ways to manage your mare-ish mare.

Most mares have regular heat cycles (estrus) from April to September. Unfortunately for many owners, their mare's heat cycles come into full swing just as their competition calendars start getting busy. The last thing you want is your mare's estrus cycle to compromise her performance, training regimen and most importantly - safety. That's why it's very important to recognize signs your mare is in heat, and develop a plan of how you will manage her cycles.

Signs of Heat

Estrus signs vary from mare to mare. Some are minimally affected, while others are greatly affected. According to Dr. Rachel Cachero, DVM, "The most common signs your horse is in heat are vocalization, winking (opening and closing) her vulva, raising her tail to other horses and urinating." 

When riding or handling your mare, you may notice she is preoccupied, less cooperative and not focused on the task at hand. Do not lose your patience with your mare or punish her, rather try to focus on small tasks where she can exhibit positive behavior. Regardless of how willing your mare typically is, remember she is biologically wired for reproduction to take precedence over everything else during estrus.

Estrus Control Options

Depending on the plans you have for your mare, you may not have to "do" anything to manage her estrus cycles. Estrus is completely normal. Therefore if your mare doesn't become too mare-ish, you can always let her cycles proceed as scheduled. However, if your mare poses a danger to herself and others, or has upcoming competitions or events you can prevent her from coming into estrus.

"The most reliable way to prevent estrus is through administering Regu-mate® (Altrenogest) by mouth to your mare," believes Cachero. "Unfortunately, Regu-mate is also the most expensive control method." Regu-mate can be given for extended periods of time or it can be given three to four days prior to competition to ensure estrus doesn't negatively affect your mare's performance. Work with your veterinarian to develop the best Regu-mate regimen for your mare. NOTE: Use caution when administering Regu-Mate. Women should always wear gloves and avoid getting Regu-mate on their skin.

"Placing marbles in the uterus, to mimic pregnancy, was popular a few years back," explains Cachero. "However, they weren't a reliable estrus control option and are no longer recommended as they can increase uterine scarring causing complications should you decide to breed your mare." Horse owners have also been known to use cattle hormone implants with mixed results. As always utilize your veterinarian's expertise to see what works best in your specific situation.

Keeping it Safe

When your mare comes into estrus, make sure she cannot harm others, both human and equine. As her hormones run rampant, use caution when working around her. Avoid approaching her from behind. Remember her flanks may be sensitive from ovulation, so start grooming at her neck and working towards her tail. If she is overly painful consult your vet for treatment options.

Also pay attention to how your mare interacts with other horses during estrus. Cachero suggests, "Turn her out with horses with whom she has already established a hierarchy." Likewise make sure she is in a "safe" paddock without wire fencing, you don't want her erratic behavior to result in an injury. 

Remember, the estrus signs that are a major inconvenience today will one day be signs you welcome wholeheartedly should you breed your mare. Until then, work with your vet to make estrus as easy as possible on both you and your mare. How do you control estrus? Let us know.


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