Miniature Ventures
Breeders of beautiful Miniature Horses with Action!
Quality Breeding  ~  Quality Transport

Larry, Maryann & Brianna Cerullo
5643 SW Minson Rd.
Powell Butte, OR 97753
Phone: 541-410-6222

E-mail: miniv@coinet.com



Often people acquire a miniature broodmare from another farm and start looking at them cross-eyed as they seem to be gaining weight.   Or, perhaps an owner has exposed their mare to a stallion, but didn’t actually witness the breeding.

A veterinarian with an ultra-sound machine can check a mare as early as 18 to 20 days after conception, if they are experienced at it.  We have tended to wait until the mare has missed one heat cycle before having one done, just in case.  If the veterinarian does not have an ultra-sound machine, there is the option of having your mare palpated.  No, this is not fool-proof.  It will depend on the knowledge of your vet and how far along your mare is in her pregnancy.

There are periods in the mare’s gestation when the foal in positioned where it is not easily visible with an ultra-sound, or easily “felt” with a palpation.  It’s under those situations that owners end up watching for SIGNS at the end of a pregnancy.  We’ve done this many times.

* At five to six months gestation we have been able to feel the first flutter of movement from a foal by draping our arms around the mare’s belly during feeding time.  This is not a promise and it takes patience on both yours and the mare’s part.

* At seven to eight months you should feel a definite kick, especially while your mare is eating or drinking.

* From nine months on we’ve been able to actually SEE kicks happening….again the best time is during feeding and drinking.  Most mares, by this time, are looking “fat”, by sticking out side to side.  Some first time moms (maiden mares) are just looking a little heavier and aren’t so obvious because their stomach muscles aren’t as stretched.


During the LAST MONTH of gestation it’s important to watch for the FINAL SIGNS - These are not in specific order and we’ve learned that timing can vary with each pregnancy:

 The foal will drop down low in the mare’s uterus, so she doesn’t look so “fat” from side to side.

 The mare’s vaginal opening will begin to get stretched.

 The mare’s muscles in her hind end will feel soft.  I call it a “jello butt”.

 SOME mares, but not all, will have a “bloody show” within days of foaling……This means, when you open her vulva, the skin inside will be very dark pink or red because the blood vessels have come to the surface. Again, not every mare does this, but it’s worth checking.

 The mare’s milk bag can begin changing as early as 6 weeks prior to foaling. A maiden (first time mom) may not  until just prior, but it’s always wise to keep checking and get them accustomed to being touched there incase of a future problem.

 The mare's manure MAY begin to get soft as she approaches birthing.  Some mares will actually have soft patties of manure, we call them "cow pies" which is indicative of the mare "cleaning out" and readying herself to have the foal.

We check our mares every couple of days until we are able to get liquid from their teats. And then we check daily.  We also assess how full the bag is at the same time.

When the liquid begins to feel a bit sticky, we go ON GUARD, especially in combination with the mare’s foal dropping in her belly and the soft muscles in her hind end. This is when we begin using  MILK TEST STRIPS*.  Because foaling could be days or hours away……..A mare’s first milk will be so sticky it will be like syrup.  The color can vary from being yellowish to milky. We are more concerned about the texture.

We also highly recommend two other methods for watching your mare at the end of her gestation.  They include --

-- A Closed Monitor Camera System

-- A Breeder or Foal Alert, which is a sensor attached to the mare’s halter and gives off an alarm when she lays down in labor.

There are other behaviors we have observed in our broodmares when they are very close to foaling.  They include pacing, and pawing at their bedding at night. A very friendly mare may become grumpy and an “offish” mare may become a pocket pet. Some will suddenly prefer to spend their days off by themselves during the day.  Other mares will start yawning a great deal...something horses don't seem to do very often.

When we see all the different signs occurring, including the reading on the MILK TEST STRIPS* indicating that foaling is imminent, the foaling stall has already been prepared by disinfecting it, and a bale of grass hay for bedding is set outside the stall door, ready to be spread out. Some other farms use a bale of straw, but in our opinion grass hay is softer and if the mare eats from it, there’s no harm done. We don't use shavings because we've had foals end up hurting their eyes with the scratchiness of the wood. 

This is also a good time to gently wash the mare’s udder area and hind end with warm soapy water. Be sure to wipe the udder area a second time with plain water so not to leave any soapy residue that the foal may taste in the future.  Braiding up and wrapping the mare’s tail can be done at the same time.

* Milk Test Strip Information can be found in a separate article.

No two mares are alike and none of the things mentioned above are necessarily going to occur with every horse.  More importantly, NONE of the signs individually are accurate enough to use as the only indicator that foaling is imminent.  However, taken together, an owner can get a pretty good idea how close the mare is to foaling.