8 ways to help a mare in season – and why a little sympathy goes a long way
Some mares are affected by the season more than others. You might find that she is more cranky than usual, or that she doesn’t like being groomed or touched in certain areas, or you might notice a drop in performance.
Understanding what is going on inside your body and being compassionate about your mood will go a long way in improving the bond you have with each other.
Meeting the needs of a mare
As with any horse, it is important that all of its needs are met. The following represents Professor David Mellor’s five-domain model of animal welfare:
- The correct diet – based on fiber and adapted to individual needs.
- Environment – a suitable place to live, with places to shelter, dry places to rest and space to move around.
- Prevention and / or treatment of injuries or illnesses – if you are unsure, discuss your concerns with your veterinarian.
- Natural behavior – this is the ability to satisfy natural behavioral urges. These include having good opportunities for foraging, being able to move around freely, and choosing to play or rest. Competent handling and training that supports and teaches, without hurting, scaring or confusing, is also important, as is good equine company – other horses the mare gets along with.
- Mental domain – life mainly wants to be good and then it can deal with things that are not so good. We have to think that welfare is a state experienced by mares. What is correct for an individual mare in the first four domains depends on her natural adaptations as a horse and her individual characteristics, as well as her own life experiences.
How all of these needs are met affects whether your mare has a good or a bad experience. Each of the first four areas generates your horse’s daily life experiences. When these experiences are mostly positive and the negative ones can be controlled and are short lived, life can be said to be good.
Your mare’s experience in these four areas fuels the fifth: the mental realm that forms her welfare state.
How you can help
You can meet your mare’s needs, learn to adapt to how she feels, and accept that some mares are simply more sensitive because of their genetic background.
Clinical Animal Behaviorist Jenni Nellist suggests the following eight things to think about when your mare is in season:
- Groups of two to four horses work well, especially where space is limited.
- Some mares are happier with geldings than with other mares.
- If you are participating in a large group, you need enough land for the horses to form splinter groups. It can be a series of fields where you have about three acres per horse and the gates are left open for them to move around.
- Stable companions should also be chosen wisely. Stables require horses to keep close to each other. When they can’t see each other, they become stressed out about the isolation, so when they can see each other, they had better love their neighbor. It’s worth switching things up if you can in order to find a compatible horse for your mare to live alongside.
- Consider its nutrition. Horses are selective and healthier grazers when they have access to many different forages. The right selection will support gut and hormone regulation for optimal gut / brain function, mitigating the effects of other stressors. Supplementation and access to a forage suited to her needs will likely make a mare happier.
- Find out where she likes to be touched. Most look like a good scratch on the withers, but if she’s feeling really touchy, that might not be acceptable. Learn to read her mood and stop if she tells you to.
- Find out what grooming tools she usually likes and try to only use them when it’s in season.
- Use lickstones or a hay net to distract her when you need to do essential practical activities, like grooming.
“Being more sympathetic has built a stronger partnership”
that of your horse Freelance Editor-in-Chief Allison Lowther adjusted her training schedule when she noticed a drop in performance from her mare Wish coinciding with her season.
âThe first summer I owned, Wish, our training and competitions were going well, but every once in a while she wasn’t as willing,â says Allison, who has owned the 17-year-old Hanoverian since the age of. three years.
âMy coach at the time suggested that I keep a journal of her behavior as he thought it might be due to her seasons. She wasn’t in a bad mood, just lethargic and a little tight in the back. keeping a journal, it soon became apparent that this coincided with when she was in season.
âOnce I knew that, I adjusted her training so that those few days when she wasn’t quite herself were either off days or hack days. I also tried to avoid competing, as there was a marked drop in his dressage scores.
âAs I got older that behavior went away, but I think being more sympathetic to how she felt and giving her a few easy days helped a lot in building a really strong partnership.
âAs a woman myself, I kind of understand how she feels! “
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