It is no secret that mares have a reputation for being moody and difficult when they’re in season. Being polyoestrous, they come into season in spring, summer and autumn and typically have 3-week cycles, with their season lasting 5-7 days at a time.
During this period, mares can be sensitive, temperamental and even aggressive towards their handlers, which can be unpleasant for everyone. Regardless of whether breeding is on the cards for your mare, her cycles will affect her, and you, from April through to early September, so it is definitely worth giving some thought to.
Recognising when your mare is in season means you can adjust your routines and find ways to ease the situation as much as possible. It is important to empathise with your mare during this time and reduce the risk of injury she poses to herself and you. Your mare’s drive to reproduce will be strong, so she will need to be observed more closely during her cycles.
Generally speaking, a mare in season will exhibit a range of behaviours that can make her difficult to manage. Being easily distracted, oversensitive, uncooperative and/or unwilling to work are classic signs of a mare in season, and she may even kick out, bite or squeal. Low-grade colic will sometimes be evident, along with low energy and frequent urination.
These symptoms will intensify over a matter of days and then abruptly end after ovulation. Your mare’s behaviour and performance should return to normal for about a fortnight before she cycles again.
During her cycles, adjust how you handle your mare and be especially cautious when moving around her, as she may kick out or lunge at you if she is feeling particularly grumpy. Never approach your mare from behind and be careful when handling her with children.
Try to keep mares and geldings in separate fields so that they don’t pester each other or injure themselves. It is also best to reduce your mare's workload and give her a few days' rest before exercising her again. Trying to ride a volatile mare won't be enjoyable for either of you, so take a break until your mare is back to her usual amiable self.
Many mares can continue to be successfully ridden and handled even when they are in season, but if you do have a mare with excessive behaviour and you find that giving her supplements doesn't work, then contact your vet. There are medications that your vet can prescribe and in extreme cases your vet may even recommend surgery where the mare's ovaries are removed - a procedure known as an ovariectomy.
Feeding a supplement can really help and there are several on the market. NAF Oestress is a powder and liquid calming supplement that comes highly recommended, with its nutritious blend of herbal extracts geared at relieving tension and stress in mares.
Confidence EQ is a pheramone-based product that has a similar effect on horses prone to stress and upsets. The pheramone promotes a feeling of reassurance and helps to improve focus and performance. You may have to try a few different nutritional supplements before you find one that works for your horse, as all horses are individuals and may react differently. Some of the key ingredients to look out for in mare supplements are chaste tree berry, vitamin D and magnesium.
For more advice, feel free to contact our Equine Marketing Manager, Verity, who will be happy to assist you: [email protected]
If you have any helpful tips to share with our other readers, please post them below :) Likewise, if there is a supplement that works for you, please let us know!
Written by: Hannah Dyball