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What to consider when bringing a broodmare back into work?

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  • What to consider when bringing a broodmare back into work?

    I'm leasing a Prelim schoolmaster (schoolmistress?) mare that is being weaned from her 3 month old colt. This is her first baby, so it's not like she's been out in the field popping out babies for years. However, this will be the first time I've dealt with a mare who has recently foaled, and I'd love tips on how to make her comfortable as her milk dries up, and how to start bringing her back into work.

    About how long will it take for her milk to dry up, and is there any potential discomfort this can cause that I need to be aware of? I asked the vet if there was anything they could give her to help her dry up, but the vet prefers to let it happen naturally.

    What's the best way to start back to work with her? How long has it taken your mares to tone back up and lose their bellies?

    All ideas, tips, and stories appreciated!
    Some nights I stay up cashing in my bad luck; some nights I call it a draw. -- fun.

    My favorite podcasts: Overdue, The Black Tapes, Tanis, Rabbits, How Did This Get Made?, Up and Vanished.

  • #2
    Once weaned - take the mare off grain for a few days up to a week. The lower protein will decrease milk production. Depending on the mare they are only uncomfortable for the first few days when they still have an engorged bag and no let down. DO NOT milk her. That will only stimulate more milk production.

    Best to let her have unlimited turn-out time for a few days on just pasture and slap some bag balm on her bag. (Soothes the skin and helps prevent chapping).

    With that said - you can begin riding within 1-2 weeks after weaning.

    Just do what you would normally do bringing a horse back into work who has had time off.

    Best wishes - most mare's I've ridden after they had a foal are much more agreeable to work. The experience and hormones seems to help them mature and focus.


    • #3
      [I]most mare's I've ridden after they had a foal are much more agreeable to work. The experience and hormones seems to help them mature and focus. ""

      Well, the above is good news. :-) My mare has a 3 month old colt who is the biggest foal she has had at this age and it would be no problem likely to wean him already, however, I really think that 3 months is TOO SOON. The foals benefit emotionally from being with their mothers a longer period of time. What is the rush? I usually wean my mare's foals gradually from a few hours with no nursing but within sight of each other to 12 hours and so on. The mare's udder will dry up more gradually the way Nature intended without causing the mare emotional or physical discomfort. less stress.

      My mare has been a broodmare for years. Once this colt is weaned I plan on starting her gradually back under saddle. Short easy rides. You can read how they feel and look as you increase their work. It's pretty basic. Maybe start out with simple trail rides. Just observe your mare and follow your instincts.
      Dark Horse Farm


      • Original Poster

        Originally posted by dbaygirl View Post
        Well, the above is good news. :-) My mare has a 3 month old colt who is the biggest foal she has had at this age and it would be no problem likely to wean him already, however, I really think that 3 months is TOO SOON. The foals benefit emotionally from being with their mothers a longer period of time. What is the rush? I usually wean my mare's foals gradually from a few hours with no nursing but within sight of each other to 12 hours and so on. The mare's udder will dry up more gradually the way Nature intended without causing the mare emotional or physical discomfort. less stress.
        She's not my mare; I am leasing her. Her owner, the vet, and my BO/trainer all think she and colt are both ready to be weaned. They have been spending days apart, eating separately, etc. Plus, she's mean to the colt: will run him over, push him around, in general just does not want to be around him.
        Some nights I stay up cashing in my bad luck; some nights I call it a draw. -- fun.

        My favorite podcasts: Overdue, The Black Tapes, Tanis, Rabbits, How Did This Get Made?, Up and Vanished.


        • #5

          About a hundred years ago (1959, to be exact) Robert Lippitt Knight, who owned the Green Mt Stock Farm, wanted one of his Morgan mares to compete in the GMHA 100 Mile Trail Ride, and he asked me to take Lippitt Rebecca and bring her up to that major degree of fitness.
          She had weaned a foal the previous fall, and had been only a broodmare her whole life.
          If I knew then what I know now, I wouldn`t have taken on the challenge, but I was 17, about to turn 18, and so I knew about all there is to know.
          It turned out ok, how I can`t imagine, but the absolute KEY is tons of long SLOW work.

          It`s called LSM, long, slow, miles, and only after that has been reached can you even consider SFM, short, fast, miles.


          • #6
            I will be interested in the responses about her drying up, etc.
            I do want to say, it seems awfully early to be weaning the foal.
            That just feels sad to me.
            Is there a reason she is being separated from her foal so early?
            save lives...spay/neuter/geld


            • #7
              I have been trying to bring my mare back into work for about 3 months. The trying has been on my part due to my busy life and lack of energy. Her filly was weaned at 3 months as well.

              Be patient with her, and really watch how she is feeling. My mare has always been very energetic, always ready to go. Now she is much more laid-back, and she is just not fit. She was not ridden during her pregnancy due to my own health issues.

              The abs and the hind end really change when carrying a foal and giving birth. Those muscles are stretched, and they will not work quite like they used to. My mare always had a lot of push before, but now she just appears weak in the hind end. It's going to take a while to get that muscle tone back.

              Once you put her in work, make sure she is getting adequate nutrition to build muscle, just like any horse who has been out of work.


              • #8
                I thought it was a little early to be separating the mare and the foal too but after a certain point the quality of the mare's milk goes down and the foal should be supplemented anyway so everyone (mom and baby) maintains a good weight. Still.... I guess it's the maternal instinct in me but a mare and foal at my barn were separated when the foal was four months old and I thought that was too soon too.... It's going into Winter--what difference do a couple more months make???

                Anyway, I have heard that when you're trying to dry a mare up--cut back on the feed. Check with the vet!!!!

                What's the best way to start back to work with her?
                Did you ask the vet??? Had this horse been ridden while she was pregnant??? My understanding is if a mare could be ridden up to a month or so before the foal was due. I would start by doing a lot of walking for a month or so while she's recuperating. Ask the vet these questions--that's why he/she is getting paid all the big bucks!

                You might get more/better responses if you post this in the Sport Horse Breeding section of the forum....
                "I'm not much into conspiracy theories but if everyone thinks alike you don't need a plot!" ~person from another bulletin board whose name has been long forgotten~


                • #9
                  One of my clients has been leasing my Oldenburg broodmare for the past year. In June of last year, the mare won the broodmare class at Upperville with a filly at her side. In July, the filly was weaned and the mare put back into work. This was the mare's 3rd foal and she was eight years old and had not been in any work for three years. She's a big girl (16.3 1/4H, 1,400lbs) and was completely on her front end. It has taken us almost a year to get her fitness level to where it should be. Now, she is able to sit on her hind-end and push instead of dragging herself around on the forehand.

                  We actually put the mare in work before the filly was weaned. At first, we let the filly loose while we rode the mare, but after a few weeks, we just kept the filly in while the mare worked. The mare has a great brain and was fine about the whole thing.

                  Here are some before and after pictures. The first picture was June of 2007 at Upperville. The second picture was July of 2007. The third picture was last weekend and the fourth picture was from a month ago.
                  Attached Files


                  • #10
                    Actually done this with a couple...and, yeah, 3 months is unusally early. Most will go about 6 but a big, strapping colt or filly that is bringing the mare down in condition can come off at 4 months.

                    Like to treat them as any other horse coming off a layup. You need to find out when she was last in regular work (as in W-T-C at least 3 days a week for at least 30 minutes)-that may be 4 months but could be more like 8 months. It is important in determining her condition and planning a rehab schedual.

                    Generally start with just walking for, say, 20 minutes. Increase the time 5 minutes each day to 40 minutes. After that, start adding the trot at 5 minutes and increase that gradually until she is keeeping her breath at 20 minutes trot without a break. Do NOT push if she gets winded or has a little trouble holding the trot on the corners, wait until she keeps her balance and is comfortable before adding more.

                    Then you just add the canter in starting slow and build that up-same deal, she gets winded or can't hold on the corners, back off.

                    Alot depends on whether she has been active on pasture or stalled and her condition when work stopped before the birth-and how long it has been.

                    Should take you anywhere from 4 to 6 weeks to get her W-T-C and able to work on a regular schedual but it could be longer. Just depends.

                    Far as the belly tightening up? Maybe 4 to 6 months, maybe longer, maybe never...and the milk will usually dry up when the foal stops nursing.

                    I know, this rehab is boring and many want to just hop on and go, I wouldn't. Treat her like an athlete and she will react in kind and come back to condition safely and without incident.
                    When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.

                    The horse world. Two people. Three opinions.


                    • #11
                      I hope you are going to give her a little more time with her foal. 3 Months is too soon. I am bringing back a broodie that was also starved so my only advice is walk walk walk. Give those muscles time to come back to prevent injuries.
                      “If you are irritated by every rub, how will your mirror be polished?”
                      ? Rumi


                      • #12
                        This post is timely, I was just wondering the same thing. I'm starting my mare back up now, she foaled in April of this year. She has been field boarded and is in decent enough shape just from moving about the pasture, but obviously nothing structured.

                        I jumped on her for the first time saturday and just walking and some trotting for about 15-20 minutes. She was pretty uncomfortable from her bag and moving stiff, but by the end of the hack her udder had gone down a lot and she was moving much better.

                        I got on her again yesterday, again walk and trot work, but her bag was already down a ton and she was back to herself, huge long strides and moving very well (and also very energetic!!).

                        I could not walk this mare for 20 minutes building up, she would have a melt down. She likes to work. As such, I was just planning on walk/trot 20 minutes or so under saddle, and doing some lunging w/t/c on her non-riding days. And just slowly building her up that way.

                        Frankly, I don't see why most pasture kept horses can do some trot work starting out. I know a lot of the schedules say to only walk and build up. To me that makes more sense for a stall kept lay-up from injury, but a horse that is sound and has been mobile, just not ridden, I think they can come along a bit faster.

                        Edited to add...also if you have ever noticed (or cared to pay attention to) the bringing them back into work vs backing schedules, you would notice bringing back prescribes a lot more walking and taking your time then backing a brand new youngster (aka expecting w/t/c in 30 days). Use common sense, I suppose. But I am slower starting a newby then bringing one back only b/c I can spend less time on "this is how we steer" and more time on simple basics (flexing, transitions, etc).
                        Celtic Pride Farm
                        Become a fan on Facebook!


                        • Original Poster

                          Thanks, all.

                          Again, let me reiterate, the decision to wean was made by the mare's owner in conjunction with advice from the vet and trainer, not by me. So I don't really have a dog in the "is 3 months too early to wean" hunt.

                          I groomed her well this morning and hopped on for a leisurely hack around the farm, about 20 minutes. Did some walk-halt-walk transitions just to test her responsiveness. She was great, didn't bat an eye at anything, didn't mind that we were like the Pied Piper and had collected a trail of ponies behind us checking out the "new girl." She's lived at this barn before and been with this herd, so she seems to be settling right back in.

                          She is still dripping milk and it cakes all down her hind legs. I'm worried it may scald the skin. Any thoughts? I scrubbed it off after riding.
                          Some nights I stay up cashing in my bad luck; some nights I call it a draw. -- fun.

                          My favorite podcasts: Overdue, The Black Tapes, Tanis, Rabbits, How Did This Get Made?, Up and Vanished.


                          • #14
                            My mare's foal was weaned in the middle of Sept. The foal was a large filly, 5 months old. The weaning went great, took mom off the property and left foal with her 18 month old sister, who had been living with them for 10 days.

                            My mare's bag was HUGE, I did give her a couple of days of bute to keep her more comfortable. She still has a bag, 1 month later, but it's slowly going away.

                            I started her back to work right away, trail riding around home for the first 2 weeks and then I took her to my barn to get her going. She has had at least 3 foals, 2 with me (2007, 2008) and at least 1 other. She's 9 and a tb, I don't know how long she was at the track for but I got her from a tb breeding op, so besides getting broke when I first got her at 7 y/o she hasn't been worked alot. So it'll be a long slow procedure. So far so good though.

                            Goodluck with your mare.


                            • #15
                              I too, think 3 months is early. I have had to wean as early as 4 months (mare died) and the resulting filly still has some "orphan" issues-she is now 5 and has an owner that adores her (thank goodness, I couldn't deal with some of her quirks). If you can keep them together even another month, it will be best for both of them but I understand your concern about her being "mean" to him, you certainly don't need to get him injured. Typically I try to go to 4 1/2-5 months if possible.

                              As far as the mare, I brought back one of my mares VERY slowly, she had 3 foals, went back under saddle in Germany and then I imported her in foal. After that foal, I just went as slowly as I could, gave her two weeks off to dry up-turned out 24x 7, no grain-then I started by walking her for a couple of weeks, then added trot and eventually added canter, still competing her 6 years later.

                              I just sent her 6 year old daughter to my trainer, she had two foals in a row. I kept her here to dry up, took her up there on 9/1-they spent most of the first month just free lunging her to try to help her gain some fitness (they said she lasted about 10 minutes-alternating walk, trot and just a little canter), she is now back under saddle and although they are very happy where she is, still working on her fitness level. It takes a really long time to get these girls back in shape.

                              Also, make sure you are checking your mare's bag daily at the very least as mastitis (sp?) is a big issue and you don't want to have that further delay your process. The 6 year old got blocked (bag gets BIG and hard) and I had to express it to get the clog out, luckily I caught it immediately and avoided the antibiotic process.


                              • Original Poster

                                OK, everyone, I feel stupid now. After all the debate about 3 month weaning, I counted back, and the colt was born on June 1, so he's almost 5 months old. Don't know if that makes a difference or not, but...

                                On the first day she was at the barn (Monday) she was still dripping milk and it had crusted all down her legs. I hacked her lightly, more of a getting to know you ride than anything, then scrubbed her legs. The next day she had not dripped at all, and her bag was drier and smaller, and it has continued that way every day since. We'll keep an eye out for any udder complications, but it's looking good!

                                Have been doing 20-30 min. walking hacks through the field, up and down some small hills, doing walk-halt-walk transitions and some stretching. I let her trot if she offers and she seems fairly comfortable doing so. I think it's been a good start.
                                Some nights I stay up cashing in my bad luck; some nights I call it a draw. -- fun.

                                My favorite podcasts: Overdue, The Black Tapes, Tanis, Rabbits, How Did This Get Made?, Up and Vanished.


                                • #17
                                  My mare is not coping with weaning well at all.

                                  Anyone had a mare go off the deep end about weaning? She's always been prone to being excessively herdbound, first foal at 14, and, spoiled him absolutely rotten. She's not coping at all. It's been five weeks. I even put her on Mare Magic. He could care less...has made new friends.