Although pregnancy is a natural process for horses, it is not without some risks to the animal. Breeders do not want to invest time and money in their brood mares only to have the mare abort due to undue stress. While mares are often sent over long distances to be bed or foaled, care must be taken not to expose these animals to an excessive level of stress which can interfere with their ability to conceive or carry a foal to term.
Short Haul Travel for Broodmares
Traveling for a short trip should be considered relatively safe for pregnant mares. Once the pregnancy is well-established (after the embryo has attached itself to the wall of the uterus), there may be less risk of pregnancy loss.
Transport Position and Stress Level
A study conducted at Colorado State University concluded there was "no significant difference" in pregnancy loss between horses which were transported for nine hours and those in a control group which were not transported. The researchers did find some hormonal changes indicating higher stress levels in the transported mares, which could lead to abortion, but these mares did not have higher pregnancy loss than the control group who stayed at home. Researchers at Texas A&M University looked at the position of horses during travel during transport to determine whether it affected their stress level. Previous studies appeared to indicate that backward-facing horses felt less stress than if they were positioned facing forward during transport. Less stress means the horse will arrive at her destination happy and healthy. Breeders already have to contend with the cost of veterinary bills, farrier expenses, insurance, and other expenses. The last thing they want to be concerned about is not having adequate coverage if an accident occurs while transporting a brood mare. Transporting a pregnant mare may mean taking out additional horsebox insurance coverage in view of the special circumstances and risks involved so it is recommended breeders check their policy thoroughly to be sure.
Horse Trailer for Pregnant Mares
A horse trailer is the most common method of transportation used when moving pregnant mares from one location to another. Newer models are available which either allow the horse to face backward or on a diagonal, with large stalls so that the animal can move around freely while in transit.
An owner can choose to use his or her own trailer for this purpose. The cost of the trip would include fuel, as well as wear and tear on the vehicle. (Use $0.15 per mile as a guide.) For long journeys, the budget would need to be adjusted to include a rest stop every 300 miles. Add a charge to the budget for overnight stops of $200.00 for each one to cover accommodation for the driver and the horse.
Renting a trailer is another option. The actual cost will vary, depending on the rental company, but an estimate of $50.00 per day can be used for working up a budget. Fuel costs would need to be added to the rental costs.
Hire a Professional Transporter
A breeder may also want to consider hiring a professional transporter to move a pregnant mare. The cost for this service would run between $0.50-$2.00 per mile, depending on the region, the number of horses being transported, and the van quality.
An owner will pay more for a company which offers more frequent stops to allow the horses to exit the trailer to rest, eat and drink. Some companies will drive the maximum amount of time allowed by law before stopping for this purpose, while others will take more frequent breaks. Owners will need to weigh out the benefits of comfort versus the additional cost when deciding which professional transportation company to hire.
Transporting a Pregnant Mare by Air
A pregnant mare should not be transported by air over long distances once she reaches the 300-day mark in her pregnancy. While the exact day of delivery cannot be predicted accurately, a normal gestation period can range anywhere from 320-370 days. Travel during the later stage of pregnancy poses a risk to the health and well-being of the mother and the unborn foal.
The best choice is to leave the pregnant mare at home until her foal can be safely delivered. If she must be transported, choose a method which will minimize the level of stress on the mother-to-be and her foal. It will reduce the risk of abortion animals at higher risk for pregnancy loss.