Broodmare Nutrition: Preparing for Fall and Winter

Mares in good body condition have a reservoir of stored fat that can be used during cold winter weather.
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Broodmare Nutrition: Preparing for Fall and Winter
As pasture quality and quantity decline in late fall, owners should supplement mares’ forage intake with hay. | Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt/The Horse

All broodmares should have their body condition assessed regularly, as mares in good body condition have a reservoir of stored fat that can be used during cold winter weather. Good body condition helps barren and maiden mares establish normal cycles sooner in the breeding season and results in higher conception rates. Similarly, mares in good body condition at foaling are easier to rebreed than thin mares.

Owners can usually assess a horse’s body condition by evaluating the amount of fat deposited on the ribs, along the neck and spine, and behind the shoulder. The typical scoring system uses a 1 to 9 scale, where a horse with a score of 1 is emaciated and 9 is obese. A horse with a condition score of 5 is considered to have “moderate” body condition. Mares that enter the breeding season with a condition score below 5 have reduced reproductive efficiency. Therefore, the target body condition score for broodmares is at least 5. While there is no advantage to a mare having a very high score (being very fat), if she has a score of 6 in late fall she will have a small reserve of fat during winter when she will be burning extra calories to stay warm

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