Anyone who’s ever had a mare can likely tell you that their behavior is prone to changing throughout the year and especially when they’re in season. Of course, some mares may show behavioral changes more than others, but understanding what’s normal and what’s not is important for any horse guardian. Knowing available holistic options for managing hormonal mares is important as well.
A Mare’s Cycle
Mares are seasonal breeders with most of their cyclical behavior and inclination to breed occurring in the spring. A mare’s cycle lasts 21 days and is influenced by hormones released from the brain and ovaries. The cycle begins on the day of ovulation, and the first 16 days are mainly regulated by the hormone, progesterone. However, during days 17-21, progesterone levels decrease and estrogen increases. It’s this specific hormone that is often responsible for what we describe as ‘hormonal’ or ‘moody’ mare behavior. The estrogen phase typically lasts 5-7 days, but clinical problems can affect the length of this phase and lead to increased behavioral problems.
In the northern hemisphere, a mare’s cycle usually starts in March/April and extends until October/November. The amount of daylight hours regulates reproductive activity. However, keeping a mare under artificial lights can also affect/extend their reproductive cycles.
It’s important to remember that some behavioral changes are normal and to be expected during estrus. Common signs include gait abnormalities, tail-raising, frequent urination, and altered interactions with people and other horses. Some other signs associated with hormonal mares which may be of more concern include:
- Poor performance;
- Lethargy during riding/exercise;
- Increased sensitivity to being groomed, tacked up, or touched;
- Pain/sensitivity in lower back; and
- Low grade colic.
If these issues continue for an abnormal amount of time or if you are concerned about how they may be affecting your mare’s overall well-being, it’s worth having her evaluated by your veterinarian.
Conditions to Rule Out
A veterinary evaluation is also important to determine if your mare is displaying behavioral changes due to estrus or if there is an another underlying issue. Several clinical conditions which may result in similar behavioral changes include:
- back problems;
- poor saddle fit;
- gastric ulcers;
- lameness; and
- dental problems.
Helpful Herbs for Managing Hormones
If other conditions have been ruled out, you may want to consider adding certain herbal remedies to naturally help balance your mare’s hormones and reduce unwanted behavior during estrus. The Holistic Horse offers Organic Chasteberry Powder for moody mares (as well as aggressive horses and bolshy geldings). This herb helps to correct hormonal disturbances and supports progesterone levels which, in turn, counteracts irritability and unpredictability that mares in season may display.
Another product in our Signature Herbal Formula line includes Balance-Natural Support for Hormonal Mares which contains Chastetree powder, Holy Basil, Passion Flower, Inositol, Magnesium, Chamomile, and Raspberry leaves, all of which help to balance hormones, relax muscles, and help your mare to stay calm during estrus.