Balancing Act: Managing Your Mare’s Hormonal Health

Hormonal health is a crucial aspect of overall well-being in horses, influencing everything from reproductive functions to behaviour and physical health. Hormonal imbalances, particularly in mares, can manifest in a variety of disruptive symptoms. These imbalances may stem from reproductive disorders, dysfunction of the pituitary or thyroid glands, nutritional deficiencies, or stress-related issues. Understanding the signs and underlying causes of hormonal imbalances is essential for effective management and treatment; this includes recognising behavioural changes, irregular oestrous cycles, and physical symptoms such as changes in body condition. 

By integrating veterinary expertise, herbal remedies, tailored nutrition, and appropriate stress management, horse owners can better manage these hormonal challenges, supporting their horses in leading healthier and more balanced lives.

Causes of Hormonal Imbalance in Horses

Reproductive Disorders: Conditions like ovarian cysts, uterine tumours, or polycystic ovaries can lead to hormonal imbalances. These disorders can disrupt the production and regulation of hormones such as estrogen and progesterone.

Pituitary Gland Disorders: The pituitary gland controls several hormonal functions. Disorders such as pituitary pars intermedia dysfunction (PPID), also known as Cushing's disease, can cause significant hormonal imbalances that affect the entire body.

Thyroid Dysfunction: Although less common in horses than in other animals like dogs and cats, thyroid problems can lead to hormonal imbalances. Hypothyroidism, for example, can impact reproductive hormones.

Stress: Chronic stress can affect the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, leading to an imbalance in cortisol levels and indirectly affecting other hormone levels.

Nutritional Deficiencies: Imbalances in nutrients can affect hormone production. Deficiencies in essential vitamins and minerals, particularly those involved in hormone synthesis (like vitamin E, selenium, and zinc), can disrupt hormonal balance.

Age and Lifecycle Changes: As horses age, they experience natural changes in hormone levels. For example, older mares might face irregular oestrous cycles as they approach the end of their reproductive years.

Signs of Hormonal Imbalance in Mares

Mood Swings and Aggression: Sudden changes in mood, such as increased irritability or aggression towards humans or other horses.

Irregular Oestrous Cycles: This can include cycles that are too frequent, too long, too short, or completely absent.

Changes in Behaviour: Behavioural changes like being overly affectionate or becoming unusually withdrawn can be a sign of hormonal imbalance

Physical Signs: Signs can include a swollen vulva, excessive urination, or the presence of discharge.

Poor Performance: Noticeable declines in performance, focus, or general behaviour during training or competition.

Back or Abdominal Pain: This can manifest as sensitivity around the flanks, reluctance to work, or difficulty with some movements.

What You Should Do to Manage Hormonal Imbalance

Veterinary Diagnosis: If you suspect a hormonal imbalance, the first step is to seek a thorough vet's examination. They might recommend blood tests, ultrasound, or other diagnostic tools to assess hormone levels and check for underlying conditions.

Adjust Diet and Nutrition: Ensure your horse receives a balanced, nutrient-rich diet. Supplements may be necessary if there are specific deficiencies affecting hormone levels.

Manage Stress: Implement management practices that reduce stress, such as regular exercise, consistent daily routines, and ensuring social interaction with other horses, as social isolation can also be a stressor.

Medicinal Treatments: Depending on the specific cause of the hormonal imbalance, your vet might prescribe hormonal treatments such as synthetic hormones or medications that regulate hormone production.

Herbal and Natural Supplements: Chaste Tree, Chamomile and Vervain are known for their beneficial effects on hormonal balance in horses. Chaste Tree can re-balance hormones, regulate the menstrual cycle and help prepare your mare for covering. Chamomile and Vervain are relaxing herbs that will ease away stomach cramps that are making your horse oversensitive to the touch. 

We recommend our Steady Mare product to support your mare’s hormonal health.

Regular Monitoring: Regular check-ups with your vet to monitor the condition and adjust treatments as needed are crucial; this is especially important if your horse is receiving hormonal medications, as these can have significant side effects.

Maintaining hormonal balance in horses is crucial for their reproductive health and overall well-being. As we learn more about their complex hormonal systems, we become better equipped to address these challenges proactively and support them to live in harmony with their hormones rather than suffer because of them.