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Holistic Horse Issue 113

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Shelly Black

Do you dread when it is “that time of the month” for you or for your mare? The reproductive system of females is under constant regeneration throughout most of their lives. The ever-changing hormones surging throughout the female body can cause a plethora of changes in the way she feels physically, mentally, and emotionally. This is the same for horses as it is for humans.

Understanding the natural fluctuations of hormones within the female ovulation cycle can help one to not only understand the body’s normal functions, but also provide knowledge that can aid in managing symptoms naturally. This understanding can help the individual in attitude, mental clarity, emotions, and overall well-being.

While women have hormonal cycles that average 28 days (in our reproductive years), a mare’s cycle is, on average, 21 days. Women have menstrual cycles that are about 5-7 days long and horses have their estrous cycle for about 5 days, but usually only from April through September.

The hormonal cycle is thus quite similar for humans. FSH (follicle stimulating hormone) causes the production of estrogen and promotes maturation of the follicle. Meanwhile LH (luteinizing hormone) rises and precedes ovulation. Upon ovulation LH falls dramatically as progesterone production increases. High levels of progesterone occur during the luteal phase of the cycle, which occurs at about day 12-26 for humans, and day 6-16 for horses.

It is during the estrogenic and LH stages that females are more likely to experience symptoms of irritability. Subsequently, it is during the luteal (or progesterone-rich) stages that the female is more likely to feel balanced.

Here’s an important comparison: Women experience premenstrual symptoms (irritability, mood changes, tender breasts, menstrual cramps, etc.) for about 1-3 days prior to a menstrual cycle, and then symptoms usually subside once menses begins. Mares experience estrus for 5-7 days, which is the time when they may become problematic in attitude and performance.

“That time of the month” happens more often for mares (every 21 days), and lasts a good bit longer for equines than it does for humans. Luckily, mares usually only have estrus 6-7 months out of the year!

Humans have only three types of estrogens, whereas horses have over 20 types.

The molecular structure of any natural steroid hormone is exactly the same or nearly the same in humans as it is in animals and most plants. The estrogen in women is identical to the estrogen in mares, at least for the three estrogens that humans have: estradiol, estriol, and estrone.

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