PMU/Nurse Mare Foal Rescue

PMU stands for "pregnant mare’s urine". The urine of pregnant mares is used in the manufacturing of Premarin the female hormone replacement. This industry is located mostly in Canada, in the region of Manitoba, close to the Wyeth-Ayerst pharmaceutical company who manufactures Premarin. Since research has proven that Premarin causes cancer in women, there has been a decline in production of the hormone. Consequently, over the last few years over 300 PMU ranches have been closed. Only 70 are still in operation.

PMU ranchers usually chose a specific type of horse to breed, as they have to keep so many mares pregnant in order to collect the urine.  Foals are a by-product of this business, so they might as well be foals that can be sold. Some PMU ranchers treat this as a breeding business, as well as a urine production business. So when the decision to close is made, many mares (and foals) are in need of adoptive homes. Slaughter is still legal in Canada, so there is always the fear of these horses going to slaughter if they cannot find adoptive homes. The Animali Farm located in Santa Maria, north of Santa Barbara, specializes in finding adoptive homes for these horses. Every year Jennifer and Cheryl make the trip to Canada. They visit the ranches which have closed or are closing, photograph the horses in need of homes, then post on as well as on their own website. 2,300 horses have found homes via The Animali Farm, has placed 1000 horses. Jennifer and Cheryl also bring horses to their ranch, where they spend some time in training with Monty Roberts. Visit the Animali Farm Rescue website, see for yourself what amazing work these ladies do, and make a donation.


United Pegasus Foundation in southern California also rescues PMU foals. They have rescued 2980 foals and 2000 mares since 1996.  These mares and foals have been rescued both directly from ranchers and from slaughter. According to United Pegasus many of the foals produced in isolated regions of central Canada have almost no chance to find homes as sport horses, working horses or pets. So for the ranchers who do not advertise their foals for sale, slaughter is the option. The two to five month old foals are taken from their mothers in early September and sent to auctions where they are sold by the pound to meatpackers. United Pegasus representatives have observed the Manitoba horsemeat auctions since 1996 and, although over 1200 foals were rescued, it is heartbreaking to witness thousands of innocent foals destined to slaughter. Until the Premarin industry is abolished there will always be a need for rescue of both the mares that are no longer able to be bred and of course the foals.
At time of writing, United Pegasus were in Canada conducting rescues of mare and foals some already at the slaughterhouse.
United Pegasus also has PMU mares and foals of various ages available for adoption. Many are Belgian, Draft and Percheron. They are beautiful! Please visit 
United Pegasus to learn more, see the horses and make a donation. 

To learn more visit

A nurse mare foal is a foal who was born so that its mother might come into milk. The milk that the nurse mare is producing is used to nourish the foal of another mare, a more “expensive” foal.  Primarily these are thoroughbred foals, though certainly not limited to the thoroughbred industry.  The foals are essentially byproducts of the mare’s milk industry.  A thoroughbred mare’s purpose is to produce more racehorses.  A mare can give birth to one foal each year provided she is re-bred immediately after delivering a foal.  Because the Jockey Club requires that mares be bred only by live cover, and not artificially inseminated.  The mare must travel to the stallion for breeding and may be shipped as soon as 7-10 days after giving birth to a foal, but a period of 3-4 weeks is generally allowed.

Traveling is very risky for newborns, and insurance costs are prohibitive for the foal to accompany its mother to the stallion’s farm.  At this point a nurse mare is hired to raise the thoroughbred foal.  In order to have milk, the nurse mare has to give birth to a foal.

When the nurse mare is sent to raise the thoroughbred she must leave her own foal behind.  Historically, these foals were simply killed because it is so difficult to raise them, especially in large numbers.  Recently they have gained value… their hides can be used in the fashion and textile industries as “pony skin” and their meat is considered a delicacy in some foreign markets. Rescuing nurse mare foals is a very expensive business. Depending on how small they are when rescued, many need bottle fed every four hours and the milk replacer is very expensive. Some are compromised as they have left their mother too soon, and will fight for their lives. The milk replacer costs $100 per bag and 1-5 bags per day depending on how many foals are in need. That's hundreds of dollars per day. In addition, tube feeding is done, IV fluids are administered, and blood transfusions are necessary for those foals who did not receive colostrum from their mother. Last Chance Corral specializes in rescuing these foals. They rescued 200 foals in 2006 and 206 foals in 2007. A special “intensive care” barn was built in 2003. $34,000 is still owed on this structure. Visit their website and see for yourself. PLEASE MAKE A DONATION IF YOU CAN.

Nurse mare foals below from left to right: Clyde, Moose and Shiloh, rescued by Adopt-a-Foal.


Watch video on nurse mare foals, Click Here.