The oviduct undergoes dramatic functional and morphological changes throughout the oestrous cycle of the mare. To unravel the effects of steroids on the morphology, functionality and gene expression of the equine oviduct, an in vitro oviduct explant culture system was stimulated with physiological concentrations of progesterone and 17β-oestradiol. Four conditions were compared: unsupplemented preovulatory explants, preovulatory explants that were stimulated with postovulatory hormone concentrations, unsupplemented postovulatory explants and postovulatory explants that were stimulated with preovulatory hormone concentrations. The modulating effects of both steroids on oviduct explants were investigated and the following parameters examined: (1) ciliary activity, (2) glucose consumption and lactate production pattern, (3) ultrastructure, (4) mRNA expression of embryotrophic genes, (5) steroidogenic capacities of oviductal explants and (6) progesterone receptor expression. The present paper shows that the equine oviduct is an organ with potential steroidogenic capacities, which is highly responsive to local changes in progesterone and 17β-oestradiol concentrations at the level of morphology, functionality and gene expression of the oviduct. These data provide a basis to study the importance of endocrine and paracrine signalling during early embryonic development in the horse.