After 11 months of pregnancy, labour and delivery of a foal is generally un-complicated. You should aim to be present for the birth and enjoy it as a quiet observer but it’s important you’re ready so Luke has prepared the list below to help you get organised.
Tell us you are expecting
Call us a few weeks before your mare is due to foal. It’s better to ask questions at this point so we can offer advice and assistance BEFORE the foaling date. If it’s your first time foaling, it’s not a bad idea for us to attend. If you’ve done it before then you only need to call us if there’s an emergency.
Move the mare to the foaling location early
Your mare should be moved to the foaling box 4-6 weeks before birth is due. The area should be large enough (ideally at least 15X15ft), quiet, warm and with a floor that can be readily cleaned and disinfected. A clean bed of good quality straw is better than shavings. You’ll want to keep the area clean by removing soiled bedding and manure promptly.
Prepare a foaling kit
We’ve listed the basic elements below, but we’ll talk you through any requirements that are specific to your mare when we discuss the expected date.
You should have:
- A list of key contacts, including our phone number
- A watch and a notepad to record timings
- Clean protective clothing including wellingtons. A head torch isn’t a bad idea.
- Mild soap for cleaning the hind quarters and washing your hands.
- Access to hot water & clean towels ready to dry the foal
- Lubrication if there is a problem foaling
- Antiseptic dip to be applied to the umbilical stump directly after birth
- A tail bandage for the mare
- Gloves & Scissors
Three signs that foaling is imminent
Judging when it’s all going to happen can help everyone to get ready. So, look out for these signs…
1.Udder development begins 3-6 weeks prior to foaling and in most cases the udder becomes distended a few days before birth.
2.Colostrum may also run for 2-3 days before birth and in most cases ‘waxing of the teats’ occurs (as the colostrum begins to form a waxy deposit on the teats) anything from 48 hours to 6 hours before birth.
3.In the last few hours the muscles around the tail-head and perineum relax and the mare may separate herself from the rest of the herd, become nervous and go off her food.
The Birth Stages
Mares have been foaling for a long time! So, one of the first things to note is that It’s usually best to allow the mare to foal without disturbing the natural process.
- Stage 1 begins with contractions and lasts up to a couple of hours (can be much shorter). The mare will become restless and may roll as she positions the foal for birth. This stage ends when her waters break.
- Stage 2, the labour, lasts from 5 minutes to half an hour. If there is no significant progress after 15 minutes, then call us. The foal should present as if ‘diving’, legs first and one foot in front of another. Normal membranes that cover the foal are white or yellow and translucent. If at any time during stage two you see red/maroon membranes covering the foal as it emerges from the vagina, the placenta must be rapidly torn open and again, you need to call us. The umbilical cord should break within 15 minutes. You need to disinfect the foal’s umbilical stump regularly
- Stage 3, expulsion of the placenta, occurs within 2-4 hours of the birth. If you’ve not seen it within 6 hours, then call us.
And finally…Look after the new foal
Your new foal should be standing within the hour and feeding within 2 hours. It’s vital that the foal drinks at least 1.5 litres of colostrum within 6 hours of birth. It should have urinated at 8-12 hours and should have passed its first ‘Meconium’, dark faeces within 24 hours.
In the normal run of things, nature will have run its course and you’ll have enjoyed the experience. If you have any questions before the fact or incidents during the birth, then please do call and we’ll be happy to help.