About a year ago you decided to breed your mare, it’s now been just over 11 long months (approximately 340 days give or take but who’s counting) and your mare is about to have her baby. You have watched her grow and get fat, after all the organisation, time and very often money spent getting her this far, now what happens? How do you prepare and what do you look for as the day grows closer, what do you do when the time finally arrives?
In the weeks leading up to the big day there are a few things you can do that will help you prepare yourself and your mare.
- Work out your mare’s due date.
- If your mare is running with other horses, move her into a paddock either with her close paddock mate or on her own about a month before she is due.
- If you do decide to put her on her own keep a friend close by so she has company and does not stress.
- The paddock preferably will be situated for you to be able to keep a close eye on her as she gets closer to giving birth
- It preferably has good fencing, has no dams and is clean and rested
- Around this time, you can get together a small kit of all the things you may need, your veterinarian can advise you on this.
- It also good to get a health check of your mare. Your vet can go over certain things with you, check to make sure your mare isn’t caslicked, or if she is due for a tetanus vaccination.
Here are some signs that your mare is getting close to foaling (not all mares present the same way they are all a little different and can surprise you).
- About 2 weeks from foaling a mare’s udder will start to get larger “Bag Up”, try and check it every day if possible. Just be aware each mare is different and if your mare is a maiden her udder might not develop until a bit closer to the time.
- As her due date approaches approximately 3 days form foaling, she will develop a wax like secretion on her teats this is called “waxed up”, remember again each mare is unique.
- A mare will loosen up around her vulva prior to foaling, it will appear slightly longer with less wrinkles.
As your mare starts to show signs of labour it is best to now move her paddock mate if she has one to give time for her to deliver her baby safely and bond with her foal. Signs of labour can be pacing, sweating, getting up and down and even tail swishing. It is important no matter how excited you are to give the mare some room during labour, so she doesn’t get unsettled or stressed.
- In stage one of labour your mare may get up and down quiet regularly this can be because she is a bit uncomfortable or she could be repositioning the foal. This can last for 1-4 hours.
- Stage Two, which should take between 15-20 minutes, her water will break and not long after you should see a white or grey sack appear this is called the amniotic membrane.
- As labour progresses a foot will appear, slightly behind that will come the second foot.
- Between the front legs the nose will start to show.
- The shoulders are the next to come and the foal should be slightly angled down towards the mare’s hocks.
- After the shoulders have passed the rest should progress rather rapidly and the foal will be fully out
- At this stage If the bag is still over the foal’s nose and hasn’t already broken open the bag and allowing the foal to breath which should happen within 30 seconds of birth.
Congratulations you now have your newborn foal, but don’t get the champagne out just yet, the hard part is over but there still are a few things to do for both mum and bub.
- Try not to move the foal from behind its mother. The foal continues to receive blood from its mother through the umbilicus until the cord breaks.
- The cord will break once the mare stands usually 10-20 minutes after birth.
- The umbilicus should be dipped in a solution to help prevent infection which your vet can dispense to you for your kit.
- The mare may still be a little uncomfortable until she passes her placenta.
- Tie the placenta up into a knot or with some string, it will stop the mare standing on it also the extra weight helps it expel.
- The placenta should be out within 3 hours of foaling.
- Check the placenta for any tears or holes.
- And most importantly leave the mare and her new baby alone and give them time to bond, just do regular checks to make sure everything is okay.
The foal should be ideally
- Shaking and responsive within 20-30 seconds after birth.
- Attempt to stand within 20 minutes.
- Be standing and walking within 60-90 minutes.
- Suckling between 1 – 2 ½ hours after birth.
- Pass the meconium within 4 hours and urinating within 4-5.
When should you call your veterinarian? As you would expect time is vital when things go wrong, don’t leave it until its too late if in doubt give your vet a ring.
- If your mare starts running milk for any length of time prior to foaling. The first milk will be a yellow colour called “colostrum” and if she runs to much of this before the baby is born it may not receive all the vital antibodies it requires after birth.
- Water breaks and no foal appears within 20 minutes.
- If the bag appears red instead of white/grey this is called a “Red Bag’ birth where the placenta comes out before the foal and is definitely an emergency.
- If the second hoof or nose does not appear after approximately 10-15 minutes.
- If your mare remains painful.
- The placenta hasn’t expelled within 3 hours.
- The foal does not stand, drink or pass manure in the recommended time frame or has any unusual swelling or discomfort.
Now you can pop the cork, all the stress and worry of the last 12 months is over and you have your new best friend. As with any situation your vet is your best alley don’t be afraid to call if you have any concerns or it just doesn’t feel right, they are there to help.