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The Breeding Season is here. The Stages of foaling and what you need to know!

By February 19, 2019 No Comments

 

The gestation Period of a horse/ Connemara ponies is 11 months. It varies from 320 – 360 days, with the average being 340. Foals born before 320 day are considered to be premature and have a lower rate of survival. Due to the wide range of gestational dates it is extremely important to monitor mares closely as they approach their due dates. The majority of mares have no problem foaling and move smoothly through the stages of labour and parturition. It is important that mare owners and stud manager are aware of the difficulties that can arise and to know when  intervention is required.

They should be monitored 24/7 as they get closer to foaling, and there are several foaling alarms on the market to help with this arduous task. However, the most reliable method is:

 

Visual Monitoring.

Visually monitoring mares either in their stables or in paddock is the best method as you can physically see any changes in the mare that may be missed on a foaling alarm. Also, you become familiar with each mare and her personality and therefore will quickly pick up on any changes in behaviour. However, this method is obviously extremely labour intensive and potentially costly as each mare will need to be checked every 20 minutes. CCTV cameras are also a good option, as they can be viewed from anywhere as long as the individual has access to either a television or computer. The person monitoring the cameras would ideally still need to be on site. However, it is easy for people to become complacent with cameras, as it is still necessary to check the mares for signs that may be missed on a camera, such as sweating up.

 

 

Signs of Foaling:

Some mares will display all the textbook signs of foaling in the lead up to them giving birth, while some mares (particularly maidens) will show little to no signs and go into labour without warning. Therefore, it is very important to monitor them closely at all times. Typical signs of a mare foaling are:

  • Development of udder/ ‘bagging up’ (typically 2 to 4 weeks prior to foaling)
  • Development of a clear or honey coloured wax on the teats/ ‘waxing up’ (typically 24 to 48 hours prior to foaling) 
  •  The running of milk
  •  Vulval relaxation and elongation
  •  ‘Sweating up’ – indicates that foaling is imminent
  • Box walking, digging up the bed and nest making
  • Flank watching
  • Digging and rolling

 

The Three Stages Of Foaling.

The first stage of foaling can be very similar to a horse suffering from colic. They will be restless walking around, pawing the ground, sweating, nipping their  flank, getting up and down,  looking at their side. The symptoms will ease off for a while and then start up again. This is where the mare experiences contractions as the foal positions itself for the delivery. The foal up until now has been on it’s back with the legs flexed. The contractions will cause the foal to rotate onto it’s belly with two legs (one in front of the other)  and the head entering the vagina. As the contractions become more intense the foal moves into the birth canal.  The mares membranes will rupture and she will break her waters.  At this stage their will be  a large volume of fluid is expelled. This is the first stage of foaling complete.

The Second Stage is the stage where the foal in delivered.  The contractions are very strong at this stage. The mare can be lying down, standing up or even walk around. In most instances, the mare delivers the foal while lying down and may remain in that position for a period of time after delivery. A normal foaling will present the two front legs one slightly in front of the other and the head stretched on the forelegs. When the feet can be seen in the amnion sack outside of the vulva the mare in now pushing the foals shoulders through her cervix, after this she generally takes a brief rest before pushing the rest of the body out. During this the foal is still receiving oxygen from the umbilical cord. The handler should make sure that the nose is uncovered and free from fluid especially if it did not rupture naturally. The hind legs generally stay inside for a time as the mare takes another break. This allows the umbilical cord to stay intact, enabling the transfer of a significant portion of blood from the mare to the foal through the umbilicus. Under normal conditions, the umbilical cord ruptures when the foal attempts to stand following deliver.  The foals legs can remain inside the mare for  up to half an hour. If it takes longer than this time then veterinary assistance may be required. The vet should be called  if the mare has a lot of vaginal bleeding or if the mare is exhausted and has not delivered a foal as this stage.

The Third stage of foaling is the expulsion of the placenta (afterbirth) . This usually happens a few hours after the foal has been delivered. It is important that the placenta detaches from the uterine wall itself, their for the placenta should not be pulled. If they have not fully detached and are hanging down at the hind  legs it is a good idea to tie them in a knot with some cheese cloth. This will prevent the mare from standing on them and breaking them. The extra weight will also help to detach them from the uterus. When the placenta is passed it is important to inspect them to make sure they are in one piece. As any retained placenta can cause a uterine infection. If their is a long delay in passing the placenta the vert should be called. The vert should also be called if the mare is suffering from abdominal pain or excessive bleeding after the Third stage.

 

Important observation after foaling

  • The foal should be breathing normally, bright and alert.

  • The foal should stand and nurse within 2 hours of foaling. If not, a vet should be called as this may be an indication of a serious problem.
  • The foal must receives an adequate amount of colostrum within the first  8-12 hours . This is the mares first milk, it is full of antibodies. It provides passive immunity to prevent disease until the foals own immune system kicks in.
  • The foals naval should be sprayed with a sterile iodine solution (ask you vets advice ) after foaling and continue to spray the naval for some days after to prevent infection.
  • The mare should curious and  excepting of her newborn foal.The foal should pass meconium (This is the foals first stool which is dark and thick) within 12 hours of birth. If the meconium is not passed the foal will need and enema.

 

  • The mare should be bright and alert and allowed to eat when she is ready. She must also have  a supply of clean fresh water.
  • Once the placenta is expelled it is important to inspect it. Making sure it is all intact. The placenta is a Y shape and should have only one opening where the foal was delivered through. If you think that their mare may have some retained placenta call the vet as this couls lead to a urinary infection. 

 

 

  • You may want to check the mares temperatures and other signs over the next 24-  48 hours after foaling to make sure they are normal.

connemara foals

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