The PFERA Team
4 Tips for Foaling
Getting excited? Impatient? Soon you will be seeing the foal you’ve waited nearly a year for. So how should you be preparing for the big event?
Location! Location! Location!
If you’re North American it is unlikely that you have your mare foaling outside (Brrrr!) so you need to have a stall large enough that your mare has enough room to get up and down comfortably and you or your vet have enough room to get in if she requires assistance. Our System Equine blog on Foaling Stalls is a great read for ideas to design the perfect space. Speed is key with a difficult foaling so don’t set yourself up with the tricky situation of needing to relocate. Not to mention, your mare may really put her hoof down in opposition.
All Hands on Deck!
Maybe you’re a seasoned breeder and have foaled out more mares than you can count. You’ve seen easy deliveries and you’ve encountered difficult or tragic situations. In this case, you’re probably going to take on foaling on your own, without a vet but maybe with another set of hands present just in case.
If you consider yourself to be closer to the other end of the spectrum you may feel more comfortable calling your vet out to deliver your foal so you can help and learn without added stress. Remember that foaling can be 20 minutes from start to finish and your vet may not be able to make it out in time. If you're new to foaling, it is best to have someone experienced present to help if needed and for your own safety.
I said BRRRR!!! it’s cold in here!
If your foal is expected to be an early arrival, you’ve likely ended up with a due date right in the dead of winter. We’ve all gotten out of a warm bed in the morning to face the cold chill so you can imagine the shock your foal will experience when he/she leaves the nice warm uterus, and wet to boot! For this reason, keep some clean towels on hand to help dry your foal, make sure there is ample bedding to insulate, and consider investing in a standing, safety approved heat lamp you can place in front of the stall.
All systems go!
After a standard delivery, make sure your foal has cleared nasal passages and you've disinfected and clamped the umbilical stump. About 45 minutes after foaling, your foal should be working on standing and passing the meconium. Meconium is the earliest manure from the newborns system, made up of substances ingested in-utero. You will likely find that although hungry, your foal cannot focus on learning to nurse until they pass the meconium, and since nursing is crucial, we sometimes need to help the process. It is a good idea to have an enema on hand that you can administer should your foal not quickly pass the meconium on their own. Straining, wandering and a lack of desire to nurse are good signs that your foal is struggling to do just that.
While your foal is the new arrival, monitor your mare closely throughout and after foaling to make sure she does not run into any complications and has safely passed the entire placenta. It is always a good idea to lay afterbirth out after it is delivered to check for any tears, possibly indicating retained pieces. Make sure your foal is adequately nursing, monitor vital signs, and watch for abnormal behaviour in both your mare and foal. Contact your veterinarian immediately if you have any doubts or concerns, always better to be safe than sorry!