Here at GOW Equine we are constantly looking for ways to be better at what we do, to make a horses life as smooth and easy as possible. When it comes to our mares and their foals we like to take extra care to make sure we are ready for anything they might throw at us.
When a mare reaches the end of her pregnancy, it is vitally important to make sure you are fully prepared. Foaling can happen at any time and can sometimes catch us by surprise!
Mares can often foal early which is something we need to be aware of and act fast should this occur before her due date. If they foal 150 days or more before their due date, unfortunately the foal has a very slim chance of survival. During the first 6 months of a mare’s pregnancy, there is very little growth that happens, in fact the foal stays about the size of an average cat! In those last 3 months before the foaling date, the foetus will grow exponentially which also increases the demands on the mare’s body. This is why we stated in our last blog that it is important to have a mare settled in her new boarding stables as early as possible, she has enough to deal with in those last few months! It’s also helpful to settle the mare into the same box she will be foaling in, this will help her feel settled with her surroundings and make the birth as easy on her as possible.
Mares can also foal after their due date, sometimes up to four weeks late. If her foaling date is running overtime, it is often advised to have an ultrasound scan done, just to confirm that the foal is alive and healthy. If all is well, the mare will never be forced to foal early. Her time will come, and most likely nature is giving her a little extra time for a reason!
At GOW Equine we have cameras set up in our foaling boxes to ensure that we can keep a close eye on our mares from a distance without interrupting her or our other boarding mares during the night unnecessarily!
Because of the unpredictability of foaling, we find it useful to have our equipment ready to go at all times! Generally there are about 20 minutes between a mare’s membrane rupturing, and the foal being delivered. Which doesn’t leave anyone a lot of time to think, all we can do it ACT!
Here are some of the things we like to have ready for a foaling:
- Towels: to dry the foal and help stimulate the bloodstream. Usually the mare will do this during the bonding period by licking her foal but sometimes a helping hand is needed!
- An enema: We give the foal an enema to help them pass their first droppings, known as meconium.
- Gloves and overalls: to help keep any bacteria that might be present on our clothes away from the mare and foal during this vital and sensitive time.
- Antiseptic Spray/ iodine: We need to disinfect the foals naval and keep it clean once it has been detached from the mare.
- Oxygen tank: This is used in cases where the foal has been deprived of oxygen longer than is considered safe during the foaling process. This helps the foal get back the balance needed to sustain it through those early hours.
- A string: We use a string to tie the mare’s placenta up before she passes it so it is kept intact. We can then check for any abnormalities which might mean she is not suitable for breeding in the future.
- A refractometer: This device allows us to test the quality of colostrum which is the milk a mare produces in the first 8 hours after birth. This milk is extremely important for the foal, and can often be saved and stored for other uses. The colostrum needs show a certain quality otherwise it might have to be discarded.
- Stethoscope: To measure the heart rate of both mommy and baby, we can make sur they are calm and healthy.
All the members of our team are made fully aware of our foaling plan, and all the possible eventualities. This ensure that everyone is up to date and ready to act as and when needed.
There are a few signs that can give us a bit of warning before a foaling. Of course not all mares will show the exact same signs, so we cannot rely on them as an exact science. This make it all the more important that we are always ready for a foaling!
- Bagging up: A term used which describes a mare’s teats filling up with milk.
- Waxing up: When candlestick like drops are present on the tip of the mare’s teats.
- Running milk: This is when milk is physically flowing from the mare’s teats. This is a sign that the foaling could be imminent!
Breeding, ensuring the health of the mare through pregnancy, and bringing beautiful foals into the world is what we do! Among many other things of course. Come and check it out for yourself.