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Equine pregnancy No Nonsense Facts

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March 1, 2016

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Signs that your mare is close to foaling

  • Waxing of the teats and dripping milk, more commonly known as ‘bagging up’. The area behind the teats swells ready for milk production. Most mares will begin to “bag up” in the last month to month and a half of gestation. Still, none of these indicators are absolute. Remember that mares approach foaling in their own individual ways. Some do not bag up at all, while others will produce copious amounts of milk and may even leak milk for days before the foal is born. Some mares will wax and others will not.
  • Relaxation and elongation of the vulva and softening of the muscles around the tail head, there will be an obvious softening to touch.
  • Behavioural Changes; Sometimes a simple change such as standing in a different corner of the stable may be a sign that stage one of labour is beginning for that particular mare.

 
Evaluate all the signs before deciding if your mare is close to foaling, remember if in doubt seek veterinary advice.
 
What to do to prepare your mare for foaling.
 
The average gestation of the horse is 342 days but 1 % of mares go the full 365 days. Labour and delivery, while momentous, are generally uneventful. Most mares prefer to foal at night in privacy.
 
Before the mare foals it is a good idea to be prepared;
 

  1. Clean and disinfect the stable area as thoroughly as possible.

 

  1. Provide adequate bedding, shavings are not ideal in a foaling box due to the small chippings posing a risk of inhalation. Make sure the mare has a large straw bed (you can use shavings as a base to soak up moisture is you wish).

 

  1. Make sure there are no sharp protruding edges in the foaling box that could cause injury to the unsteady new arrival.

 

  1. Wash the mare’s vulva and hindquarters with mild soap and rinse thoroughly before foaling, if safe to do so.

 

  1. Wrap the mare’s tail with a clean tail bandage, when you observe the first stages of labour, if safe to do so. Be sure that the wrap is not applied to tightly of left on for too long.

 

  1. Keep a watch or clock on hand so you can time each stage of labour. The watch will help you keep accurate track of the mare’s progress during labour. Keep a record of when each stage has been completed.

 

  1. The person present when the mare is foaling should be a quiet observer and stay out of the stable, a mobile phone with the veterinarian’s number should be close at hand.

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Labour in equines
 
Labour is divided into three stages:-
 
Stage 1
 
This begins with the initiation of uterine contractions. Mares may go down and get up repeatedly, sweat and appear uncomfortable; this is when the foal is moving into the normal birth position. Keep the stable as quiet as possible and try to have minimal disruptions to the mare during this time, if the mare is disrupted too much they can delay progressing to Stage 2.
 
Stage 2
 
This is signalled by the rupture of the fetal membranes (waters breaking), during Stage 2 the mare may get up and down during delivery. This is normal; mares usually deliver lying down on their side with delivery occurring 20-30 minutes after the membranes have ruptured. Occasionally the mare will actually stand up after being down and the foal is ‘’dropped’’ out with the mare standing up. If you observe red velvet membranes appearing at this stage (red bag) contact your Veterinary Surgeon as a matter of urgency.
 
The foal’s forelegs will present themselves first with one leg in front of the other covered with a white membrane. The muzzle will appear when the forelegs are 5-7 inches past the mare’s vulva. Make sure to remove any membranes covering the foal’s nose (if safe to do so), so that the foal is able to breath without obstruction. The shoulders are the widest part of the foal and are the most difficult to pass, the rest of the body quickly follows. If 10 minutes of strenuous stage 2 of labour fails to advance the foal to the next stage or further into the birth canal, or the foal is in an abnormal position, call your Veterinary Surgeon for assistance.
 
When labour has finished let the mare and foal lay quietly DO NOT CUT THE AMBILICUS, when the mare decides to get up it will tear on its own.
 
Stage 3
 
This involves the expulsion of the placenta and should be completed within  four hours. You must save the placenta for the Veterinary Surgeon to examine; this will ensure that the entire placenta has been passed. Put the placenta in a clean feed bag ready for examination.
 
HAPPA strongly advises that you seek veterinary advice throughout The 3 Stages of Labour.

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