Basic Training 101
PREGNANT MARE AND NEWBORN FOAL CARE
Your pregnant mare will usually give birth anywhere from 320 to 345 days from last breeding date, with 11 months and 4 days being the average gestation period.
- Give PneumaBort K (Rhino vaccine) shots on the 5th, 7th, and 9th months of pregnancy as the vaccine is only viable for 2 months. Get the single dose shots from your Veterinarian and keep refrigerated. Administer in muscles of the neck or hip. Occasionally, a mare may react to the vaccine by having muscle fatigue for about 3 days. They will have trouble bending their neck to eat. Put feed in an elevated feeder until she limbers again, and administer subsequent shots in the hip to avoid another adverse reaction. In Montana more harm may come from NOT giving the shot than worrying about creating any reactions, check with your vet to see if the Rhino vaccine is needed in your area.
- Deworm the mare at least every 3 months.
- Deworm and administer a 4 way shot with tetanus 30 days prior to due date. The antibodies will cross the placental barrier protecting the foal and reducing the possibility of tetanus infection of the navel during the birthing process.
- Reduce hay and grain intake 3-4 days prior to foaling to help digestion, as hay can take 3 days to digest completely. Mares tend to stop eating shortly before foaling. Plenty of fresh water is very important throughout pregnancy, however it becomes even more critical as the foaling date nears.
- The udder will "spring" and become more visible than before about 30 days prior to foaling. The bag will continue filling from then until foaling. Occasionally, a maiden mare's bag will swell and shrink a few times, but that is not cause for concern.
- The nipples will fill with milk and become more defined 4-6 days prior to foaling.
- A yellowish wax may be noticed on the inside of the rear legs if bag is real full from 1-3 days prior to foaling. Within 24-48 hours, a thicker wax will form a plug in the end of the nipple to prevent colostrum leakage. The noticeable wax buildup is one of the best indicators that she is within 24-48 hours of delivery. (Some mares may not "wax-up").
- Also within 24-48 hours, the vulva and area under the tail will become full and sloppy. It may look distended as the foal enters the birth canal and the pelvis relaxes. Begin checking the vulva area about a month prior for a baseline to compare with when she gets closer. The quarters on either side of the croup will sag and drop at about the same time.
- Wrap the tail to keep it from getting messy and in the way when you notice the signs in 7 or 8 above.
- The mare will become restless, may go off feed, may become sweaty, may lie down and get up often, may bite her sides, and will act uncomfortable during the last 12 hours.
- Approximately one hour before birth, her water will break (5-8 gallons of fluid), and she may relax and get up to eat. Visible contractions will start in the abdomen. She will lie down on her side 15-20 minutes before foaling. You have cause for concern if labor does not progress within 30 minutes of the water breaking.
- The foal should come out one front foot at a time, followed by a nose. Everything following the shoulders will come quickly. Once it is out, you can clear the nostrils and mouth of mucous. It is best to allow both mare and foal to rest quietly under low light conditions for 15-20 minutes to allow the last of the blood to flow into the foal. The umbilical cord will break in the right place when she stands. The foal should stand and suck within the first hour. It is critical that he gets some colostrum within the first two hours, as the potency of the mare's antibodies begins decreasing over the first 24-48 hours.
- The "birth" of the placenta may take about two hours. Damage may result to the uterus if the dangling membranes are pulled prematurely, so tie them to keep them from dragging on the ground, and to avoid her stepping on them.
- If she has not passed the placenta within 6-8 hours, you have cause for concern and should call the vet. If 12 hours have elapsed, you will need the vet's help and antibiotics for the intrauterine infection that can occur.
POTENTIAL PROBLEMS YOU MAY ENCOUNTER
- If contractions continue for 20 minutes without any visible results, contact vet quickly as the foal is probably not positioned properly for delivery, particularly if the anal area protrudes instead of the vulva. *If you stand the mare up and walk her, you can stop the contractions and straining until the vet arrives.
- If the mare continues straining 15-20 minutes after both front feet and head are out, with no progress following several hard contractions, grasp the forelegs above the hooves and pull downwards gently but firmly WITH the contractions. Never pull straight away, rather always curving toward the mare's ankles until the shoulders clear.
- The mare may get up and down with the feet and head out. As long as the placental sack is intact there is no problem. She may even roll over to reposition the foal so it can come out easier.
- If the umbilical cord doesn't break when mare stands, and you can't pull it apart at the natural separation point, scrape the cord back and forth about 6 inches from foal's belly with a sterilized dull knife. If cut clean with a sharp knife, it will bleed profusely unless you tie off several inches above and below where you cut.
- If hind feet or only one foot comes out first and not the nose or head, call the vet fast to reposition the foal, and try to keep the mare up and walking to stop the contractions.
- Some mares can foal without any of the tell tale signs, and still bag up following delivery and have milk ready in time.
- Have the vet check any foal that is premature 2 weeks or more as it may not be fully developed, however, foals may be a month late without any problems, you can also have your vet take a blood test of foal in the first 24 hours to check all vital information and colostrum count.
- During good weather, mares prefer to foal in a pasture where there are no geldings and preferably no other horses. During inclement weather, it is preferable to foal inside in a stall at least 14' x 20', or 14' x 14' with deep straw bedding. Move mare into a new foaling area at least 2 weeks prior to delivery so she will become comfortable with the new surroundings. Sudden changes will cause her to hold off, as will bright lights, lots of noise or many visitors or dogs.
- Keep mare and newborn foal in a small space or stall for a few days until foal's legs and eyes adjust to the new surroundings.
- It may take a few days for mare to return to full feed following delivery. She will require 20-50% more feed than before foaling. Provide plenty of fresh water, hay, and grain with vitamins and minerals.
- Destroy or bury all the afterbirth. Check for tears, or have your vet examine it.
NEWBORN FOAL CARE
- A few minutes following the breaking of the umbilical cord, spray Nolvasan mix (equal parts Nolvasan and water) on the stump. Iodine has been found to be harsh, but may be used if that is your preference.
- When foal gets up and can stand alone, administer Selenium shot in the hip or lower thigh muscle, if in Montana where we are deficient in it, or if you have selenium supplements in the mare's diet beforehand you may not need to. (If you are not proficient at vaccinations, have your vet do this). There is a severe lack of selenium in the mineral base of our valley soils, contributing to crooked legs. Check with your vet for information on your particular area.
- Sometime during the first hour, administer a disposable human adult enema to assist in passing the meconium that is in his digestive system. The small pellets will resemble hard black gravel and can be dangerous if not passed within 4-12 hours. The enema works quickly to expel it. Male colts have the hardest time, so it may take more than one enema within the first 24 hours for them.
- Deworm foal with Strongid dewormer at 4-8-12-&-24 weeks, then every 90 days according to weight.
- When the foal is 8 months old, administer 4-way vaccination followed by a booster 4 weeks later. This helps it's immune system as the mare's milk will no longer provide it at that time (Check with your vet to see what vaccines are needed in your area).
- At about 7 days the foal should be nibbling on hay and grain, "imitating mom". Try to give a creep feed to foal each day after it learns how to eat the solid food. Offer it free choice.
- Most foals weigh around 90 lbs. at birth and gain up to 100 lbs. each month they age depending upon breed type.
1. Three BIG towels, 1 disposable enema, Iodine (7%) or Nolvasan in spray bottle for navel, 1 Selenium shot (from vet) for foal, pocket knife, digital rectal thermometer (100 F. avg.), garbage bag or empty feed sack for placental disposal, paper towels rubber or plastic sleeve length gloves, flashlight, tail wrap for mare before foaling. Keep kit in a handy place, the Selenium shot needs to be refrigerated prior to use.