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Advice Column  6/00 - 12/00


The Advice Column contains a tremendous amount of information. However, it doesn't come even close to the information contained in the "Complete Foaling Manual." I assure you that if you like the column, you will love the book. And one of the great advantages to the book is having all that information at your fingertips right outside the mare's stall. For easy ordering, just click on the "Order Manual" link at the left. Don't foget to contribute to the column by clicking on "Submit Question." I would love to hear from you!


Thanks much, Theresa



Submitted by Sandy in the USA on June 5, 2000:


I first want to say I love your colunm it is great! The advice is wonderful. My question...I have 2 mares due to foal any day now (bred 7 days apart). I friend of mine says that about 24 to 48 hours before they foal, they will peak ? They explained that the mares stomach will take on a shape of a V instead of being so round, have you heard of this before ? I have never seen this on my mares before. The mare that was bred 7 days after the first mare, looks to be the one to foal first. She is soft over her tailhead and around her vulva, she has dropped and her bag stays full all day now. I just wish I knew when, I have been staying up most of the nights with her this past weekend, and I know it is just the beginning of the waiting period. So if you have heard about this peaking, please let me know.. Thanks.


Hi Sandy,


Thanks for your very nice words about the column!


I wonder if your friend's "peaking" is the same as other people referring to the mare's belly dropping. That's what it sounds like--when everything relaxes and the mare's belly drops, looking more pointed underneath than it did before and dipping behind the breast bone.


Hang in there--those mares won't hold out forever!


Follow up by Sandy on June 12, 2000:


I wrote to you a week or so ago about my 2 mares and this peaking thing, well it turns out that, their peaking is dropping. And my first mare delivered on early Sunday morn 6/11/00 at 12:21, a beautiful bay colt...this mare was not due until June 25th, she delivered right on her safeday at 320... baby and mare are doing fine. Thank you for all your advice, very helpful and nice to read the updates also... Will let you know when the next foals comes, being as she was to be first.. :0) !!!!!


Hi Sandy,


Congratulations! One down, one to go. Thanks for letting us know and please do let us know when the second mare goes.


Good luck!


Follow up by Sandy on June 16, 2000:


Well my 2nd mare foaled on Wed the 14th 3 days after the other mare, this time a little filly with four white socks... she is sooo cute.. both moms and babies are doing great, today is the first day they are in the same field together and they are running and playing... thanks for all the advice, this one went like clock work also. She was waxed at 5pm, started milking at 6pm, by 8:30 pm she was delivered. Thanks again, and have a great day.


Hi Sandy,


Congrats on the new one! I'm so glad everything went well. Now you can just relax and enjoy!


Thanks for letting us know,



Submitted by Suzanne in the UK on June 11, 2000:


We don't know if our mare is in foal, but she is so fat it's like she is going to burst. We had a vet to her who did an internal but couldn't say yes or no because he said the foal could be laid so far forward he couldn't feel it. We can no longer ride her as she won't let us get on her. She has a very full milk vein and a lump not far from her teats. Does this sound like anyone else's mare in foal?


Dear Suzanne,


If your mare is developing an udder and milk veins, then it's very possible that she's in foal. If you can, I'd get another vet to check her or have the first one back in a couple of weeks.


Good luck!



Submitted by Jeanmarie in the USA on June 11, 2000:


I have a question that might not be considered foaling advice. I purchased your book and have found it invaluable, but didn't find the answer to my question in it either. My Mare's foal is now two months old and was delivered with crooked front legs. Not only down in the pasturns, but really over in the knee. Especially the right one. The foal has always been able to get around well and nurse. I had my vet check the foal early on and she said to just wait until weaning and see how his legs look. The sire and dam are very straight and correct. His legs have improved a great deal but the right is still very over in knee and the left just a little. My question: Is there something else I can do to help this? Should I get a second opinion? Have you ever seen foals actually straighten out completely? Thanks for your time and consideration on this,


Dear Jeanmarie,


I asked for my husband's advice on this one. He's been a farrier for 25 years and dealt with a lot of foals. He says that if they aren't almost normal at two months, that's cause for concern. Most will not improve much beyond that age on their own. His advice is to get another opinion. What can be done about it depends on exactly what the problem is--whether it's a contraction problem, or a deviation problem. Both can be dealt with, usually with surgery. You're right, this isn't in the book because the book doesn't deal with foals beyond a few days old. But it is a very good question and I'm glad you asked.


Please let us know what you find out.



Submitted by Hope in the USA on June 12, 2000:


I had a couple questions about my foal that was born two evenings ago. Everything has been going well, I just was wondering about a few things that most foaling books have not covered for me. And if your book does, I will be purchasing it first thing! Anyway, Baby arrived right on schedule, perfect delivery ect. I am a natural worrier, so I took notice that baby's breathing is irregular and sometimes rather rapid, temperature was a normal 101.5, eating and acting very well, urinating regularly, (filly) and pooping very well too, (manure is orangey, but rather loose, is this normal?) I guess I was just wondering if foals are similar to human babies that they first breathe out of need and not habit?? Apprx.what is the average respiratory rate for a newborn foal, say in the 2-4 day range? Another thing I have noticed that I did not notice with other foalings is this foal snorts a lot through the nose, no discharge, or anything. More like a bug up the nose snort, do you believe there is anything to this either? Like I said before I am a natural worrier, it's just that we lost our donkey a couple years back to pneumonia and I have no intentions of losing our first mule foal to anything that I could have prevented. Thanks for your time, your response as always is greatly appreciated.


Dear Hope,


Get the credit card out! :-)


On page 92 in my book, there is a table listing normal temperature, heart rate, and respirations. Heart rate--60-80 beats per minute by a few minutes after birth at rest, 100-150 beats per minutes as the foal stands. Respirations--60-80 breaths per minutes after birth and while standing, 30-40 breaths per minute within one hour at rest. These rates will gradually decrease to an "adult" level by the time the foal is a few months old. Irregular breathing in foals isn't a problem as long as the foal isn't stressed by something else (such as illness). The slightest stimuli will make the foal's respiratory rate increase. I've honestly never thought about whether foals breathe because of need or because of habit. But unless there is another problem, there is almost never a problem with a foal's breathing (or forgetting to). Your foal's manure is normal (that's also covered in the book). A foal on a milk diet will have soft, orangy to yellow stool. All okay there. I don't know what the snorting behavior is. Could be just something the foal does, or it could be an inhaled irritant, or maybe something else. I doubt that there is anything to it, but I'd look up his nostrils to see if you can see anything in there (straw, etc.). If not, and the foal continues this behavior or seems distressed by it, I'd get the vet to take a look.


Enjoy your baby and thanks for writing.



Submitted by Deb in the USA on June 12, 2000:


As I am setting here reading your web site I am concerned about my mare. I have a Belgian Mare that is 5 years old. She had a colt last year that took a year and 5 days before he was born. This one is going different than the other one. She has more udder. So hopefully she will have more milk. Her udder looks like a jersey cow. Her due date is June 14th. I can't wait until she has it. When she was first bred we dreamed of having a filly with white socks, nice blaze, red sorrel with white mane and tail. Now we don't care what it looks like just so long as both are healthy. I have read your web site. But... waxing? When does it start and what exactly does it look like? Lily never waxed before and I have never seen a mare due to deliver. Does everyone go through the panic that I have. Does your book have pictures? Thanks for any response.


Hi Deb,


Waxing is when the mare's udder is so full of colostrum that some leaks out. It collects on the ends of the nipples and looks a lot like dry to wet candle wax. The color of the wax generally starts as clear or slightly cloudy yellowish and the closer the mare gets to foaling, the more white it will become. About 75% of mares will wax, 25% won't, so don't count on her waxing. Most mares will foal within 3-4 days of the time they begin waxing, but again, this is widely variable. Some will foal within a half hour of when the wax first appears, others might wax or drip milk for weeks. Yes, my book has almost 200 photographs. There are some that show wax. Yes, everyone who cares about their animals gets panicky at some point. Don't worry, you're normal!  It sounds like the mare won't wait for over a year this time, and nothing you described makes me think you have cause for concern.


Hang in there and please let us know when your new baby arrives.



Submitted by Marnie in Alberta, Canada in June 14, 2000:


My mare foaled June12, 2000 at 8:30am and everything went well except that the baby as of this morning still can't stand yet. We have been feeding it by the bottle. Is there anything else that we can do? She tries to stand but can only stand for about 5 seconds.


Dear Marnie,


You need to have a vet see the foal RIGHT NOW!!


I hope the foal is okay. Please let us know.



Submitted by Sarah in the USA on June 14, 2000:


In May I found out that the "not pregnant" 5 year old maiden percheron/pinto cross mare I bought this Spring is definitely in foal. The vet who palpated her said that she thought maybe 6 or 7 months along, but had a hunch that it was most likely towards the end of that range rather than towards the beginning. I started making phone calls and found out that the mare had been bred to a handsome percheron/paint cross stallion around the end of September and early in October (couldn't find out specific dates) but later showed signs of heat so she was sold to the dealer/trainer I bought her from as not pregnant. In late November at the dealer/trainer's farm, she developed a presumed case of strangles, which she recovered from. The strangles, then, would have been around the end of the second month of pregnancy. At the time she was palpated and confirmed pregnant, she would have been a bit into her 8th month. The mare is now presumably in the middle of her ninth month of pregnancy. I've added a vitamin/mineral supplement to her diet, and she now gets all the hay she wants. We also bumped her feed up a bit at the vet's suggestion. She isn't huge, but she definitely "popped out" in the last few weeks. I noticed a significant difference in the rounding out of her flanks behind my legs while riding her. I am wondering, though, given that the vet thought 6 to 7 months (which was a bit low, if the breeding dates are correct) whether the strangles in the second month might have slowed the pregnancy down or kept the baby small, if either of those is a possibility. Have you ever heard of such a thing happening?


I have bought your book, The Complete Foaling Manual, and have already found it valuable, not to mention reassuring. Other foaling books had me terrified of the whole process.


Dear Sarah,


Yes, it is possible that the strangles "slowed" things down. However, it is very difficult to determine a foal's gestational age by palpation at the point at which your vet checked her and I think the vet is to be commended for coming as close as s/he did! I'd go on the breeding dates for a possible due date, rather than the palpation. But if the mare goes overdue, it would be reasonable to assume that the strangles postponed fetal development for a while.


Thanks for your kind words about the book. One of my main goals was to inform people without frightening them. I'm very glad you think that goal was accomplished!


Please let us know when your mare foals.


Follow up by Sarah on August 21, 2000:


I thought I'd let you know what happened with my mare. She started udder development in early July, which would have been too early given what we knew about breeding dates. The vet asked me to double-check the breeding dates, and after a couple phone calls I found out that the mare had been bred on two separate heat cycles, and had come back into season twice before being sold because she "wasn't pregnant." So there was a chance that she could deliver three weeks earlier than previously expected. We moved her pre-foaling shots back a couple of weeks and watched over the next month as she developed more udder. She also had spells when the muscles around her tail were very loose and jelly-like, and her belly dropped dramatically. She started to waddle and started to stock up in her back legs. Then one evening I walked into the pasture and called her. She was at the bottom of a big hill. She looked up, saw me, and galloped up the hill to me. No stocking up, no waddle. Happy, comfortable. For the next two weeks there were no changes at all. Then last week she started getting a little bit more udder and started having occasional spells again of loose muscles near her tail.


She delivered a beautiful little filly on August 16, which would have been about 340 or so days if she took on the first cycle she was bred, or 320 if she took on the second cycle. She retained her placenta, so the vet had to work on her for a few hours to get it out. We are now past the danger point for infection and laminitis, so she's going back on some grain (and boy is she happy about that) instead of just hay and alfalfa and bran mashes. She had good colostrum and the baby is doing fine.


Of all the foaling books I read (and I read everything I could get my hands on) yours was the one I kept with me at all times. Thanks.


Dear Sarah,


You're very welcome! And thanks so much for letting us know what happened. Now you can finally enjoy Mom and that new baby!





Submitted by Tami in the USA on June 21, 2000:


I am a first time breeder. When I bred my mare, the breeder told me to give her progesterone.. which I did for 40 days, then I had a vet check her and take her progesterone level... The level came back good and he told me that I didn't need to keep her on it.. How much of that test would have had the progesterone from the shot in it? It has been about a month since I have had her checked.. she still looks pregnant, but should I have a vet check her again?


Dear Tami,


The test for progesterone levels doesn't register the amount of progesterone your mare was given. It only tests her own, natural progesterone. So any progesterone supplement she received doesn't show up at all. If the vet says her progesterone level is okay, then it is. If you are feeling anxious about the mare, by all means have a vet check her again. But it sounds like you've done everything just right, so chances are, she's still in foal.


Good luck.



Submitted by Christine in Australia on June 26, 2000:


How long from start of labour to actual birth?


Dear Christine,


The first stage of labor can last anywhere from off and on for a day or two to only half an hour or so. The second stage begins when the mare's water breaks and ends with the delivery of the foal. This stage lasts normally 10-40 minutes with 15-20 minutes being average.


Hope this helps.



Submitted by Amy in the USA on June 28, 2000:


This year was my first foaling. I read your book and column a lot. I started watching her closely several weeks before she foaled. One night she started her labor while I was watching. She was sweating and pacing ect, so we waited quietly (this started around 10pm) She kept getting down and up ect. After an hour or more of this she started to lay down and push hard but nothing else happened and then she would sit up and nicker and neigh at her rear. This went on for 10-15 min. I finally checked her and when I looked inside I saw a red bag. So I thought that this was a red bag delivery and had my spouse call the vet. I broke the bag and then the water came out and she started to deliver the foal immediately. The legs seemed offset too far and she wasn't progressing so we got her up and when she laid back down the feet got to the right distance apart. My vet called about this time and stayed on the phone with me. Of course the mare had to try to deliver against the wall and we had to move her w/vets directions. She delivered a beautiful medicine hat stud colt at around 11:30. Everything was fine after that. The next day the vet came out and checked everyone. But did not think that I really had a red bag delivery. She said that if you go in before the feet come out that you will always see a red bag. I don't know but she showed classic signs of that. That's why I checked her. Whether it was or not I have a healthy baby and mommy. I really appreciate your book


Dear Amy,


Thanks so much for writing! Your story is a valuable lesson for everyone. I�m sorry to disagree with your vet, but I believe that what your mare had WAS a red bag. Anytime you can see the red, maternal side of the placenta before the mare's water breaks, that's definitely a red bag--the foal's feet should break through the placenta at the mare's cervix, long before the placenta is visible. And you handled the situation wonderfully! Every time you look at that baby, you can be secure in the knowledge that if you hadn't acted quickly and decisively, he wouldn't be here.


Congratulations, on the baby and on your quick thinking!



Submitted by Tammy in the USA on June 30, 2000:


Can you tell me when a mare gets really close to foaling, if you can see the movement of the foal directly on top of the mare's hips and tail? Don't know if we are just seeing things or are too anxious.


Dear Tammy,


Yes, you can see foal movement up in the mare's hips when she is close to delivery. That's because everything is so loose in preparation for parturition. Usually (but don't hold me to it!), mares will foal within 48 hours of when you see movement up in the hips. You've made a very good observation!


Keep watching!



Submitted by Gail in the USA on July 2, 2000:


When do you ultrasound a mare after she is exposed to a stud?


Dear Gail,


When to check the mare varies with different vets. Some ultrasound at 14 days, some at 16, and some not until 18. Any of those times is fine. I prefer checking at 16 to 18 days.


Good luck!



Submitted by Tracy in the USA on July 3, 2000:


I have spent the last few nights reading and rereading your advice column. I have found it to be the most complete on the web. LOVE IT!


We raise paints and have had excellent results in the past. This year however one of my best mares threw us a curve. The foal was her first and of course we watched like a hawk. Missed the birth by just minutes. The filly was a white with one black ear. Because of her overo background and my stud's coloring (viable white) I was concerned about a lethal (haven't had one yet). We observed the foal for bowel movements which were just fine but she had trouble standing to nurse. I called my vet (wonderful woman!) She advised to support the foal to nurse to get colostrum, my husband spent hours holding her up to nurse. To shorten this up, after a three day struggle we lost her to NI. We rebred her (not to my stud) before we had a definite dx on cause of death. We will have several mares foal before her as she was a late one anyway. How can I determine if another mares colostrum is suitable for her foal and how would I store what I collect from one of my other mares? How long can I store it and how much can be collected from a mare without depriving her foal? Should I collect from only one mare or from a number (I will have 4 foal before her and only one is a maiden mare all others have reared healthy foals). Sorry to stretch this out but I have had difficulty finding much info on NI. Are there any good sites to research this problem? I visited the UC Davis site but found almost the same info provided by my vet. No hurry on reply. Foaling is done this year, more due Jan., March, April, May and June 2001. Last being the NI mare. Thanks for taking time to educate and reassure!


Dear Tracy,


Thanks for your kind words about the column. And I particularly appreciate that you took the time to actually read it!


Other than searching the web, I don't know where else you can find the latest info on NI (neonatal isoerythrolysis). I'm sure your vet gave you good information and there just may not be much else to know. To find out if a foal will have a problem with another mare's colostrum, you can have your vet test the foal against the saved colostrum before the foal is given the colostrum. A simple test to do is mix a drop of the foal's blood with a drop of the saved colostrum. If it mixes well and stays a uniform pink, it's okay. If it clumps up, it isn't okay. But it would be best to have your vet handle any testing that she thinks is required.


If a mare is healthy and producing colostrum normally, it is safe to take 16 ounces of colostrum from her. She will still have much more than necessary for her own foal's well being. Collect the colostrum into a plastic container as the foal nurses for the first few times. It can then be frozen in plastic freezer bags and kept for at least two years. Be sure to refrigerate it until you can get it frozen, and when you thaw it, be sure to thaw it in lukewarm, not hot, water. Hot water (and microwaves) will destroy the antibodies in the colostrum, then it will be of no benefit to the foal who needs those antibodies. I freeze colostrum in 8-ounce increments, and give a foal needing colostrum at least 16 ounces. Every foal given saved colostrum should be tested for antibody levels to be sure the antibodies in the colostrum survived the freezing and thawing process, and to be sure the foal absorbed the antibodies properly. You can collect 16 ounces from each of your other mares (except the maiden, unless she producing exceptionally well for a maiden), and label the bags with the date, amount, and the mare's name. That will keep it all straight.


I'm very sorry about the loss of your foal and hope this information helps for next year.



Submitted by Stephanie in the USA on July 20, 2000:


Hi. I have read much of your column and it has answered a lot of questions but we have 2 mares that are due to foal anytime. My 19 year old QH is bagging up and switches her tail, but I'm still not sure when to know when to separate her from the others. My 18 year old welsh pony is very confusing, she bags up, unbags and there has been a little white tip on the end of one of her teats for a long time. I was told the welsh has a ways to go and the QH is getting there. They have had colts before and we just sent our stallion to a friend's house. We still have a small shetland gelding on the yard and a 6 yr old half arab mare, could they be delaying delivery although it seems as though the pregnant mares prefer to be with them? Well mainly I'm concerned about the signs of foaling that get more and more confusing. (These are my first foals and I have no clue what the signs look like) Please respond. Thank you


Dear Stephanie,


I doubt that your mares are delaying labor because of the other horses. Watch for their udders to get completely full--tight and warm. Then watch for behavior changes--restlessness, rubbing rears on things, yawning, sweating, etc. It isn't unusual for a mare's udder to fill some, then go down, then fill again. When your mare's udder fills and stays filled all day, watch out!

Good luck.


Follow up by Stephanie on July 24, 2000:


THANK YOU VERY MUCH! With your advice last night both our horses gave birth to healthy foals. Sassy (Buckskin QH 19 yrs) had a real big and fat paint filly and Cristal (sorrel welsh 18 yrs) gave birth to a small brown with white face and 4 white socks. And the other horses were in the pen and they don�t even bother the mares or their colts. Thank you again.


Hi Stephanie,


You're very welcome, and congratulations! Thanks so much for letting us know about your new babies and I'm so happy everything went well.





Submitted by Hal in the USA on July 22, 2000:


Our mare is going to give birth in about 2 months. The paddock where she stays has live wire. I am concerned for the foal when she gets up and walks that she might get under the wire or get shocked. The owner says not to worry. I would like to see a solid fence around her paddock, what is your opinion? This is my first.


Dear Hal,


A solid fence would be infinitely better than an electric wire. Your concern that the foal will get into it is absolutely justified. From what you said, I assume there is only the live wire sectioning off the paddock. If that is so, I'd do just about anything not to put a foal in that situation.


Hope this helps.



Submitted by Jillian in Canada on July 24, 2000:


I'm looking for information on pasture weaning. Our 14 month old filly is large and doing well, but not showing a lot of interest in weaning. Should I be starting to separate them for periods of time? Is there a way to keep the mare more comfortable when her bag gets really full and is painful? The mare is open, and I do not plan to rebreed her this year; she is doing well and has held her weight easily. Any help would be appreciated. Thanks.


Dear Jillian,


A yearling should not still be nursing. My advice is to just separate the mare and filly cold turkey, and keep them apart for at least a month. It may take even longer than that. You can put Bag Balm or Numotizine on the mare's udder, but most dry up okay on their own. If she's getting grain, take the grain away for a few days after weaning. That will help also.


Good luck!



Submitted by Mary in Australia on July 29, 2000:


I have a draught mare who seems to have too much milk. I have watched the foal suckle from her and seen milk still dripping from her after the foal has taken it's fill. I have milked her off from time to time, but she still is producing too much. I know that I shouldn't touch her BUT, I don't want her to get mastitis. It has been a pity to throw the milk away so I give it to my 2 dogs, they love it, has anyone else had similar circumstances.?


Hi Mary,


It isn't all that common for mares to make that much excess milk. Are you sure the foal is okay? As long as it's acting okay, I'm sure it's fine, but sometimes when the mare has a lot of milk left after foal nurses, it's because the foal isn't nursing enough. It's better not to milk the excess from the mare because what this does is encourage even more production. Also, if the mare is getting grain, you might cut back on her grain for a while.


Good luck.



Submitted by Wanda in Canada on August 1, 2000:


We had a clydesdale filly born in the early AM yesterday. She seems to be nursing okay, but looks and acts dopey. She's not bright and alert looking. She also started having scours last night (fairly dark colored). At first I thought, maybe the mare's milk was just too rich for her. The mare is a heavy milker and a good mother, this is her third foal. Should I be worried?


Dear Wanda,


It's possible that the foal is having diarrhea because the mare's milk is too rich, but based on that and on the fact that the foal is also acting lethargic, I would sure be worried enough to get the vet out.


Please let us know what you find out.



Submitted by Sean in the USA on August 9, 2000:


I will be bringing home my first foal in about three months. He is an arab/belgian cross and is currently 2 months old and he will be my companion/buddy/confidant for the rest of his life. I know that this forum is about the "foaling process", but could you point me in the right direction as far as good books and videos on how to raise a foal during the first two to three years? Since I plan on keeping him for the rest of his life, I ever so much want to raise him well and to create a wonderful bond between us, but I don't want to spoil him too much or train him too early. I need to do this right and will need some help. Any help and direction would be very much appreciated. Thank you.


Dear Sean,


Congratulations on your new buddy, and I commend your efforts to educate yourself and do right by him. The best books I know of are the John Lyons series. I would expect that if you go to one of the major booksellers online, you won't have any problem finding his books.


Good luck, and enjoy your friend!



Submitted by Fran in the USA on August 10, 2000:


I live in Oklahoma and have 3 foals to wean. I don't find the information in the almanac I am looking for. I want to know what date in August is the best time to wean foals? If it has passed, when will the next best date, according to the stars, be? Thank you.


Dear Fran,


I don't wean foals by the stars. I wean them by age or when they act like they are ready. So, I can't help you.





Submitted by Debbie in the USA on August 11, 2000:


I had my daughter's 15 year-old quarter-horse mare bred last Sept. The foal was due August 2000. I had her palpated at 20 days, 60 days, 150 days. The vet assured that all was well. Then at about 180 days, the mare bagged up and begin to spew milk. My vet again palpated her and told me to give her regumate. After 2 weeks, she was still spewing milk. I took her to another vet to be ultra-sound. The foal was alive and kicking. All looked well. However, my mare delivered a dead foal July 4, 2000. The other uterine horn looked awfully swollen, so upon examination, I found a neucrotic foal, the size of a miniature dachschund. Both vets assured me that there was no way for them to find the twin foal, either through palpation, or ultrasound. I feel completely betrayed by both of them. My question is, should this situation have been avoided? (I am just very fortunate that I did not lose my mare, who had a very difficult delivery. I only lost my foal and about $2000 in vet bills and mare care. )


Dear Debbie,


It may not have been possible to discover the twins by palpation, but it most assuredly would have been possible to see them on ultrasound at both the 20 and 60 day checks. That's why it's so important to have ultrasounds done at those early checks.


I'm so very sorry that you lost the foal, but very glad that your mare is okay.



Submitted by Gabrielle in the USA on August 14, 2000:


We have a foal that was born two days ago. We did a lot of research on foal imprinting and immediately began working with the foal to have her accept people. However, within six hours of her birth, she was vicious. She kicks, lunges, pins her ears flat back and tries to bite anyone who goes into the stall with her and her mother. We have two other foals, out of the same stallion, and both those babies are as sweet and gentle as we could have hoped for. I have never experienced anything like this foal, and don't know where to go from here. I will say that her first experiences with nursing were not pleasant, and the mother tried to kick and bite her foal at first. While she now accepts her foal, I don't know if this has anything to do with her behavior. She seems angry and frustrated all the time, even when there are no humans in the stall. She also spends a lot of time licking the walls of the stall. I need any help or advice that is available, as soon as possible, so that we can work on this problem immediately. I will say that we don't tolerate her biting and kicking, and firmly reprimand her when she attacks, however we try to give her good experiences also. We have restrained her on the ground gently, and she accepts our petting and touching when she is laying down, however, as soon as she is back up, she turns her back and tries to kick. Please help!! Thank you.


Dear Gabrielle,


Oh, boy! You got one of those that is born with a dislike of people. The good news is that consistent work with the filly will help. Just keep at it, don't give up. She may never be an affectionate animal, but will get better. Your description of her frustration makes me wonder if the mare is producing enough milk. Is the mare a maiden? If so, it could be that her milk hasn't come in very well yet. Try getting a few squirts of milk from the mare immediately after the filly nurses. If you can't easily express a few squirts, then it is likely that the mare's production is low. Usually this corrects itself within a few days but if it doesn't, the filly may need to be supplemented with a milk replacement formula.


Please let us know how it goes.



Submitted by Stephanie in the USA on August 29, 2000:


We have a Miniature mare due to foal anytime, she has the classic hard, large, full udder and extended teats. However, one day her vulva will be swelled out to the point of her buttocks and the next day it will have "shrunk" again. This has happened about 4 times now. She is very loose in the vulva and tail area, but why does this shrinking and swelling scenario go on? What is this an indication of? Is this the foal "sliding" back and forth in the birth canal preparing for birth? This will be her 4th foal.


Dear Stephanie,


What you're seeing isn't uncommon at all. Yes, it can be pressure from the foal, but also, mares can voluntarily "suck up." That could be what's happening. I don't think it's anything to worry about, and it sounds like you shouldn't have much longer to wait.


Please let us know all about your new mini baby when it arrives!



Submitted by Kathy in Canada on August 29, 2000:


I just wanted to thank you. I have a welsh/minature mare readying herself for foaling right now and I have been sleeping in the barn and staying with her everyday now for nearly a week. She starts to pace, paw, and gets restless, then settles back down. Her bag is full, hard and so huge its very warm. My vet said I could milk her to comfort her but she is not leaking and her milk changes from clear to white to clear again, so I'm leaving well enough alone. I was up all night watching her but by 10 AM settled down. I got this little horse because she was living in a standing stall so tiny she couldn't move and she was tied up. The halter had grown into her face in three places and her stall was so deep in feces she was coated in it. She was due to foal in less than one month, I had to buy her. Mercifully she did not foal in the end of April as he said, and when I went investigating I discovered she is four years old and this is her second baby, she had one last Spring. She ran with her father throughout the summer then spent some time near two paint studs. She is very healthy now and I discovered she has a white stocking. Anyway she is huge and I had her ultra sounded a month ago to make sure everything is okay. All the classic signs that the birth is imminent are there, so now we just go on waiting. All my bases seem loaded, but my vet is an hour away so I have been reassuring myself with your column. Thank you so very much for being here and keeping me and every other expectant owner sane. I have never had a foal because there are already so many horses in need of my stalls, but this one I had to help. I lost my 38 year old QH to a stroke this Spring so his stall was very empty. You don't need to post this as it really doesn't ask for advice because so far all my questions have been answered by reading your other letters. Just thanks.


Dear Kathy,


By all means, your message deserves to be posted. And all of us need to thank you for taking in this poor little mare. I'm so glad that she now has someone like you to take care of her!


One thing, though. Please don't milk the mare to relieve the pressure in her udder. If you do, you will be removing colostrum that her foal will need. You've done the right thing by leaving well enough alone.


I hope that soon you will have a healthy baby, with its healthy mother, sharing the very happy stall of your dear old friend.


Please let us know when she foals, and thank you for writing!



Submitted by Jennifer in Arizona on September 10, 2000:


What do you do with a foal that does not have a strong sucking reflex? I don't want to go into the story in too much depth, it would take too long, but a four day old colt still does not suck very well and we are having to supplement him by milking his mother and force feeding him. Short of putting a tube down his throat, what can we do? Please email me with an answer if you will.


Dear Jennifer,


A foal without a good suck reflex has more than that going on. If you haven't had a vet see the foal, you need to right away. Other treatment is probably necessary and yes, you may have to put a tube into his stomach to feed him until he's stronger.


Please let us know how he does.



Submitted by Michelle in California on September 17, 2000:


My 10 yr old standardbred mare is 318 days pregnant. I've read most of your entire column, so I only have a few questions! I noticed that when people say their mares are "bagging up" early, then the mare might need antibiotics for placentitis. Is there any other symptom to look for? My mare is a maiden, and concieved while "on the gain". She is in superb condition, and radiates health, but she has shown gradual mammary changes since shortly after conception. Today, I noticed a sudden increase in size of her udder. Her nipples are still kind of recessed when you look underneath her. I quit riding her about 5 or 6 weeks ago, and is stocked up in back. She is in a 24 X 24 corral with a shelter, and lined with plywood from ground to 4 feet up. The other horses (4 of them) can still see over. My mare generally hates all horses until she gets to know them, but even still, to this day, she chomps the air and pretends to kick out to them in warning at feeding time. With me, and other humans, she is very docile and well trained. I have some fears about not being able to imprint the baby due to this temperament she has. My gut says that she'll let ME go in the stall, but I am kinda preparing for her to get very possessive. Do you think that 4" high plywood is high enough for a corral to be lined with? Also, where can I get those milk test strips I've heard about? I am very intent on being present for the birth. When people stay at the barn do they stay awake during the night and just keep vigil, or do they sleep on a cot in the stall, and set an alarm for every hour? When do they start to do the barn-sleeping vigils? I am SOOOO excited! Xena lets all of us feel her belly, hug, her baby and croon to him while we feel him kick. It's a great thing. My mare seems to be getting more "gentle", unlike the firey charger she used to be a few months ago! She's a huge mare, 16.3+, built like a warmblood. She was bred to my bosses' Arabian racehorse, who was sired by Tyrix--Horse of the year in 1984! Thanks for being here, Theresa. I will keep you posted. :)


Hi Michelle,


At 318 days, it wouldn't be abnormal for your mare to show a fairly rapid change in udder size. I wouldn't be concerned about placentitis. Also, if she's stocking up, the same edema that shows up in her legs can also affect her udder. So, there may be some increased size there that isn't necessarily due to udder development. Nothing you described gives me the feeling that you have cause to worry.


It is very difficult to predict how a maiden will react when she has a new baby. I've known some that I thought would be terrible turn out to be wonderful, and just the opposite. I assume they will be okay, but am always on guard. All you can do is play it by ear and be ready for anything, but chances are that she'll be just fine for you. Even if she gets a little protective at first, that usually passes within a few days to a week.


When I stay with mares, whether or not I stay awake the whole time depends on what the mare's physical and behavioral signs are. If I'm just being on the safe side and staying with one that I don't think is quite ready, I sleep and wake up hourly to check. If I think the mare is imminent, I stay awake. Usually, if the mare looks iffy, it's impossible to go to sleep! I start staying with a mare when I think she's made enough changes that I feel uncomfortable about leaving her. I don't let other people influence when I start staying. I have to do what I feel right about. I usually wind up watching mares for anywhere from one night to a week. I spend many more nights with mares because it calms my nerves than because I actually think they will foal that night. So, do what feels right for you.


Having the corral paneled up to four feet should be fine. One part of your post said four feet and another said four inches, but I assume you mean four feet. Sounds good.


Best of luck, and please do keep us updated!


Follow up by Michelle on January 1, 2001:


I don't have a question or problem for you: I wanted to let you know about our foaling experience! I wrote you during the summer, I think, telling you I had a cranky standarbred mare who'd been bred to a fine Arabian. Well, to put it all in a nutshell, after getting the predict-a-foal kit, excitedly watching Xena's milk change color, and spending seven nights camped out(literally!) with no electricity inside Xena's stall, she gave birth to a gorgeous bay colt! :) It was a beautiful, textbook experience, although I must admit feeling some panic when I saw the size of those forefeet emerging! The colt weighed 106 pounds, and was perfect in every way. It seemed as if Xena actually waited for us to ALL be present for her to begin. I could tell that she wanted to do it that night---she seemed much perkier, not as cumbersome and slow as she'd been acting. She paced her stall, seemed more bright, and her teats had begun to drip a little late that afternoon. She stayed on feed, though. One thing that I found iteresting was that she seemed to be cleaning out her bowels all afternoon-little piles very often, right up to just before her waters broke. Her waters broke 15 minutes after my husband drove up with my 14 yr old daughter. There were 5 people present, right there in the stall with Xena. I will never ever forget how neat it was to see Rocket coming into this world.


Xena's watersgushed for about 30 seconds, and it was obvious she was contracting. She pushed several times until a white bubble appeared, and then it began to sag downward, then a foot came, then another! I was so nervous when I saw the size of the feet! What kind of monster was in there, anyway?! Xena began to sniff the ground and began to circle like a dog for few minutes until she finally laid down to finish pushing out the foal. Two legs and a nose, ah, what a relief! I got on my hands and knees to pull away the membranes from the colt's face---only his head was out for a few minutes. When I wiped his nostrils and his eyes with paper towles, one eye popped open and he SAW me! Talk about imprinting! It was so scary when the foal seemed stuck. Xena even quit pushing for a what seemed like too long. I gently pulled one leg to make his shoulders go through the pelvic outlet easier. I don't know if I pulled hard enough, but whatever I did worked, because the foal came out in a rush afterwards. It was so cold that night, and no matter how much we dried the foal, Xena's licking him kept him wet! He became tired of trying to stand, so after an hour and a half, I milked out 9 oz of Colostrum, and gave it to the foal in three feeds. He was able to stand readily afterwards. Xena kept wanting her foal to stand under her nose, so it took some doing til the foal got to find out where the milk bar was! He wore one of our sweatshirts until the next morning, when we went out to get a cute little foal banket and halter. That was Oct 7, 2000. Rocket's almost 3 mos old now, and can you believe he is 13 hands tall?? Everyone who sees him can't get over how friendly and huge he is. We can still roll him over on his back and pat his belly like a dog!


We were able to get fantastic birth pictures. We filmed the birth, but it didn't turn out too great (due to it being totally dark except for a flashlight spotlighted on Xena's vulva). What a wonderful experience it was to be there and be prepared with the knowledge you so freely share! Thanks again! PS- You were right about the temperment thing-Xena is a such a wonderful mother! I hope she stays so sweet even after her foal is weaned! :)


Dear Michelle,


Thank you so much for sharing your story! I love hearing back from people! Sounds like it was a good thing you were there--to help some with the delivery and to give the colt colostrum to get him going. Good job!


Enjoy that big boy for many, many years to come!



Submitted by Julie in Minnesota on September 22, 2000:


Thank you for providing such an informative column.


My mare is 330 days in foal. Her hindquarter muscles/tail area and vulva are relaxed. Her belly seems to have dropped. Her udder is hard and seems to be warm. Although I do not have any experience to compare her udder size it seems to be about a handful on each side of the udder with some swelling in front of it. My question is: She is still producing a amber coloured liquid, however while I was checking her udder fluid I noticed several tiny white dots around her teats. Are these tiny white dots the signal that waxing will begin soon? Now that she is producing this watery amber coloured liquid how quickly can it change to colostrum?


Hi Julie,


The white dots that you see on your mare's udder aren't a precursor to waxing. Some mares have them throughout their entire pregnancies. However, one good clue is that with many mares, the day those spots disappear is the day they will begin waxing, dripping milk, or will foal. It doesn't always hold, but does most of the time. The amber colored liquid can change to colostrum very quickly, sometimes within a matter of hours.


Good luck, and let us know all about your new foal!



Submitted by Mary in Minnesota on September 27, 2000:


Thank-you for such an informative column. When is the earliest you can see fetal movement? (not a maiden mare), and also how far along can you palpate, my vet said a ultra sound was not helpful after 2 months... but didn't suggest anything except a blood test to confirm a pregnancy... but I would like to know roughly when to expect this foal. She has had 2 rhino shots since May..I think I see fetal movement..but not sure if I'm imagining it. And is it true that mares go into an infertile period from Nov- early May? I am getting really bothered by not knowing how far along she is, I hope you can shed some light on the subject. Thank-you again!


Hi Mary,


When you might see fetal movement varies hugely from mare to mare, and pregnancy to pregnancy. Some foals are just more active than others, and you can see it more on some mares. Probably about eight months would be an average of when you might see movement, but many times you don't see it until the last couple of months and with a few mares, maybe not until the last month. With a very few, you may never see it.


A mare can be palpated at any time during the pregnancy. After about four months, though, the fetus goes so far down into the abdomen that it's hard to reach. It is also very difficult to tell gestational age by palpation once you get past about 90 days. So, your vet could palpate the mare at any time, but when the mare is due would be just a "best guess." About all you can do is keep a watch on her body and notice any changes she makes that will tell you she is getting close to delivery.


Yes, most mares go into a winter "shut down." This is determined primarily by length of daylight. They stop cycling altogether, then start up usually in early March with a transition period that can last 1-2 months. Most are breedable by mid to late April. All of this is assuming the mares aren't put under lights and aren't given hormones.


Hope this helps.



Submitted by Ann in Oregon on September 27, 2000:


What's the earliest you've seen a mare bag-up? I've got a mare with an unknown breed date. We unsuccessfully hand-bred all last summer, but by the end of September, none of our three mares were pregnant. Figuring that our stallion was infertile at that point, we just turned everyone out together for the winter. Lo and behold, our mares are now pregnant! We know that the mare in question was open on 9/22/99 and was "6-7 months" by palpation on 7/26/00. Our vet couldn't be real sure of the gestation, but was guessing from the size of the fetus's hoof! The mare is already starting to show an enlarged udder and I can't really tell if she's feeling soft in her croup yet. This is her second foal. The first was in 1997. Are we really looking at an October/November foal? Given our uncertainty about due dates, is there any special precautions we should take? She's current on vaccinations and worming. We did one Rhino on 7/26 and another on 9/15. We were planning the next for 11/15 or so... but if she's going to foal close to then, should we amend that plan? With her first foal, she had no colostrum (probably mostly lost on the barn floor because she refused to foal away from home, but that's another story...), and the foal had to be transfused. I sure appreciate the service you are providing!


Dear Ann,


I would say that it's very possible you're looking at a foal in October. If the mare is bagging up, I'd go ahead and get her last series of vaccinations done (especially tetanus). It can't hurt to go ahead. Other than that, just keep a watch on her. You've covered everything else already. Hopefully, you won't have a problem with colostrum again. But since you've already dealt with that once, you know how to handle it.


Best of luck, and let us know when your "surprise" arrives!


Follow up by Ann on September 30, 2000:


Thanks for your prompt reply to my query a few days ago. I went out and bought your book yesterday, but didn't have a chance to read it until today. Of course, now I realize that I shouldn't have left my mare alone last night --- She foaled in the pasture!!! The ONLY hint was that she was kicking the ground a little with one hind leg, but since she was only about 1/2 bagged up, showed no wax, I couldn't express any milk, and her croup was only a little soft, I figured I could wait until today to put her in the stall where there's a video monitor. After reading the book this morning, I think I would have realized that the kicking was the first stage of labor. Oh well. Mare and foal seem to be doing fine. The vet is on the way for the neonatal check. She's a pretty little filly and friendly even though we missed our first imprinting opportunity. Thanks again for the wonderful service you're providing.


Dear Ann,


You're very welcome, and I'm sorry you missed the delivery but very happy that everything went okay. With the few physical changes your mare was showing, it's no wonder you didn't think she was ready to foal. That's the biggest thing about mares-they'll get you when you least expect it! :-) Thank goodness that most of the time, everything goes just fine. Don't worry about missing the imprinting. You can still do wonders with the baby now.


Enjoy! And thanks for letting us know.



Submitted by Judith in Somerset, England on October 3, 2000:


I have a 5mth old colt with an umbilical hernia. So far no trouble, but it's suggested he may need surgery in the future when gelded-this is worrying me. Can you offer any advice ? Many thanks


Hi Judith,


Not to worry. The surgery for an umbilical hernia almost always goes very smoothly and doesn't cause a great deal of trauma for the foal. It shouldn't cause him much trouble at all.


Let us know how he does.



Submitted by Michelle in Nevada on October 4, 2000:


I think this is great that you are helping so many people. I have a question and hope you can help. I have a six year old Pinto arab mare. I bred her to my Chincoteague pony stallion and we found that she is pregnant. She had a false pregnancy before but she cycled normally and the vet gave her a clean bill of health. Is it possible for the false pregnancy she had to affect her real pregnancy this time? I am VERY excited about this foal. Thank you so much for your time.


Dear Michelle,


Thanks for your kind words. I do enjoy helping, in whatever little way I can. I wouldn't think the previous false pregnancy would have any bearing on this pregnancy. Once that's over, it's over.


Please let us know all about your new baby!


Follow up by Michelle on December 31, 2000:


Hi, I wrote to you a while back. I'm having a problem with my pinto mare. Every time I try to touch her teats she will kick and move away. I've talked to some people who have said some first time mares will reject their foals nursing because she didn't like her teats touched. Can I do something about this? Should I keep it up and keep touching her or should I just leave her alone ? This makes me feel like a pervert, but I know it needs to be done. Also I have a stethoscope and was wondering when I might be able to hear the foal's heartbeat and if so where should I hold the stethoscope? I know I may not be able to hear it at all but I'd like to try. I would love any advice you can give me. Thanks


Hi Michelle,


Don't worry about touching your mare's udder. I know lots of people work with their maiden mares ahead of time to get them used to having their udders touched, but my experience has been that after the foal is born, the mare's maternal instinct will kick in and she'll accept the foal being under there a lot better than she's accepting you touching her now. She may not understand at first when the foal tries to nurse, but by holding her still and reassuring her, she'll catch on. It truly is the rare mare that rejects her foal--and those who do reject them do so even after they have nursed. Don't worry about what people are telling you. There is a 99.9999% chance that your mare will accept her foal just fine. I've known many mares, even mares that have had several foals and who are wonderful mothers, who don't like to have their udders touched. Once again, don't worry about it. Sorry, but you can't hear the foal's heartbeat. There is too much muscle, gut, fat, etc. between the outside of the mare and foal's heart. Too bad, because it would be really cool if it could be picked up!


Please let us know how your mare does when she foals.



Submitted by Meghan in Ontario, Canada on October 4, 2000:


Hi! This might sound like a silly question but I need to know. I just bought a ten year old mare. I noticed that her udder is starting to swell and the boarder said there was crusty stuff on her teats. The man I bought her from told me that she needed to lose some weight. I've tried everything and she doesn't seem to be losing any weight and her tummy is very tight. Tonight I also noticed that she's rubbing her rear and lately she's been wanting to go in all the time. Could my horse be pregnant?! Please help. This is my first horse and experience with horses.


Dear Meghan,


That isn't a silly question at all, and it sure sounds like she could be pregnant. I'd have her checked by a vet ASAP.


Please let us know what you find out.




Submitted by Jane in Missouri on October 15, 2000:


You gave such wonderful advice when I was waiting on my foal that I am back again! My baby is well over a year now, and I can't get her Mom to dry up. I have separated them for 4-6 weeks at a time, 3x and each time I put them back together, Mom comes back to milk. When I put them together the bag is supple and soft, but still a bag. There is a clear liquid at this time. Thinking the colt won't nurse, I will put them back and it all starts over again! I have followed a vets advice and tried penicillin and dexamethasone?? I think that is right. Nothing seems to help. Can you advise on this?


Dear Jane,


My best suggestion would be to keep the mare and foal separated for longer -- until the mare has no udder left at all. If she just will not dry up after 2-3 months, it might be time to have her hormone levels checked. Your vet can do that.


Hope this helps, and please let us know what happens!



Submitted by Lisa in Delaware on October 19, 2000:


We purchased a 2 year old Appaloosa mare back in August knowing she might be pregnant. She was very sweet in her disposition although she had been field raised up until 2 months before we bought her. The previous owner had used round penning techniques with her when she bought her in March. The owner had stated when she first got her, she was wild and unruly. In the three months that we have owned her, she has been a wonderful, sweet horse. I did have a vet check in September that confirmed she was pregnant. She is supposed to be due in June. My problem is a very sudden and a desperate one! Her appetite has been increasing rapidly and yesterday she aggressively charged me after putting her hay out. Usually I spend her eating time grooming and lightly petting her. Now as soon as I put it down she charges. It happened two times yesterday and today she has done it three times! It's like her personality has done a complete turn. She will turn her back end on me and try to kick me. Even if I have moved 10 feet away from her, if I move, she starts to come after me. Today I narrowly escaped her hooves. She also will not let me lead her on a rope or generally get near her. She has not been aggressive with my other dominant mare. She has also in the past two days started bucking and galloping around the paddock with her ears back and shaking her head. She sometimes does that if a horsefly gets her. I don't know if the baby might be kicking inside her and she's freaking about it or what. She is getting fed three flakes of hay morning, noon, and night. She also gets her grain in the morning and night. She has put on weight and is considerably rounded in the belly. I'm afraid to over feed her and I think I would be if I gave her more. She is in a pasture but it is not grassed. Any knowledge or advice on mood swings and pregnancy would be greatly appreciated. I don't have any other ideas on what would suddenly change her. HELP!


Dear Lisa,


So sorry the mare has turned into a wild thing! She's pretty young to be in foal and that could be causing hormonal problems. I doubt that it is the foal bothering her because she isn't that far along yet. One possibility could be that she has resorbed or aborted. That could cause hormonal changes. It would probably be a good idea to have the vet check her again to be sure she is still in foal. The vet can also help you with ideas about feeding. It's much easier to give advice on these things when you can see the animal, but generally, it probably wouldn't hurt to feed her more hay --- a grass hay that would keep her munching without adding a lot of calories. The vet can help you with how much grain she should be getting. You're right --- you don't want to overfeed her, just keep her happy.


Please let us know what you find out.


Follow up by Lisa on June 20, 2001:


It's me again. I had emailed you early in the fall about a young, pregnant maiden mare who had begun charging us. Good to say that problem was resolved. The reason I'm writing now is that my mare is now at 324 days. Starting around May 23 she started leaking colostrum. I cleaned off her legs and it took about a week for her to have a noticeable amount back on her leg. She also began hanging in her stall most of the day. I had my vet come out (June 2) to verify that was what I was seeing. It was her opinion that it was colostrum and they would be on alert for my call when the baby came. She also thought Candy my mare looked full term and it probably wouldn't be a problem if she did foal early. I thought okay, the vets lined up for colostrum, we'll be fine. I began making a middle of the night check on her so if she did deliver, no more than 10 hours would pass before the foal got the colostrum. On June 5, I started noticing slight swelling on her front legs. She continued to leak colostrum. On June 14 Candy began dripping milk, which then went into streaming milk. I saw Candy streaming several times, each time lasting over a minute. Here it is June 20, she's dripping at least 50% of the day with occasionally streaming. She streams and drips at all times of the day and night, it doesn't seem to matter if she's eating grass or eating hay. My last check on her is at 9:00 pm catch zzz's until 1:00 and then check on her again. Still no foal. I haven't noticed any softening, but she is slightly swollen and elongated. She does all the warnings, yawns, looks at her stomach, occasionally rubs the tail you name it. She's driving me crazy with all the signs. Typically I'm with her from 1:00 am till about 3:00 because I keep thinking this has got to be it! Should I be concerned about all this milk leaking? Her appetite is unquenchable, she's drinking plenty of water and besides being testy about the heat she seems quite healthy. Any thoughts? I know maiden mares are unpredictable but this is unreal. Thanks! You were a great help the last time.


Dear Lisa,


The main problem with leaking milk is loss of colostrum. It sounds like your vet has that problem well under control. It sounds like the baby should come any moment. Hang in there, and let us know what happens.


Follow up by Lisa on July 26, 2005:


Sad news on Candy's baby. As we had talked about, Candy had been leaking colostrum for 5 weeks and then started streaming milk. I had been watching her like a hawk for any sign that she might be delivering. On Monday, June 25 I had just been with her for about 2 hours just fussing with her. It was extremely hot and humid so I went in take a shower and have a bowl of ice cream. I was back out in � hour to find she had delivered the baby! That was about 8:15 pm. Everything had gone great without me. She took to motherhood right away and I was just so proud of her. The vet arrived around 10:00 pm. The vet gave the colostrums replacement, did her checks on Candy and the baby and gave the okay. The baby nursed around 12:00 am. He had spent a long time trying to figure how things worked but once he did he was a great nurser. The following day things were great. We named him Jack Flash. Jack was not afraid of us in the least and actually would nicker at me. He nursed great throughout the day. On Wednesday morning, the vet came out again for another check and to do a field test on his IGG's. The vet said the test was low but that she didn't trust the field test and would take the blood back to the lab. As the heat and humidity of the afternoon wore on I started becoming worried because he seemed to be having trouble nursing and seemed more lethargic. Candy was also becoming concerned. At about 3:30, the vet called me and said that she wanted to start antibiotics just in case and I told her that I didn't like the way he looked but thought it might be the extreme heat and me being a worried mom. I met her in a nearby town and she gave me the injections to give to him. I was back home by 4:30 and the first thing I did was go and see Jack. He was not standing by Candy but by himself and looked dazed. When I put my arm around him, he collapsed to the ground. His breathing was labored. I gave him the shots and took his temperature, which was 103.6. I called the vet who was now an hour and a half away. By 5:30 pm, Jack began having seizures. I tried to cool him down and just tried to hold onto him when he had the seizures. By the time the vet arrived at 7:00 pm he had already had 10 seizures. He was comatose by the time she got there. The vet immediately started doing everything she could. My mother-n-law who is on oxygen, gave us her portable tank to help. We tried to do what we could until we realized it was hopeless. The vet said she heard very little in his lower lungs and just some in his upper lungs. She thought he was having the seizures because he was in septic shock. Everybody's heart was broken when we made the decision to end it. We had to sedate Candy to take him out of the pasture. The vet and I decided that we needed to know what had happened to Jack so I took him to the state department of agriculture for an autopsy. The vet did get the IGG results and she said that even with the colostrums replacement, Jack had barely any antibodies in his system. She said there wasn't a prayer that he would have made it. I finally talked to the state vet a couple of days ago. He said he could find no pathological reason that the colt had died. He said there was some emphysema scarring which naturally occurs when something is dying. I asked him about heat stroke and he said that could have been a factor but he didn't know for sure.


It has been almost 5 weeks since Jack died and Candy still occasionally drips milk. She's also been in heat. My vets are being very vague about whether we should try breeding her again. We would wait until late this winter to try breeding her. I guess I'm just looking for some insight and thoughts about whether I should or not. I also don't understand why the replacement seemed to have no effect on Jack. The whole family has been really traumatized by Jack. I think the hardest part is knowing how great Candy was with him. She was just so good with him and us. That's the reason why we would like to try again but not if there's a high chance the same thing could happen. Any advice? I'd also like to thank you again for being there. It's meant a lot to me.


Dear Lisa,


Oh, no! I'm sorry beyond words! I just hope you are comforted by the fact that you were very diligent and did everything you could.


I would probably breed Candy again. Did the vet give an oral colostrum replacement? If so, with the next foal if Candy drips mild for so long, it might be a good idea to give the foal an IV replacement rather than an oral one. Once in a great while you come across a foal that doesn't absorb the antibodies properly through its gut. That's one of the reasons it's so important to have the IgG level tested at about 12 hours after the foal starts nursing, or ingests a colostrum replacement. It's the only way to know for sure if the antibodies have been absorbed properly. I really think that with the proper precautions, everything should be okay if you breed Candy again. And it may even be that next time she won't drip milk for so long and everything will be perfectly normal. I know what you've been through is terrible and has made you very gun shy, but it would be a shame not to let this nice mare have another foal.


Again, I'm so very, very sorry!




Submitted by Windy in Texas on October 29, 2000:


I think that your column is great! I can't wait to receive your book. Recently I have been weaning my stud colt. I wanted to know how long it will take for my mare to dry up. When, if at any time, would it be safe to put her back in the pasture with the colt? Thank you for your assistance.


Dear Windy,


How long it takes for a mare to dry up varies greatly between individuals. Some will dry up quickly but it may take months for others. All you can do is to keep checking the mare to see how she is progressing. Once she is dried up, you can put the mare and colt back together. However, remember that he can be fertile as a yearling so unless you have him castrated, you'll need to separate them again in the Spring.


Good luck!



Submitted by Yvonne in Florida on November 4, 2000:


Greetings ! What a wonderful service you provide, it is a real Godsend. My concern - I have a maiden 11 year old Morgan mare who is EXTREMELY obese. She looks and is built like a miniature draft horse. I bred her this past early summer. Should I be concerned about rupture of the prepubic tendon due to her huge abdomen size? Also, she has lately exhibited "stallion" like behavior, such as being interested in other mares showing heat cycle, whinnying deeply, and sounding like a stallion. I know that there is some kind of tumor that mares can have that causes this behavior. Would you please explain this and what is the best test for confirming this? Ultrasound? Thanks.


Dear Yvonne,


You said you bred the mare, so I assume she's in foal? If so, her behavior is due to the pregnancy. It isn't at all uncommon for pregnant mares to show stallion-like behavior. If she isn't pregnant, then what you may be thinking about is a granulosa cell tumor. This can usually be diagnosed by ultrasound. But I doubt if that's the problem - being pregnant is most likely the cause, and isn't reason to worry. Some people even think that if a pregnant mare acts like a stallion, it means she is carrying a colt ! :-) Not scientific, just what I've heard people say. Yes, her obese state could increase the possibility of a prepubic tendon rupture, but I'd be more worried about other complications, such as a difficult delivery. Morgans have a tendency to get fat on air, so I wouldn't be a bit concerned about putting her on a diet. It might also be good to have her thyroid levels tested. Could be that she is low. Thanks for the kind words about the column! I really appreciate it.


Hope this helps.



Submitted by Kerri in Australia on November 6, 2000:


No questions just a thank you and appreciation for supplying such a wonderful and helpful column. I am a first time breeder and was feeling a little anxious (well OK, a lot anxious) about my mare's approaching foaling. But I felt so much better after scrolling through your column and finding a wealth of information and to learn that I wasn't the only one with concerns and fears. All went well and my mare had a lovely colt foal on the 2nd of November, 2000 at 1:05 PM (midday) 8 days overdue, so was in attendance to witness this amazing sight. I feel very privileged as I know that you can easily miss the birth even when checking at hourly vigils. I've just thought of one question that you may be able to answer. The foal came out normally at first, the typical one front font followed by the other close behind, then the head. At this stage my mare seemed to have a little trouble pushing with no further advancement, so she got up and back down again, then she continued to push and one leg came all the way out up to the chest, and the other one was only out just past the fetlock joint. She got up one more time and back down again. This time I was just about to help her by pulling the legs, but with a strong contraction she managed to get the job done herself. A friend mentioned that foals are born with their chestnuts connected to help keep the legs coming out together and don't break apart until the later part of delivery, and said that my mare's must have separated early hence why one leg was getting hooked up at the shoulder. Was wondering if you think that's what could have happened. From start to finish the foal was delivered in 10 minutes. Thanks for your time and knowledge.


Dear Kerri,


Congratulations on the new foal, and thank you so much for your kind words about the column! You don't know how happy it makes me that you took the time to read it, and that it helped you so much.


The problem your mare had during delivery isn't an uncommon one. If you ever come across this situation again, it's perfectly fine to give a gentle pull on the trailing leg to help advance it. What happens is that the lebow of the trialing leg gets caught on the mare's pelvis and the foal can't advance until the elbow is freed. Freeing the elbow will allow the delivery to go on normally. That the foal's legs are connected at the chestnuts is a new one for me! Haven't heard that one before. It's also not at all true. The foal's legs are never connected to each other in any way (at least not in normal circumstances). Some people feel that the chestnut is the evolutionary remains of another limb (like a finger). If that's so, you can see why they wouldn't be connected.


Enjoy your new baby and thanks for letting us know about him!



Submitted by Mary in Ohio on November 11, 2000:


My first time mare is 45 days away from foaling, but no milk yet. My other mares have always milked up at least 55-60 days before. My vet says not to worry. Has anyone ever had one milk up so late?


Dear Mary,


I wouldn't be at all worried yet. Many mares don't begin udder development until about 30 days before delivery, and some maidens will wait until the last couple of weeks or even days to really bag up. Also, mares delivering during the winter months have a slightly greater chance of carrying longer than those delivering in warmer months, which would also make udder development seem to be starting "late". So at this point, there isn't reason to be concerned.


I hope this helps and hang in there!



Submitted by Debbie in Missouri on November 19, 2000:


No question or problem. I just want to let you know the impact your manual had on us when we decided to breed my mare for the first time three years ago. We had complications, but were well prepared. Thank you for your knowledge and for sharing it with us.


Dear Debbie,


Thank you so very much! You don't know what it means when I hear that the book has truly helped someone, and their animals. If you have the time, I'm sure everyone would love to hear your story.


Thanks again.


Follow up by Debbie on December 4, 2000:


Thank you for asking me to share with you the first time foaling a mare for my husband and I. I am not sure if this is the correct venue you meant for me to do so, but here goes. The colt we delivered two years ago has moved on to his present owners. Max and I are able to keep track of him because friends of ours bought him for their daughter. He is a healthy, happy two-year old gelding now. My mare was a maiden at eleven years of age. I was prepared for any scenario related to older mares and maiden mares. "Red Bag Delivery" was a foremost thought. That did not happen. The colt's front legs presented. Then the nose. "Candy" was obviously in a great deal of distress. "Buck"'s shoulders had become wedged at "Candy"'s pelvic bone. I called our vet and by the time I got back to the barn Max had pulled the colt through the canal with just enough pressure to get the job done. This was at the time a man who had never even seen a dog have puppies!!! I was so proud of Max and "Candy" for having done such a good job.


Dear Debbie,


I'm very proud of Max and Candy, too! It's wonderful that he jumped in there and helped her.


Thank you so much for sharing your story! We love hearing about successful foalings.



Submitted by Sue in England on November 20, 2000:


What is an umbilical hernia? Please can you describe the anatomy of such a hernia in the foal and explain the likely surgical approach involved in its repair. Thanks.


Hi Sue,


An umbilical hernia occurs when the muscles of the abdominal wall don't close properly, leaving a space through which abdominal contents can protrude (under the skin). The size of the hernia determines how severe a problem it is. Many small hernias will close on their own, but if they are large enough to allow bowel to slip through, they should be surgically repaired. Surgical repair consists of an incision in the skin, then a "freshening" of the edges of the proper abdominal muscles and sewing them together, as they should have been. The edges heal in a strong bond which eliminates the space, and the hernia. The procedure is straightforward and shouldn't cause a foal much stress. Most recover very quickly.


Hope this helps.



Submitted by Paula in Alberta, Canada on November 23, 2000:


I have a 16 year old maiden Thouroughbred mare who was bred for the first time on June 19th. I know based on everything I read she could be due anytime from towards the end of April to June. She was brought into season with the help of Lutalyse and upon ultrasound prior to inseminating had two good follicles. We inseminated her and then a little bit over 4 hours later gave her a shot of oxytocin (she had fluid in her uterus). She was pregnancy checked on the 5th of July at which time twins were found. The vet pinched one off, re-ultrasounded, gave my mare a shot of banamine and antihistamine. She was rechecked again on the 12th at which time she was still pregnant, but her cervix was a bit "soft" so the vet gave her a shot of progesterone and wanted to recheck her again. So the vet was out again on the 21st and she was still pregnant. The vet suggested that we continue giving progesterone shots monthly and we have until October. In October I was away on holidays but the vet came out anyway and gave my mare a shot of Depo-Provera. On the 18th of November the vet was out again and gave her the monthly shot and inoculated her for Rhino. I asked my vet how long we should continue these shots for and upon consultation with the senior partner of the vet clinic they are going to continue to administer them all the way along. Is this normal for the maintenance of pregnancy? At what time should I have them discontinue these shots? The 9th or 10th month? Thanks for your help. I am glad I happened upon your site.


Dear Paula,


I would have the vet check your mare's progesterone level. If it is 4 or above, she shouldn't need supplemental progesterone any more. If it is less than 4, she will probably need the injections the whole time.


Hope this helps.


Follow up by Paula on August 21, 2001:


I am sorry I didn't provide you with an update any earlier than now. My mare, Canasta, gave birth on May 25th to a filly. I am ever so thankful that I had read your book from front to back many times. My mare's foaling was anything but "text book". I had installed a security camera in the barn so I could see what was going on without disturbing her every 1/2 an hour. We knew something was going to happen as her behaviour changed dramatically in that last day.

Saturday, May 19th, started dripping continually, Vet came out on Wednesday the 23rd, Calcium test showed that she should go within 24 hours. She held on for 2 more days. Showing all the signs except for her water breaking. Friday, May 25th, I left the barn at 6:15 because I had to go to work, barn owner turned horses out at 9:00, mare showed drastic changes over haunches and vulva, called me at work, because she was dripping even more. We managed to get a hold of the vet who tracked down some colostrum for us. 12:45 I arrived at the barn, another boarder had stuck around as the barn owner had to run her daughter to school, the other boarder stated that my mare had all of a sudden started streaming milk approx. 15 minutes before. Went to check on mare who seemed fine just not quite 100% herself, mare than followed us back to the barn, we let her in her stall and went to the other end of the barn in case she just wanted to be alone, she was pacing and pawing but nothing occurred. 1 1/2 hours later she wanted back outside again so we let her out. Within 15 minutes she wanted back in again so I put her in the stall, hooked up my surveillance camera and went to the trailer to watch her in relative comfort. When I brought her in she seemed to leak this substance from her vulva, just a little dribble and than it stopped. This put the time at approx. 3:30. We brought all the other horses in at their normal time (5:00) and again I went back to my post to watch her. She ate all her grain and hay but was really restless. At approx. 8:00 we saw a trickle of fluid come out from her vulva and snuck in the barn to check on her, we got there just as she was lying down. Within 2 minutes the amnion was coming out as well as 1 foot. The 1 foot came out approx. 8" and than the mare stopped progressing. I called my vet immediately on my cell phone as I was concerned and alarmed at the lack of progress. Within 5 minutes the mare stopped pushing and the vet had already started on her way. The barn owner got to the barn at approx. 8:25 and shortly there after the mare stood up. The mare had already stopped pushing and the barn owners sister (a nurse) put on my OB gloves so we could the foals actual position while on the phone with the vet. We found the other leg and muzzle up in there. When the sister was feeling around for the foals other leg and muzzle, the mare started straining again, only to stop when she finished feeling around. The mare than proceeded to squat like she had to urinate. The amnion hadn't even broke at this point (Thank heavens). and the vet got there at approx. 8:35 with her foaling kit. Grabbed her chains and while one of my friends was holding my mare, the vet attached chains to the leg that was back and pulled it forward to free up the shoulder lock. Than she and the barn owner alternated in providing traction on each of the front legs and when baby popped out the vet, barn owner and barn owners sister caught the filly. The mare foaled while standing up. Mom and Baby are doing great now. Briana (the foal) is a bit on the small side (she measured 9 hh at the shoulder at birth) and Mom is 16.1 hh. When Briana was 17 days old she became really sick all of a sudden. She even spent 3 days in the vet clinic for tests and treatment. It turned out she had an infection in the umbilicus duct leading to her bladder. She has recovered fully and is now a healthy and vibrant filly.


Dear Paula,


Whew! I was on pins and needles reading your post. I'm so relieved that everything turned out okay! Good for you for keeping such a close watch and being ready to help! Congratulations, and I know I don't have to tell you to enjoy our new filly!


Thanks for sharing your story.



Submitted by Beverly in Taiwan on December 12, 2000:


I've ordered your book but need a question answered before it arrives. I am an American in Taiwan, and am helping out at a barn here in Taichung. Very few people in Taiwan breed horses and there is apparently no place to buy any supplement for the pregnant mare on the island. The trainer has asked me to get him some vitamins and I have a friend who is traveling to the US for Christmas, but I don't know what supplement to ask her to bring back. Do you recommend supplementing the pregnant mare? And if so, what are 2 or 3 of your favorite products? I'd like to give her a choice, since not all products may be available in Oregon. The mare is due in April '01. She is a Warmblood. She is currently fed alfalfa pellets, brown grass hay and oats. Her coat is in good condition and she seems healthy. She is just starting to look seriously pregnant. She is a 15 year old maiden mare. Thank you for any advice you may have.


Hello, Bev!


Good to hear from you! It isn't usually necessary to supplement the mare unless there is a deficiency of something in the feed she's getting. I'm afraid I'm not as up-to-date on commercial supplements as I should be, so I would recommend that when your friend comes to the states, she should call a local vet and get a recommendation that way. The vet should be able to suggest a supplement that will be easy to transport. Do they have mineral blocks over there? Minerals are important, too, and if they have the blocks, it would be good to give her access to one.


Sorry I couldn't be more helpful, but I'd really feel better about having a vet give advice about this. Hopefully, if you have any more questions, I can do better! :-)



Submitted by Nanette in the USA on December 16, 2000:


This spring, after a very long trail ride, it was too dark for my daughter to ride all the way home so she stopped by a friends and asked if she could leave her mare overnight. Of course this was absolutely fine and she was turned out with her herd. Well, in this herd was a very frisky yearling stud colt and he took it upon himself to service my daughters prized barrel horse. We were completely unaware that the mare was even in heat until we went to retrieve her the next day. They thought that they in love and protested to our separating them. Well it never even crossed my mind that this colt may first, have a clue what to do and second be fertile enough to settle the mare. My mistake. We are now excepting a foal at the end of March. Bless his little heart! I have had the mare vet checked and she is positively bred. My concern is that I have been unable to feel any fetal movement. My other mares are all due mid April and their babies are very active. I try to spend at least 15 minutes in each mares stall every night at feeding time so that they are accustomed to my presence early on in the event I need to be in the stall to assist during foaling. I realize that this mare is maiden and we all know how fickle they can be. But I would think that I should be able to feel her baby moving or least see some sort of activity at this stage in the game. I have called and spoke with my vet and he would prefer not to palp the mare unless absolutely necessary. He is sorta old fashioned and feels it is too invasive at her point of gestation. I would be grateful to have your opinion. Thank you so much ahead of time for your advice.


Dear Nanette,


Oh, I know how you must have loved that surprise! I wouldn't be concerned about not feeling fetal movement. A good barrel mare undoubtedly has great muscle tone and that, plus the fact that she's a maiden, could make fetal movement very hard to detect. Also, some foals just don't move very much. It could be that you aren't catching it at a time it is moving. I've taken care of several mares that I never witnessed any foal movement until the last couple of months, and then it was very slight. Unless something has happened that concerns me (illness, injury, bagging up early, etc.), I don't worry about the absence of fetal movement if I've never seen it. I do worry if I've seen fetal movement, then it stops. As long as the mare's belly has been growing at a steady rate and she looks, eats, drinks, and acts okay, I wouldn't be worried.


Please let us know when your surprise baby arrives! I figure that if the pregnancy and the foaling go as easily as the breeding, you won't have any problems at all! :-)