Advice Column 9/97 - 1998
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 forget to contribute to the column by clicking on "Submit Question." I would love to hear from you!
Thanks much, Theresa
Submitted by Anonymous on September 15, 1997:
Our quarter horse mare had her second colt this summer and again it died within a matter of two days.
The first colt, born last year, was doing fine and appeared to be nursing when after coming in from work we found him down and weak. We were able to milk the mare and tryed feeding the colt with a bottle but he only lasted a few hours. The vet told us that the colt was probably a "dummy" colt(a colt born without the sucking reflex caused by some trauma during birth).
This time within a few hours of birth the colt was in apparent pain because he would moan and roll. We called a vet out to the farm this time. The vet was very thorough. He catherized him, gave him an enema, fed him the mares milk along with electrolites by a stomach tube and gave him a shot for pain. After doing all of this he still could not give us a diagnosis. The next morning he was better and we thought we had saved him. By that afternoon the poor little thing was back down thrashing in pain and didn't last but a couple of hours.
This mare was bred to the same stud both times but there has been a healthy colt born by him out of another mare so we assume it is not something passed on by the stud. It is apparently something wrong with the mare. My question is: What can be done to pin-point the cause of this defect? We do not want to put our mare or our family through this heartbreaking ordeal again.
I am so sorry for your losses. It would be very difficult to know what the problem was with the first colt since it sounds like there was a period of time that he was not observed. Your vet could be right about the colt being a dummy, or there could have been a problem with failure of passive transfer of antibodies from the mare's colostrum to the foal. It could also have been a case of the colt just not being quite strong enough to nurse without a little help. Foals are born without much energy reserve and fade very quickly without proper nourishment. Once they get to that point, it can be difficult to bring them back.
It sounds as though the second colt had a definite problem. It could have been any number of things that would be impossible to diagnose without a postmortem examination--a meconium impaction, a twisted or "telescoped" bowel, missing gut, neonatal isoerythrolysis, etc.
Without more information it is impossible to tell if the problems with the two colts were related. It is entirely possible that you have had a run of bad luck and that future foals will be perfectly fine. However, to cover all bases, there are some things you can do to try to eliminate or deal effectively with any future problems. It would probably be best not to breed the mare back to the same stallion. That is a variable that is easy to eliminate. If at all possible, the delivery should be attended. That is the only way to know if it was normal or not. When the foal is born, it should be checked by your veterinarian as soon as possible. The vet can check the mare's colostrum against the foal's blood to make sure there is not a problem with neonatal isoerythrolysis (an incompatibility between the mare and stallion's blood types). The mare's colostrum can also be checked to be sure she is passing on sufficient antibodies to the foal. The foal's blood can be checked, after several hours of nursing, to be sure he has absorbed the antibodies from the colostrum properly.
Unfortunately, no one can promise you that everything will be okay the next time. You face a difficult decision about whether to breed this mare again or not. With the help of your vet, though, I think there is a very good chance that you can have a good experience the next time.
I hope this information has helped.
Submitted by Barbara in Canada on November 8, 1997:
I have a maiden Quarter Horse Mare that is due to Foal in March 98. She is ticklish in the flank area when I brush her and switches her tail and threatens to kick when I attempt to clean her teats. I am worried that if this mare foals when I am not around that she may kick her foal or harm him/her. Although when I brush her a lot she becomes less sensitive, she has not totally overcome sensitivity on her udder. Are my fears warranted? She is otherwise fairly non-aggressive and easy going. This season she was pastured with an orphan foal who gained some security from her company. She was so tolerant of him that she would let him suck on her fatty elbow as a soother! Have you got any ideas on a program that I can use to desensitize her? Thanks
I understand your concern, and although all mares are different, I don't think you have anything to worry about. Many mares, even mares that have had many foals, are touchy about their udders until the foal is born. At that point, their maternal instinct kicks in and they let the foal nurse much more easily than they allow you to touch them. If you aren't there for the delivery, there probably still isn't reason to be terribly concerned. Even if a maiden won't let her foal nurse, she will usually just walk away and not harm the foal. You may have to hold her still for the foal the first couple of times, but she should be fine after that. Some maidens take to it like they are old pros and if your mare did that well with the orphan foal, I expect she'll do great with her own.
Just keep doing what you're doing--working with her slowly. There isn't any reason to push it and really upset her. Mother Nature usually takes care of it.
Please let me know how it goes when she foals.
Submitted by Charity in the USA on November 24, 1997:
I have always loved horses and I was taking riding lessons until about 2 months ago when I got my own horse! A Paint Mare Quarter Horse. The guy we bought her from didn't know for sure but said there was a chance she was bred. About a month ago we took her to the vet to get her checked! We found out she was bred and is going to have a foal between now and the end of December! I have never had a horse before so I don't know what to do when she does have a foal and how to tell when she gets close. I have read a few books I got from the Library about horses but they didn't say much about foaling. I was wondering if you could help me? I have been going out and checking on her to see if see has started to get any milk. Yesterday I went out to check on her and she had something clear coming out of her teats. Is that the Colostrum? If this is the Colostrum how long after she starts to get it will she probably foal? And how do I know when she gets close to foaling? I have her in a stall about 12X12 and I am using straw for bedding. I have heard that you should use at least a foot deep of straw. Is this true? Any Information and Advice you could give me I would appreciate it very much. Thank You
I'm sure you must be looking forward to the arrival of the new foal! The questions you asked cover a lot of territory and I can only give you a brief summary here. The best advice I can give you is to go right away to a tack store or book store and see if they have any books on foaling. Obviously I would recommend mine first, but if you can't find it, "Blessed are the Broodmares" is a very good book. You might try calling Equine Research at 800-848-0225 and see if they can send a copy of mine by overnight delivery.
The reason for the urgency is this: I assume you didn't milk the mare by hand, that the clear liquid you saw on your mare's teats came out on its own. If so, it is wax and means that the mare will likely foal within the next few days. Other things to look for are softening of muscles over her hips and around her tailhead and relaxation and lengthening of her vulva. Also, her belly may drop--she'll get a dip behind her breastbone and her belly will look fuller in front of her stifles. Her behavior may also change--rubbing her rear end, swishing her tail, biting at her sides, maybe off feed a little. If you see these changes, she is close to foaling. The clear liquid you're seeing is the beginning of colostrum and will probably change from that to cloudy to yellowish white. When it turns white and/or starts dripping from her udder, watch out. She could foal at any time.
It's great that you have the mare on straw. A foot deep is okay, but after the foal is born, be careful not to bed too deeply until it is steady on its feet. It�s hard for a newborn to stand up if it has to wade through too much straw. You can add more bedding when the foal is up and steady.
I wish you a wonderful experience with your new mare and foal. If you feel uneasy about the delivery or anything that happens with the mare or foal after delivery, contact your veterinarian immediately. Please let me know how it goes.
Submitted by Sandy in the USA on November 26, 1997:
I have a 10 year old Rocky Mtn. mare. I purchased her back in the summer and tried to breed her. She was with the stud for five weeks and would never breed. Everytime she was put with the stud she just about tore the barn down. She is very large in her abdomen now and has a yellowish colored milk, her tits feel waxy, and she is very hateful with my gelding. In the past week or so I have caught her laying down and very down headed. She pins her ears back at me at times, which is something she never does. Sometimes I can see her abdomen "knot and tighten up." Everything I read tells me that she is already with foal. I've had a hard time getting a vet out to check her. Can you tell me if it sounds as if she is pregnant and what signs should I look for before birthing is near?
It sure sounds like your mare could be pregnant. You said you were having trouble getting the vet out, but keep trying. That's the best way to know for sure.
A few signs of impending delivery are loosening of muscles over the hindquarters, relaxation of the vulva, dropping belly, sometimes wax. Have you been milking the yellowish fluid out of her? If you see it on the ends of her nipples without milking her, that's wax. She could also drip or stream milk shortly before delivery. You said she's been grumpy lately. If she gets friendly again, that could be a behavior change to indicate imminent delivery. Also, watch for her to rub her rear end on things, swish her tail a lot, bite at her sides, kick at her belly. In the last few hours before delivery, she may pace, hold her tail up a lot, paw, sweat, curl her lip, yawn, get up and down. Please remember that a mare may show all of these things or none of them. Most will show at least some of them.
It's best if you can bed the mare on straw. And as I said before, try to get the vet out. That's the only way to be sure.
Good luck and please let me know what happens.
Follow up by Sandy on November 28, 1997:
Thank you for answering my questions. Today, I finally got a vet out to check my mare. Turns out that she is having a FALSE pregnancy. Needless to say, I'm very disappointed. It's so unreal how she can exhibit all of those signs and not be pregnant. Maybe I'll have better luck in the Spring when I try to breed her again. Thanks again.
Thanks for letting me know what the outcome was with your mare. So sorry it turned out the way it did! I'll certainly be keeping my fingers crossed for you in the spring. Keep in touch and good luck.
Submitted by Cara in the USA on November 30, 1997:
I'm buying a seven year old Arabian that is five months pregnant with her first foal. I've recently started reading about foaling and there is a lot to learn ! One question I would like answered is : How much riding is safe and how late into the pregnancy ? Thank you very much.
First, congratulations! You'll have a lot of fun with the new foal.
I think riding a pregnant mare is greatly variable from mare to mare. If she has been ridden regularly, then it's fine to keep riding her since exercise is very important for pregnant mares. For now, I'd just go on with whatever length of time she's used to. As she gets heavier in foal, though, you should cut back on the length of time she is ridden and keep her at a more sedate pace. This is just my personal opinion, but I don't like to see a mare ridden in the last two months of pregnancy. I know some people do it and don't have any problems, but I think at that point it's a lot to ask of a mare to carry a foal and a person. However, exercise is still important. Turnout is best but if you can't do that, then longeing in as big a circle as possible is fine. Really, it's just common sense. Judge by the mare's comfort level and belly size. Do what feels right for you and the mare.
Good luck and please let me know how the delivery goes.
Submitted by Carla in the USA on December 8, 1997:
I will order the Foaling Manual but in the interim, I have a couple of questions I need answered:
1) Is a 12 x 12 stall box big enough for a foaling mare?
2) What is the hazard of using shavings instead of straw?
3) Ater birth where do you suggest the mare and foal be kept if a 12 x 12 stall box is too small?
Need your advice ASAP. Thanks!
To answer your questions in order :
1) Many mares have foaled successfully in 12 x 12 stalls. I prefer a bigger stall, but of course that isn't always possible. The reason I prefer a bigger stall is because of the danger of the mare trying to foal with her rear end against a wall. Most will have no problem and if you can be there to keep your mare off the wall, that should eliminate any problem.
2) I am much more concerned about the type of bedding than the size of the stall. There are several problems with using shavings instead of straw. The first is the danger of infection to the foal. Shavings are more likely to harbor pathologic bacteria than straw. Foals that are born and live on shavings are more likely to develop navel ill, joint ill, and respiratory diseases than those on straw. The next problem is danger of infection to the mare. After foaling, her reproductive tract is wide open and very vulnerable. It's easy for her to suck in particles, dust, and contaminants that are present in shavings. We have found that mares which have foaled on shavings are much more prone to uterine infections than mares that foaled on straw. It's best to make the change back to shavings when the foal's umbilical stump is completely dry, waiting a week to ten days is usually sufficient.
3) I don't have any problem with keeping a mare and foal in a 12 x 12 stall after birth. The barn where I have people take mares for me to foal has 10 x 12 stalls (there is a larger foaling stall). These are big thoroughbred mares and they and their babies have no problems in stalls that size. That should eliminate one problem for you!
Turnout time is still essential, though, no matter what size stall the mare and foal live in.
Hope this helps and I wish you the best of luck. Let us know when your mare foals.
Submitted by Chris in the USA on December 18, 1997:
I am new at handling foals..and could use some info on imprinting them after birth....
Imprinting isn't really my area. Many people use Dr. Robert Miller's book on imprinting. Although I don't do "formal" imprinting, I think it's very important to get your hands on the foal as soon as possible after its born and then to keep handling it daily. I believe consistent handling is the key--touching and brushing the foal all over, running your hands down its legs, picking up its feet.
Hope this helps. Have fun with your foal!
Follow up by Chris on December 20, 1997:
Thanks for the advice, Dr Millers book is excellent.... this morning at 0630 my mare gave me a beautiful colt....both are doing great, and I applied the things Dr Miller describes and it is amazing to me! Good recommendation...again thanks!
Submitted by Marge in the USA on January 1, 1998:
What vaccinations should a mare receive prior to being bred and during gestation? Also, what vaccinations are required for a stallion? And finally, should wormers (or a particular type) be avoided during gestation? Thank you.
Prior to breeding, mares should receive normal vaccinations--influenza, rhino, tetanus, and E & W encephalitis. Optional are any other vaccines needed in your area--Potomac, strangles, etc. During gestation, a mare needs to have Pneumabort K at 5, 7, and 9 months to prevent viral abortion. Some people also give it at 3 months and that's fine. About six weeks prior to foaling, at least influenza, tetanus, and encephalitis should be given. Any other optional vaccinations can also be given then. However, they should be split and given about a week or so apart. Hitting a mare with too much at once can really stress her.
Stallions should receive the same routine vaccinations as all other horses.
Strongid and Ivermectin are safe for pregnant mares. The vet I work for prefers to give Strongid as the last worming before foaling. Quest is supposed to be safe for pregnant mares, but it is so new that we haven't had much experience with it yet. The foal should receive its first worming at two months. Strongid is best at double the dose for the foal's body weight. NEVER double dose Ivermectin. The foal usually gets its first set of vaccinations at three months, followed by boosters at four and five months. Some vets vary the vaccination routine some and that's fine.
Hope this helps.
Submitted by Betsy in the USA on January 10, 1998:
I have a 6 y/o maiden TB mare in foal to a Hanoverian stallion, due to foal in July, 1998. This has been my first attempt at breeding/foaling and have learned so much! My vets have been wonderful. We bred her by AI, have had her ultrasounded and it appears that all is well. Her weight is good, temperament is hormonal (ha!) and we're just waiting, now. I've read "Blessed are the Broodmares," and while I am so glad I did, I am absolutely panicked that something will go wrong and a) I won't be there to help; or b) I will be there and I won't know exactly what to do! (Both during foaling and during the first few precious days). At best, it takes the vets nearly an hour to get to my home after paging them. They laugh at me when I tell them I'll start holding a candlelight vigil 30 days before her foaling date. They tell me that if I'm lucky, I'll come home from work one day and momma and baby will be standing looking at me. Here's my questions :
1) I've read so much about sanitation/infection/helping baby initially, etc., what if I'm not there when she foals? Am I not taking a terrible risk with potential naval infection/inability to nurse?
2) I've spent so much money on preparing her to breed, stud fees, insemination fees, subsequent vet care, etc. What's my best course of protecting my investment and giving momma and baby the best chance for success ?
3) Since it takes the vet nearly an hour to reach my home, would it be unreasonable to summon him as soon as I am sure she is foaling, just to make sure I have him there once the baby hits the ground? The vets have told me it is wiser to have them come out 12-24 hours after birth, but I say why not come during/immediately after birth and then again at 12-24 hours ?
Sorry for such a long message, but your advise would be greatly appreciated!
Thanks for writing and I'll answer your questions one at a time.
1) No, there isn't a big risk of navel infection. If the foal is born when you aren't there, just disinfect the navel when you find the foal. It's best if it's done right away but is not a big worry if it isn't. Many foals never have their navels treated at all and have no problems. Nursing may be a bigger problem with a maiden mare. Most maidens do fine, but a few don't understand the nursing business and won't let the foal go back to their udders only because they want that new baby right under their nose. If the foal is found and nurses by the time it is four hours old, there won't be any problem. Even if it is a little older, it should be fine. There is, realistically, a pretty big window of time. We've seen ones that were probably 6-7 hours old when found and hadn't nursed yet. They've all been fine. So, don't worry yourself unnecessarily.
2) Your best chance of protecting your investment is by learning as much as you can. I can tell by your questions that you have done that.
3) When you call the vet is up to you. If you would feel better having him on the way when you know the mare is ready to foal, that is not unreasonable. Your vet's hesitation to come right away is that the season is very busy for vets, a whole night's sleep is a precious commodity, and most foalings go without difficulty. Also, I know from personal experience that there are a lot of false alarms. The vet is probably trying to avoid that, too. That said, you still have the right to call immediately if that makes you feel more comfortable. With the vet so far away, I can understand your concern.
I know the whole deal is terribly nerve-wracking but I'm sure you, your mare, and the foal will do fine. You've prepared yourself the best you can and that's all you can do. You'll know if there's a problem.
Good luck and please let us know how it goes.
Follow up from Betsy on June 3, 1998:
I wrote to you last January about multiple questions and your answers were very helpful. My 6 y/o TB maiden mare is in foal to a Hanoverian stallion and is due July 1st. My vet is coming tomorrow (June 4) to vaccinate her. (we've kept up with all her rhino vaccinations, worming, etc. throughout the pregnancy). I read another piece of advice you gave a "reader" and if I understood correctly, the vet may be coming a week or so late for her vaccinations ! The stallion owner says that the majority of his foals are coming two weeks to 10 days early for the most part (he's 17.2hh and my mare is 15.2hh which the stud owner says might be a contributing factor to an early foaling). Have I waited too late for her final series of vaccinations ? Can I worm her now (it's been about 45-60 days since her last worming). This is my first foal and by the comments from your other readers, I'm not alone in my hysteria! My mare's udder is very swollen and tight, although no wax. There is increasing edema each day on her underline. Her rear end is getting "mushy" and the vulva and rectum seem to be somewhat swollen. She has just started holding her tail mildly elevated. She has also started getting very aggressive toward my other mare (they damn near tore the barn down yesterday and everybody is cut up!). Would you say she is "right on schedule?" Thanks for all the free advice you give. We all appreciate helping us through this nerve-wracking experience! I told my husband last night that this is probably more nerve-wracking that giving birth myself to my first daughter. At least then I knew what I was feeling. Now, I feel like such an innocent by-stander!
Will let you know when baby arrives!
It is nerve-wracking, isn't it !! Believe it or not, it still is for me, too. Every delivery is like the first one because you never know what's coming! And when that new baby nickers for the first time...well, there's just nothing else like it!
The vaccinations need to be given by 30 days before the mare's due date because that gives her system the time it needs to produce the antibodies for her colostrum. I wouldn't worry about it though. Since your mare has been on a good schedule, it will be fine. I think, because of your description of how your mare looks, that you should hold off on the worming. Again, she's been on a good schedule and shouldn't be loaded with parasites. At this point, I just don't think it's necessary to "rock the boat."
Sounds to me like your mare will be early. If they look like they're going to have a big foal, I'm always happy if they foal a week or two early.
Thanks for your kind words about the column. I'm so glad it's helping. Keep a close watch on the mare and let us know when your new baby arrives. Have fun!
Follow up by Betsy on July 7, 1998:
Several months ago, I wrote to you about many fears and apprehensions I had in anticipation of a foal (my first and my mare's first). Your advice was helpful and reassuring. Well, I thought I'd let you know that at 12:01 a.m. on July 6th, I watched in amazement as a large black colt was born. It was a "textbook" delivery (call it beginner's luck?). I thought after reading everything I could get my hands on that I'd be prepared for the experience. In hindsight, I can only say to those other "first-timers" that it is an explosive, adrenaline-rushing event! I was unprepared for how quickly everything happened ! (Her stall-walking started at 9:30 p.m., sweating at 10:30 p.m., her water breaking at 11:40 p.m., and the colt's head and shoulders entering the world at 12:01 a.m.! I know all mares are different, but my own experience was almost gone before I noticed it !
One simple question of you.... what is your feeling about creep feeding foals ? I have a TB mare and the sire was a large Hanoverian. I want the foal to achieve his maximum potential. My vet says that creep feeding is a result of Thoroughbred breeders wanting "super colts" and that I'm asking for joint/leg malformations to occur and that I should let "mom" take care of the foal and begin to feed him at weaning. What's your advise ?
Thanks for everything. I learned so much from this site !
Thanks so much for letting us know about your mare and foal. It is the most wonderful and amazing experience, isn't it ?! I'm so happy it went so well for you ! (and them !)
I'm certainly not the best source for feeding advice, but I'll tell you what experience has shown me. I absolutely agree with your vet. Many, many leg problems are caused by overfeeding young horses. I prefer not to give foals their own grain until they are weaned. They will usually share Mom's grain, and that's fine, but as long everything is normal with Mom and baby, I think it's better not to give the foal its own grain. This opinion comes from observations I made at one large thoroughbred farm. The first manager, for many years, actually tied the mares up so the foals could eat grain from the time they were a couple of months old. Many of the foals had signficant leg problems. The next manager stopped tying the mares up and didn't give the foals extra grain. In fact, at the first sign of epiphysitis, she would tie the foal up while Mom ate to keep the baby away from any grain at all. The foals no longer had leg problems.
There really isn't any reason for you to be concerned about your colt reaching his full genetic potential. He will.
Again, thanks so much for letting us know about your wonderful experience. I'm sure hearing about it makes everyone feel good.
Submitted by Liz in the USA on January 17, 1998:
We have a miniature horse who is due around May 8th and this is our first baby. We have watched numerous videos and read everything we can get our hands on - I must comment that your book is, by far, the most superior that we have read. It was great ( most other books were scaring us to death! ) Thank you for a great book! Have you ever delivered a mini and do you have any mini-tips?! Thank you again for your contribution.
Thank you so much for your very kind words ! I tried to make the book as practical and down-to-earth as I could. I tried very hard not to scare anyone, but to give people confidence. Seeing a delivery is such a wonderful experience that I want everyone to enjoy it as much as possible.
I've only attended one miniature mare. She'd had foals before and was very laid back about the whole deal. She gave no warning signs, her milk was still clear, but her body looked ready so I stayed with her. She calmly stood and ate hay all evening. Finally, she made one lap around the stall, lay down, her water broke, and the foal was delivered within a few minutes. It was the cutest thing I ever saw. The owners were disappointed because the foal was "big." I was used to delivering TB babies and couldn't imagine how anyone could think a foal that size was big!
I've heard from other people that miniatures have a slight tendency for the amniotic membrane to be thick and difficult for the foal to break free to breathe. (Don't mean to scare you, just want you to be prepared.) That won't be a problem if you're there for the delivery. The one I delivered didn't have a thick membrane and would have been fine on its own.
Please let us know when the foal is born.
Submitted by Billie Jo in the USA on January 26, 1998:
I have a Red Sonny Dee Bar mare that is due to foal around Feb. 8 She has been Waxing for two days and she has a lot of swelling in the hind legs. She acts like she is in labor and then stops. Should I be concerned about any of this?
Hi Billie Jo,
No, I don't see any reason for you to be concerned. She's within a safe range to foal, some will wax for quite a few days, and the swelling in her hind legs will subside soon after she foals. I'm sure she's very uncomfortable and that's why she's acting like she's in labor. It is possible for them to be in the first stage of labor off and on for a couple of days. Sometimes, they'll just drive you crazy! However, you can see her and I can't. If you're really worried or if she doesn't foal in the next few days, it would certainly be acceptable to have the vet take a look at her.
Hang in there and let us know how it goes.
Submitted by Tammi in the USA on January 28, 1998:
I am so happy that I found out about you! I have a maiden mare that is due to foal in about a week. I am so nervous ! I have been told that with maiden mares they don't always wax or bag up before foaling. Is this true? I think she is getting close although her bag is not real big. Her belly is dropped and her hip bones look different. I am very nervous because last year we lost a mare and foal. Just a freak thing our vet said. Needless to say we were very upset. I just want a happy foaling this time. Do you think she is getting close? Thank you for your time.
Yes, it's true that sometimes maidens don't get very big udders before they foal. Usually, you can tell they are tight and full for their size. Many maidens will wax or drip milk even though their udders are small, but some won't. If her belly is dropping and her hip bones becoming prominent, she's probably getting close.
So sorry to hear about your loss last year. I'm sure you're due for some better luck this time! We'll keep our fingers crossed for you. Please let us know how it goes.
Submitted by Jan in the USA on February 4, 1998:
I have a QH mare that has had 3 heathly foals and normal pregnancies. This year her progesterone levels have been so low that she has remained on Regumate ever since she was bred. She is due to foal the first week of March and has not started to bag up yet. With the previous pregnancies, she bagged early, around 6 weeks before delivery. I know I have 30 days to go, but I am getting concerned. Should I remove her from the regumate now? Her progesterone level was only 2.8 at 250 days. With Veterinary consults involved, they recommended keeping her on the regumate until close to delivery. Could the regumate be delaying the udder development ? I don't want to jeopardize the foal in an early delivery. Have you had any experience such as this? Thanks for any advice you can give me.
I don't have extensive experience with mares who have to be on Regumate for the whole pregnancy. This is what I've seen with those few: They did bag up. However, it is conceivable that the Regumate could delay that. The vet I work for recommends taking them off Regumate 2-3 weeks before their due dates. Most will foal 1-2 weeks after the last dose, so taking them off at 2-3 weeks should still result in a foal that is ready to be born. Even if they foal within a few days of being taken off, it should still be okay.
In answer to your questions--I wouldn't take her off the Regumate for at least another week, two is probably better. I wouldn't worry that she hasn't bagged up yet. Even though she bagged early with the other pregnancies, this one could be different. Also, if the Regumate is causing a delay in udder development, she'll probably bag up fairly quickly when the Regumate has been stopped.
I hope this helps. Please let us know how it goes.
Submitted by Klarissa in the USA on February 9, 1998:
I'm 13 and I have your book, I LOVE IT!!! I plan to breed my mare (this would be her first) this spring. The book probably has the answers to the questions I have but it might not be plain enough for me to see.
1) How soon after foaling can the mare and foal be loaded in a trailer and be moved (we don't have a barn and we plan to keep the mare at my aunts place for foaling ?
2) If I'm not there and the placenta isn't tied up what will happen???
3) My mare is a very sensitive TB (like the usual TBs) and kind of freaky (you know scared of just about everything, is it common for them to be frightened of the foal ?
4) What are the chances of a redbag delivery?
I'm so glad you like the book. I'd be happy to answer your questions.
1) I like foals to be at least a week old before they're moved, and that's provided everything has been normal and the foal is strong and healthy.
2) If you can't be there to tie the placenta up, it will probably be fine. It is tied up to keep the mare from stepping on it and causing damage to her uterus. It's the best thing to do, but realistically, mares have been foaling for many, many years without having the membranes tied up.
3) A great deal of my experience has been with TB mares. Most of them do just fine even if they are freaky. Somehow, Mother Nature usually kicks in. The worst thing most of them do is not stand for the foal to nurse. It isn't that they're trying to be bad, it's that they don't understand the nursing deal and want the foal right under their noses. If you just hold her still, it should be fine.
4) The chance of a red bag delivery is slim. No one can tell you it won't happen, but the odds are greatly on your side.
Let us know when your mare gets in foal.
Submitted by Barbara in the USA on February 10, 1998:
I have a maiden 10 year old Palomino Quarter Horse mare that is due in late July. I consider this to be a pretty late foaling date. I live in West Virginia where we have a mixture of pasture grasses, but a lot of fescue also. My horses are kept turned out except for extreme cold. Since she is not foaling until July, she will be out on the lush spring pastures, and summer pastures, of most likely endophyte-infested fescue along with some other grasses. I am told that the endophyte-infested fescue is indicative of my region. I have read articles about the fescue causing late-term abortions and other problems.
My question is this: Should I stall my mare for at least 6 weeks before she's due, or longer? She won't be happy being in for that long, but it will give me more peace of mind knowing that I can do something to protect my investment! Should I be concerned about this? Thanks for listening! I look forward to your reply.
Yes, if your area is endemic with endophyte-infested fescue, I'd certainly keep your mare off pasture for at least 60 days before her due date. The risk just isn't worth it. Since you have some time, you might check with your county extension office. They might be able to test your pastures to find out for sure if you have a problem.
Is there any way you could maybe fence off a small area so that she could have some time outside? If you did it ahead of time, she'd probably have it eaten down to a "dry lot" by the time she'd need to be off pasture. Just a suggestion...I know how they dislike being in and I don't like for them to be in that much, either.
Hope this helps.
Submitted by Jill in the USA on February 14, 1998:
I, as several of the questions before from other people, am new to horse breeding. I wanted to let you know that you do a wonderful job in explaining things so that we can understand exactly what you are saying. My question to you is I read all the material that I can get my hands on and some people say that it is not important to have your mare checked out by a vet. to make sure that the reproductive organs are ok. We have 2 mares, one of them is a maiden mare. The other has had a few foals in the past, but last year the mare miscarried. I wanted to take her to the vet and have her checked out. I made a few calls to vets along with the vet we usually use for coggings testing and other minor things. The vet (the one we use most) said that if a mare has been bred before that it is not necessary to have her checked. I tend to disagree. My husband believes the vet and will not take either of the mares to the vet. What do you recommend. I am concerned because the one like I said is a maiden mare and the other miscarried last year. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Also if you have any help on getting my husband to understand give me advise on that also. Thanks again and keep up the great work you are fantastic!!!!
Thank you so much for your kind words. It's people like you who make it all worthwhile!
I think every mare should be checked by a vet before being bred. People can save themselves a lot of time, money, and effort by having their mares checked ahead of time. In your case, the maiden should be checked to be sure there are no hidden reproductive problems. With the mare that has had foals before, I would have her checked for sure because of the abortion. It is very important to make sure she doesn't have an infection. If she does have an infection, it will either keep her from getting in foal or cause her to abort again. Your best bet is to try to find a vet in your area that does a lot of equine reproductive work. Vets that don't do a lot of reproductive work sometimes don't seem to understand how important these pre-breeding exams are.
I hope this helps. Thanks again for your encouragement and let us know how it goes.
Submitted by Kathy in the USA on February 17, 1998:
I have been foaling mares for about 19 years and have never seen the situation I am about to describe. She is a QH mare and is about 2 weeks overdue according to the book, but she usually goes about 2 weeks over. She has developed a huge ?? about the size of a football. It is hanging down. It looks grotesque. The vet said he thought it was a ruptured milk vein. He said not to do anything because she is so close to foaling. Have you ever heard of this happening, and what do you think is the outcome?
Yes, I have seen what I think you're describing. Does it hang from a milk vein or somewhere else? The ones I've seen haven't been as big as footballs...probably the largest one was about the size of a big grapefruit, but most have been smaller. With the big one, after the mare foaled the vet I work for gave the area about a week or so to resolve as much as possible on its own, then drained it. It went away without a problem. I'm not sure what causes this, but your vet's explanation is probably correct. It looks terrible, I know, but shouldn't cause any lasting problems.
I hope this helps and please let us know what happens with it. This is something we can all learn from.
Submitted by Kyra in the USA on February 20, 1998:
I own a little pony and she is due around the 1st of march. She was bred to a very big sire (belgain) so we have been watching her closely and today I have noticed some signs that might point to her having it soon and I just want to make sure how long it is till she has it.
Here are some of the signs I have noticed :
Biting and chewing at her side.
Staying away from the other horses.
Bagging up but no wax on the nipples.
Shape is changing ( gone triangular instead of round)
Carrying the baby low.
Tail is starting to sink a bit.
Seems to be lots of movement in the womb.
Tail keeps raising and twiching.
Also, will another horse attach herself or become very close to the horse that is going to have the baby. Can they sense that they are in labour or about to have?? Because my horse Ginger has gotten really close to her (which is unusual) and the other two horses want to be near the pony also but Ginger won't let them get near. With these signs is it possible to tell if it is going to be hours, days, or weeks for her to have it??
Without seeing your pony, it sounds to me like she could be within days of foaling.
It's an interesting question you ask about your other mare bonding to the pony. I have thought at times that the other mares knew when one was close to foaling. I have no proof of this, just a feeling. Watch and see if Ginger is telling the truth!
Best of luck and let us know how it goes.
Submitted by Jackie in the USA on February 23, 1998:
I have a 11 yr. old Arabian maiden mare that is due to foal around March 18th (best guess). I keep her pastured with a gelding (they think they are boyfriend and girlfriend), and she gets upset if she can't be with him. The other 2 geldings and my stud colt (2 yr old) are in an adjacent pasture. I have tried to tell my husband that we will need to keep her separated from the gelding about 2 weeks before she's due, in case she foals early, to prevent the gelding doing something to the foal. He won't listen and insists the gelding won't do anything. Please help me convince my husband. He won't listen if it comes from me, but from others he listens. Thanks for your help.
Also, I ran into this site by accident. I'm glad I did, its great!
It really is best if the mare and gelding are separated. Geldings can be very unpredictable with foals--some are fine, some are very aggressive, and a few will even try to steal the foal from its mother. My opinion, always, is that it's better to be safe than sorry. You said the mare gets upset when she can't be with the gelding. Have you tried putting him in the adjacent pasture with the others? Does he get along with them? I just thought if the mare could at least see him, she might be more comfortable.
I'm really glad you've enjoyed the web site. Thanks again to Horseforum for providing it. Good luck and let us know how it goes.
Submitted by Klaudya in the USA on February 26, 1998:
I purchased your foaling manual last year and it was a great help. Best I've ever read. I have had 2 mares foal in the past and always their udders have been full before foaling (one was even a maiden mare). I have another maiden mare that was due Feb. 12 and she still hasen't foaled. Her udder has not even begun filling yet. I will look for all the other tell-tell signs, like dropping, muscle relaxation, etc. My questions is this: will her udder fill immediately after foaling ? Or should I be prepared to bottle feed colostrum ? My mares who have foaled in the past have always had very full udders before foaling, making it easy to predict when they would foal. I'm going nuts trying to figure this one out! What's the longest gestation you've known of ? How long is too long?
Thanks for your kind words about the foaling book. I'm so glad it helped!
The longest I've had a mare go was last year. She went 375 days. We had one born last week at 368 days and everything was fine. "How long is too long" is a very difficult question to answer. The foal last year was very small and weak when he was born. He was eventually okay, but that's the problem with deciding to induce labor--without very sophisticated equipment, you just don't know if the foal is ready or not. Best rule of thumb is that if the mare is eating and acting okay, and there is good fetal movement, just try to wait it out. Mother Nature usually does know best. If it would make you feel better, have the vet out to check her.
Hopefully, your mare is just going to go overdue and will bag up before she foals. If she doesn't, she probably will after she foals. However, your idea to be prepared with colostrum is a good one. If she doesn't bag up, and starts making the other changes you described, it would be best to have some mare's milk replacement on hand, too. If you don't have to use it, the mill will most likely take it back and give you a refund.
They certainly can drive you nuts, can't they?!
Please let us know how it goes.
Submitted by Judy in the USA on March 2, 1998:
My name is Judy and I own a Kentucky Mountain horse who is due to give birth in 6 to 8 weeks. The reason that I am not sure is that I bought her from someone in Wisconsin via Kentucky and no one knew that she had been bred, She came with a foal by her side so this is the only milestone that we have for dates. Anyways that is a whole other story. My question is about outside birthing. Apparently these horses were kept outside and pastured there throughout the whole year, so she enjoys the out of doors. Although I decided to bring her into our barn this winter it was only so that I could continue spending time fromming and getting to know her during the long winter. She surprisingly enjoys coming in. I had always planned to let them out over night for the summer and would also like to let her have her baby outside. This is her fifth birth so she is not a rooky. We have a small grassy paddock which is next to the barn which also can be cut off from the other horses. We have a barn light which throws some light out to the pasture and I can access it quite quickly. We are not isolated from a veterinarian so all seems OK. I feel that spring grass has to be more sanitary than the stall bed. She is a nice mare but is a little bit mistrusting at times (including with horses), but from what I understand her history to this will be her 5th foal and she is 9 years old so I guess she has spent most of her times full of one kind of hormone or another which would make anyone wary. Do you think this is the way to go or are you a believer in stall foaling? Our stalls are extra big for a box stall (13x10) however she is a relatively big mare 15.2. I would appreciate any help that you could give me.
It sounds like you have a very good setup for allowing the mare to foal outside. I don't see anything wrong with doing it that way. The only thing I would caution you about is to be sure there isn't enough space under the fence for the foal to roll out.
Best of luck and let us know when she foals.
Submitted by Peter in the USA on March 3, 1998:
My wife and I have a Red Sonny Dee mare bred to Last Detail. She was a maiden mare at the age of 14. She took after being bred once on March 4. The pregnancy was uneventful and we tried to do everything right. She foaled February 21. The foal was dysmature, being small, weak with overextended fetlocks, and with an inverted lid and red tongue. The first 48 hours were touch and go. The foal was too weak to nurse and initially had non-existent IgG levels. A nasogastric tube was inserted and we fed the foal through the tube every hour. The baby became stronger, the IgG levels increased to normal levels, and we were able to remove the tube on the third day. The baby's doing just fine now, running in the pasture with the other foals.
After this longwinded introduction, my question is this: I've been concerned about having a small horse. We bred our mare for size and disposition. Our vet said that the baby should do just fine and will grow to his genetic potential. He said in a month we won't be able to tell that he was dysmature. Do you concur and do you have further references we can read from about the dysmature foal and their future.
Thanks a lot - your book was a great help to us.
I'm so glad the book helped you. And congratulations on your valiant success in saving this foal.
My personal experience with dysmature foals is fairly limited. The ones I've seen (that survived) did very well. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to follow them beyond the first month or so. Before answering this, I looked in my reference books but was unable to find anything more about the potential growth and development of dysmature foals. I'll check with the vet I work for and see if he knows of another source I can refer you to. I'll let you know if he does.
Sorry I couldn't give you more information, especially after the great job you did! Please let us know how the foal does. We can all learn from it.
Submitted by Liz in the USA on March 4, 1998:
I have a miniature horse due in 8 weeks & have a lot of e-mail mini breeders across the US. Last week 3 different farms, different states lost 6 babies & one mare - has scared all of us! All were aborted at 10th month, many were red bag deliveries. Questions: What are the most common causes of late term abortion (all were vaccinated for Rhino) and what (if known) is the most common cause of red bag delivery, and are there preventative measures? Also, my vet wants to deworm our pregnant mare (she just started her 10th month) with ivermectin. How do you feel about this? I love your book, read it over & over every night & we wait with much anticipation for your response!! Thanks!
Your questions are interesting ones and I did some research before answering to make sure I have my facts straight. There isn't much agreement on the leading cause of late-term abortions, but some factors are (as you suggested) EHV-1 (rhino), placentitis, twisting of the umbilical cord (less common), and fetal abnormalities. If most of the red bags occurred as a result of abortions, that isn't surprising. Sometimes, the whole fetal unit (fetus and membranes) are expelled as one. If you're talking about full-term red bags, that's another story. Unfortunately, it is not known what causes this so there is no way to anticipate it happening or to prevent it.
Just as a point of interest, there has been discussion on the AOL "Questions for Vets" board about the possibility of Pneumabort vaccinations causing miniatures to abort. There seems to be enough question about it to bear further investigation. Mind you, I'm not suggesting that mares not be vaccinated, just that you and the people you've been communicating with might look to see when the mares that aborted were vaccinated to see if there could be a possible correlation. It seems unlikely that these vaccinations would cause abortions, but who knows? Something to look into.
I've never seen a problem with deworming a pregnant mare with Ivermectin. Should be okay. I have to admit, though, that I haven't dealt with enough minis to know how they react to Ivermectin. If they generally have no problem with it, I'd think it would be fine.
Thanks for your kind words. Because of people like you, those long, lonely nights watching mares are more bearable. I just keep thinking that it's all worth it because when I learn new things, I can pass them on and help others.
Please let us know when your mare foals.
Submitted by Debbie in the USA on March 4, 1998:
My mare was last bred on March 9,1997 and it is now March 4,1998. We have no experience in breeding and this is the mares first foal. My question is should we be concerned that she is so late and knowing that she is definitely in foal. What signs should we be looking for ? How full does the bag get ? The vet says not to worry till she is 12 months, but that is easier said than done. She had shown signs twice before and we thought she might go but our vet says she'll go when she is ready. If you could answer these questions for us it would really help a lot. I was also told it is rare but you could also have a mare go 13 months. I find that hard to believe. I appreciate your input. Thank-you.
It seems that a lot of mares are going over this year. There have been quite a few that have waited until around a year to foal. Generally, there isn't a problem. Yes, it does happen rarely that mares will go for 13 months.
Is she bagging up at all? It's hard to say how big a maiden mare's udder will get. Usually, they don't get as big as a mare that has foaled before. Other physical signs to look for are softening and relaxation of the muscles over her hips, relaxation and elongation of the vulva, the mare's belly "dropping"--a dip behind the breastbone, fullness in front of her stifles and a hollowness in front of her hip bones. Behavioral changes might also occur--kicking or biting at her belly, restlessness, not eating as well (maybe), rubbing her rear end on walls, etc., swishing her tail, extra friendly or grumpy, etc. It's usually best to take your cues from the mare. If she looks good, is eating and acting okay, everything is most likely fine. I think it's good that your vet is taking a conservative approach.
I know it's terribly nerve wracking and I have way too many grey hairs from watching mares! But hang in there, things usually go very well. Please let us know when she foals.
Follow up by Debbie on March 14, 1998:
Hi, I'm the one that had the mare that was due Feb 9. I just had the vet here again and he tells me there is udder edema beginning and the head is in place for delivery. He said that there was still a little firmness around the tailbone and vulva. He feels that it is just a question of her relaxing and the foal will be here. Do you agree? I am still a little unsure of this whole deal and a total wreck. He also said he would not induce unless she waxes and the foal does not arrive. I guess what I'm looking for is just another opinion on the matter. I can be patient but, I'm really being tested here. Thank you for your time. Debbie
It sounds like your vet has a good handle on the situation. Sometimes the foal's development is delayed for reasons that aren't understood. It would be a bad situation to induce the mare and find out that the foal just wasn't ready to be born. It can also be very bad for the mare to induce her before she is physically ready.
I had one go 375 days last year. The breeding date was not questionable because the vet I work for handled the breeding. The foal was very, very small and weak when he was born. Although it took heroic measures to save him, he did very well after the first day. I'm not telling you this to frighten you, but it was an instance that pointed out to me that many times Mother Nature knows best. As long as your mare looks good and is eating and acting okay, I'd go along with your vet. He is there and can see and feel what's going on. He sounds conscientious and if he feels that the foal is alive and the mare isn't stressed, waiting seems to be your best option.
I know it's extremely hard to stand by and do nothing, but the mare and foal last year taught me that sometimes it really is best. If that mare had been induced even a week earlier, I don't think her foal would have survived.
Hang in there and please keep us updated. I'm sure everyone who reads this column will be interested in knowing. We'll be thinking about you.
Follow up by Debbie on March 20, 1998:
Hi, I am the one that had the mare that was last bred on March 9, 1997 and she had not foaled. Well, I am happy to say that she finally had the foal. It was born on March 19 at 3a.m.. The birth went absolutely fine with no problems. Both the mare and her new colt are doing fine and I wanted to thank you for the advice given which I feel helped a great deal to prepare and inform us for the event. Thank you again.
HOORAY!! Thanks so much for letting us know that everything went well!! Your great outcome will help everyone else out there with overdue mares know that it usually turns out fine.
Congratulations and thanks again for letting us know! Enjoy that baby!!
Submitted by Chris in the USA on March 7, 1998:
I have a mare due to foal in approximately 3 weeks, that will be 330 days. I have always been told that you should vaccinate & worm them in their last month as this would pass some antibodies on to the foal and/or add them to the colostrum. Now I am being told that I should not give her anything in her last month. What is your opinion? Have I waited too long?
I'm afraid you've waited too long, according to the vet I work for. The mare's system takes at least 30 days to build the antibodies that go into the colostrum. If you've vaccinated her in the past, she should have some antibodies to pass along. Don't worry though, some of the most important antibodies she has to give to her foal are the ones she builds against things that are found all the time in the horse's environment. The vaccinations build antibodies only to specific diseases. Your foal should do fine. It would be best, though, to tell your vet that the mare wasn't vaccinated so s/he can give the foal tetanus antitoxin.
I'd hold off on the worming, too. No sense upsetting things now. If she's been on a good worming program, it'll be fine to wait until a bit after she foals.
Hope this helps and let us know how it goes.
Submitted by Jumper in the USA on March 8, 1998:
I am doing a 4-H project with a baby miniature, and one of the foals died today because it was born, Placenta Previa. Can anyone tell me exactly what that means ??? I have also heard about the term Red Bag Birth...Are they related???
Yes, placenta previa and "red bag" are the same thing. It is also called premature placental detachment. What happens is that the placenta detaches from the uterus before the foal is delivered. When the placenta loses contact with the uterus, the foal's oxygen supply is cut off and it suffocates. The cause of this problem is not known, and so it cannot be predicted or prevented.
The only way to deal with premature placental detachment is as it happens. If a red bag appears at the mare's vulva, instead of the whitish amniotic membrane, it is the maternal side of the placenta. The placenta must be opened by tearing through it or cutting it, and the foal delivered as quickly as safety for the mare and foal will allow. The vet should be notified right away that this has happened.
I'm sorry you had to learn about this because of the death of a foal. I hope your next experience is much better.
Submitted by Billie in the USA on March 9, 1998
I have a quarter horse mare that has just foaled. The foal appears to be fine except that her tongue hangs out the side of her mouth. She doesn't seem to have any trouble nursing and pulls her tongue in except when she is just standing. I'm probably worried about nothing, but a little advice from an expert would make me feel better. The vet didn't seem concerned, but he deals more with cattle than with horses. Any advice would be helpful. Thank you.
This is something we've seen once in a while. Although no one can say for sure, the conclusion the vet I work for has come to is that it's usually due to some kind of delivery trauma--even just being squeezed coming through the birth canal. It appears to be nerve damage. The good news is that every one we've seen has gotten better by itself. You're on the right track, I think. As long as the foal is nursing okay and doing well, just give it some time.
Let us know how the foal does.
Submitted by Rachael in the USA on March 9, 1998:
I have a mare who is due anytime, she is four years old, her bag isn't big, doesn't have any wax or milk dripping, but her vagina is dilated, she has been uncomfortable, and her belly has dropped dramatically. This is her first time, and for me in some ways. She is the first horse outside a pony that I have owned. My family has raised foals before. Her mother had two foals before being put down due to founder in her foot where the bone was 3/4 of an inch from the sole. She has never showed any signs before foaling, nothing whatsoever, just laid down and had them. My mare is pastured with plenty of room. We had one that rolled under the fence, however, but we never had one that foaled under the fence. We also had a foal which is a full sister to my mare born on mothers day two weeks before due date. My mare was due March 6 which was my dad's birthday! So if you could help me ASAP it would be wonderful.
I'm assuming your mare hasn't had a foal before. If not, she may not get a very big udder. She may not wax or drip milk. With the other signs you've described, it sounds like she's pretty close to foaling. I think you should keep a good watch on her. If her udder doesn't fill up after she foals, or if you have any question about whether she's producing enough milk, let your vet know right away. It's very important that the foal get plenty of colostrum within the first 12 hours.
Best of luck and let us know what she has!
Follow up by Rachael on May 12, 1998:
My mare is a first time and she had a solid filly and it was born during the day. Not only that, but it was born two weeks late. At least we would be able to have breeding papers on her for she isn't a paint. We will be putting in the papers Evening Shadow for first choice and Shady attitude for our second choice. She is so cute. She is as big as if it was Eve's second foal but it is her first.
Congratulations! She made you wait and then did it during the day, huh? These mares are just something else, aren't they? So glad everything went well and I loved your ideas for names.
Take care and thanks for letting us know about your new foal. Enjoy her!
Submitted by Kellie in the USA on March 14, 1998:
I have a mare that is a week past her due date. This is my first time with a foaling mare. I don't know if it is her first or not. She is 11 years old. I had her vet checked she is in foal and everything is going well according to what I have read. It has been very cold here, 16 degrees last night. I put her up in a 12x20 stall with plenty of straw. I have been checking on her every 4-5 hours. Is this often enough? My friend said that mares don't lick their babies and I would need to be there to dry it off right away.
Your friend is right, mares don't generally lick their foals enough to dry them. When it's that cold, it is best if you can be there to dry the foal. Whether checking her every 4-5 hours is enough depends on how ready she looks. If her udder is full, muscles over hips relaxed, vulva relaxed and elongated, etc., then that isn't often enough. If she isn't showing any of these physical changes and no behavioral changes, then you're doing just fine.
Best of luck and keep your fingers crossed, it sounds like warmer weather is on the way!
Submitted by Kris in the USA on March 27, 1998:
Hi Theresa. I live and work in Joseph, Oregon at a very nice quarter horse ranch. Along with responsibilities there I work with my partner in our Farrier and Training business. One of our clients recently had a paint mare foal and another mare stole the baby. In doing so she unfortunately kicked the paint mare and broke her leg so they had to put the mom down. The client began bottle feeding the foal and called us for advice on behavior problems she might anticipate. We told her the adoptive mom would teach her a lot but it would be best to try to get the foal a goat to feed from. She couldn't find a goat and is still bottle feeding the foal with expensive manufactured milk. Their problem is in their words "they will soon have more money into the foal than they could ever hope to sell her for" but they love her and want to keep her. They have already been through a lot of trauma in having to put their paint mare down and they are very concerned about the foal. She suckles on her adopted Mom. Would this mare have milk come in even though she isn't bred? Do you know of any good simulation milk products that wouldn't cost $50/week? Any advice on handling bottle fed foals to avoid problem behavior development? We appreciate your feedback. Thanks!
I�m so sorry to hear about the mare. What a shame!
Your friends are doing the best for the foal by feeding her mare's milk replacement. I'm afraid goat's milk is so different from mare's milk that it just doesn't do nearly as good a job. I know the milk replacement is expensive, but it is the best. When the foal is a week old, they can start offering her milk pellets. She probably won't eat much at that point, but keep trying. Also, they can offer her the milk in a bucket. It's usually pretty easy to teach the foal to drink from a bucket instead of a bottle and it makes feeding them a whole lot easier.
As far as behavior problems, since the adoptive mother and foal have bonded so well, I think it's best to leave them together. As you said, the mare will teach the foal a lot. It's very important for the foal's mental development that she have interaction with another horse. I don't think the mare will get milk, however, I suppose anything's possible.
Best of luck and I hope everything works out well.
Submitted by Susie in the USA on April 3, 1998:
Hi, its now 5 am and I have not left any previous messages-I just wanted to say thanks for this site and all the advice you've given. My mare had her filly at 1:53 am, after 366 days of high altitude baking instructions (I live in Colorado). She is a beautiful overo paint filly, looks strong and healthy-all the plumbing seems to be working just fine! It was great to follow this column (daily!) whenever I was getting tired of counting the gray hairs I was growing. For anybody else out there, desperately awaiting the big day- hang in there! Its all worth it, every time. God Bless The Broodmares
Thanks so much for writing! You don't know how wonderful it makes me feel to hear that the column is helping.
Congratulations on your new filly! Enjoy her!
Submitted by Peggy in the USA on April 10, 2005:
We have a 12 y.o. AQHA 14.3h mare bred on June 13-15 whom seems to be possibly ready to foal a month too early ! It could be possibly twins by the size of her belly. Last week she started dripping milk (white colored) and today it was actually streaming out of one nipple? Tail raised alot, restless, elongated vulva, a softening at tailhead (which she did last year about 3 weeks ahead of foaling, and her bagging this year is right on schedule from last year too ???? IF she foals now, what would you suggest we get ready beside a bed for the foals in the house for a neonatal unit (We live in No.Minnesota) ???? I have purchased foal milk replacer and a feeding tube/bag (just in case)...Should I milk her out now? or take our chances that she'll hold on for a couple more weeks.. I had heard that mares do not produce their colostrum until foaling...is this correct?
First--If the mare has twins, I'm afraid it's unlikely that they will survive if born this early. Even if it's only one foal, it's unlikely that it will survive. There really isn't anything else you can do to prepare to care for the foal/s.
Second--It's fine to take milk from the mare now. No, you can't count on a mare that has been streaming milk for more than several hours prior to delivery having any colostrum left when she foals.
I wish you the best of luck and please let us know what happens.
Submitted by Lynn in the USA on April 13, 1998:
What do you recommend using to disinfect the foal's navel? It has been a while since I attended to a newborn foal. We used an iodine dip before; however, I have recently heard that a disinfectant such as Nolvasan is better. Also do you think that an IgG test should be routinely done ? I have a mare due to foal in the next month. She was just vaccinated for tetanus and sleeping sickness and dewormed with Strongid. She has a large foaling stall which is kept clean and bedded in straw. Is there anything else I should be doing to prevent infections?
Many people are switching to Nolvasan (chlorhexidine) for the foal's navel instead of using iodine. I have used iodine for many years and never had a problem, but the reports about Nolvasan are very good. Either would be fine to use.
No, I don't think it's absolutely necessary to test every foal for IgG levels. As long as a mare hasn't dripped or streamed milk for more than a few hours prior to delivery, and has a good milk supply, it's usually safe to assume that she has adequate colostrum. However, testing the foal is the only way to know for sure if it has properly absorbed the antibodies. I would never discourage anyone from having the test done and really, it's pretty cheap insurance.
It sounds like you're doing everything you can to ensure that the foal has a clean, safe environment.
Now, just sit back, wait, and enjoy that baby when it comes!
Submitted by Liz in the USA on April 14, 1998:
I pulled the shavings out of our mare's stall & replaced it with straw in preparation for her foaling, but I am really not happy with the amount of urine that is on the rubber matting underneath the straw (she is not a very clean mare!). My vet said that it is safe to put shavings underneath well bedded straw - how do you feel about that? Thank you in advance.
I think it is actually better to put a light layer of shavings under the straw, over the rubber mats. You're correct, the urine that stands on the mats is unsanitary and also very slippery. Newborns have a hard time standing up on those slippery mats. So, no problem with using some shavings under the straw.
Best of luck and let us know how it goes.
Submitted by Kelly in the USA on April 20, 1998:
Hi Theresa, I think this advice column is great! I have an eleven year old paint mare, she is my baby !! She is due to foal on May 15. I am very excited, and also very nervous. This is our first experience and I want to be sure to do everything right for her. I have a couple of questions that I hope you would answer for me. First of all, we are in the process of building a box stall for her, 10 x 12, I put wood shavings in there for her, should I be using straw instead ?
Do I need to worry about wrapping her tail when she delivers, and what do I do with the umbilical cord if anything? Help! One last concern, like I said, she is due in about a month, I haven't seen any abdominal movement in several weeks. Is this normal or should I be concerned? I would appreciate any advice that you have to offer.
Thanks for your kind words about the column. It's been a lot of fun for me and I hope it's helped people.
In answer to your questions--it's fine to use shavings now, but you need to switch to straw about May 1 (two weeks before the mare's due date) or sooner if she shows signs that she's going to foal early. It's best to keep the mare and foal on straw until the foal is at least two weeks old. It's very helpful to wrap the mare's tail before she delivers because it keeps it out of the way and keeps it from getting soaked with fluids and blood. It certainly isn't a tragedy if there isn't time to wrap it. For the foal's umbilical stump, you can use either 7% iodine or Nolvasan (chlorhexidine). Treatment should be at least daily until the stump is good and dry. Seeing foal movement can vary and sometimes as the foal gets larger, the movement is harder to see because the foal has less room. As long as the mare is acting okay, eating okay, and looking okay, I wouldn't worry too much about not seeing much foal movement.
Good luck with your baby, and her baby! Let us know how it goes.
Follow up by Kelly in the USA on August 10, 1998:
I have great news, our mare gave birth to a beautiful little filly on the 11th of May. Everything went wonderful, our whole family got to see the birth. Both our 13 year old son, and our 5 year old daughter thought the experience was something awesome. I was a nervous wreck during the birth until I realized Keiko knew better then I and I just needed to sit back and relax. Within 15 minutes "Tia" was born. It was absolutely beautiful. A whole lot of worrying and sleepless nights for nothing! Thanks so much for your advice and for your interest.
Great news! Thanks so much for letting us know. It's wonderful that your kids were able to witness such a miraculous event! It will stay with them forever.
Enjoy your new filly!
Submitted by Klarissa in the USA on April 22, 1998:
Hi, I've emailed you before, but the question I'm going to ask you now is concerning a friend of mine. Her mares udders are very swollen with milk. There was a time where she was bred a few years ago and she didn't take, but she I guess had somewhat of a fake pregnancy I guess you could call it? She thought she was pregnant and was still producing milk. My friend milked her for awhile trying to get rid of it, until the vet told her not to (of course the mare won't loose the milk if she's milked). She lost a lot of milk but now her udder is becoming very swollen with milk again, one teat bigger than the other, and is very sensitive to the touch. I was thinking hormone imbalance. Could this be correct? What else could it be? And what do we do about it?
It could be that the mare has a hormone imbalance, however, since she's more swollen on one side and is tender, it's important to be sure it isn't mastitis. This sounds to me like one that needs to be seen by a vet.
Submitted by Debbie in the USA on April 24, 1998:
I have a 10 year old Quarter mare that is due to foal anytime, she has all the signs of foaling except waxing. My question is, she has been laying down more than usual and she is rolling & has actually rolled over completely! She does this for up to 30 min. and then just stays down on her side all stretched out as if she is in pain, can't move and is exhausted. I have called the Vet and he said the foal was putting a great amount of pressure on her and not to worry, but not to let her stay down that long. What do you think of his advice and will it hurt her or the foal?
This isn't unusual behavior in term mares, especially maidens. Your vet is right, the foal puts a lot of pressure on the mare's bowels. This causes gas to back up and then the bowels go into spasms and cause the mare pain. If you see the mare acting this way, sometimes a walk of ten to twenty minutes will help move the foal and give the mare relief. Generally, the pain you are seeing passes and won't cause harm to the mare or the foal. Try a walk and see if that helps. The mare will feel so much better when that foal is on the ground!
Best of luck and let us know when your new baby arrives.
Submitted by Karen in the USA on April 29, 1998:
I have a mare due now (according to her previous births-do they vary from year to year?). I have the milk test strips to determine how close she is. Have you had experience using these & how accurate do you think they are. My mare is looking close except I can't draw off any milk, except for a few drops of clear liquid. I wish to be present to imprint the foal & see a foaling. I have had 11 foals born by mares I have owned & have never seen one. TV camera is on her although I find it necessary to have a light on to see clearly, does this affect foaling time? Thanks for your help.
I have not used the milk testing strips although I have heard mostly good reports about them. If you can only get a couple of drops of milk out, the mare probably isn't quite ready to foal. Yes, the number of days a mare carries can vary greatly from year to year. It's perfectly fine to have lights on so you can see the mare on the camera. I have lights on all mares all night long. No problem.
Good luck and let us know if you get to see this one!
Submitted by Christy in the USA on April 30, 1998:
I have an Arabian mare who was due to foal yesterday, April 29. We have watched her closely for the last two weeks, as we were told that she does not show many signs before delivering. Can you help by explaining "waxing up" and what it looks like. This morning she started oozing a honey-like substance from her teets. Is this waxing up? Also, how long does the actual birth take? Once she is in labor is there a time frame for birth? Like many other of your readers, I am "going crazy" waiting for the birth. Thanks for any help you can provide.
Yes, it sounds like your mare is waxing. "Waxing" is just what you described, leakage of fluid from the udder that dries on the ends of the nipples. The actual delivery--from the time the mare's water breaks until the foal is delivered--takes an average of less than 20 minutes. As long as 40 minutes is still normal. Anything longer than 40 minutes is risky for the foal. The first stage of labor (before the mare's water breaks) is variable. It can be as short as maybe half an hour or start and stop for a couple of days. Things start happening fast when the second stage begins (with the mare's water breaking).
Best of luck and I hope your wait is over soon. Let us know how it goes.
Submitted by Caitlyn in the USA on May 1, 1998:
I was going to let my 10 year old Quarter horse mare foal in the pasture because my folks don't have a foaling stall. The foal came a couple of weeks early and I wasn't there with them. I went out and found both my mare and the foal had died. The vet said that my mare had septicemia and that maybe it had weakened her artery so she hemoragged. Maybe the foal wasn't turned quite right. The foal may not have been alive when my mare went into labor. What would cause my mare to bleed to death? The vet wasn't very clear at all. I don't understand any of this. Would my mare have suffered very long? My dad's friend said that maybe you could help explain this.
I am so very sorry to hear about your mare and foal.
Although I can't say for sure since I didn't see the mare and foal, I would assume that the foal wasn't positioned correctly and the mare did a lot of straining, thrashing, and rolling trying to deliver it. When mares do that, sometimes it ruptures the large blood vessels that supply blood to the uterus. When those vessels rupture, the mare bleeds to death pretty quickly. There isn't anything that can be done to save them. I don't know why your vet mentioned septicemia. The mare probably didn't have septicemia, it was probably all due to the foal's position. The same thing can also happen when the foal is very large and difficult for the mare to deliver by herself.
I hope this helps a little bit. Although I can't take away your grief, maybe understanding what might have happened will help some. Take care.
Submitted by Kim in Canada on May 11, 1998:
My 12 year old Percheron X Paint is currently being bred to a TB stud. There is so much information out there about foaling which I find very helpful but hardly any of the information deals with nutritional supplements or feed that the mare should receive. This is hers and my first foal and I want to do everything possible to help her. I wonder if you feed too much supplement if it will make the foal too big. Do you have any suggestions for what to feed my mare or should I let mother nature take over? Another question, I have is how much riding is too much. We mostly do trail riding so it's either at a trot or walk but I think she should have some exercise just like pregnant women should. I would greatly appreciate any information you could give me.
My feeling is that if a mare is getting a good, balanced diet, there isn't a need for extra supplements. The foal will take what it needs so if the mare is healthy and in good flesh, you really don't have to worry about feeding a bunch of extra stuff. I agree that exercise is good for pregnant mares. I don't have any objection to riding a healthy mare until she gets really heavy--the last couple of months usually. Take your cues from her--if she gets fatigued easily or seems uncomfortable or grumpy, then back off. She'll let you know.
Best of luck and let us know how it goes.
Submitted by Laurel in the USA on May 18, 1998:
I noticed that you mentioned that a foal born between 310 and 320 days may be premature. I have an 8 year old arabian mare who has had four foals. Each time she has foaled early, usually between 318-320 days. The last foal (2 years ago) was born at 318 days - was vigorous, up right away and did not show any signs of being premature. Is this just a general rule or should I watch for any specific signs of incomplete development? She is currently in foal and it is 319 days, she is waxing up and I expect from her signs that she will have it within the next two days.
As long as the foal appears to be alert and healthy, there is usually nothing to worry about. If a mare goes to 320 days, I feel good about the foal being just fine. So, a couple of days before that is usually okay, too. If this is a regular pattern for your mare, I don't see any reason to worry at all. Maybe she just cooks her foals faster than most mares!
Best of luck.
Submitted by Sherry in the USA on May 25, 1998:
Thank you so much for the valuable advice that you give so readily. We were successful with our Rocky Mountain mare who delivered a wonderful little colt four weeks ago. He was born healthy and strong and really enjoys life! I noticed this morning however that he had a very loose stool and became very concerned about what may have caused it. This afternoon he seems to be fine but I still want to know why he was so messy back there! I cleaned him up and watched closely all day to see if it would continue. It appears that the problem is gone but what if it happens again? I really am a bit anxious about his health now and hope I haven't neglected him in any way. He is with our other horses now and they all get along beautifully. He sometimes nurses from another mare and she allows it, which amazes me. Is this normal? Thanks again for your help in the matter!
Sometimes it seems that foals will have a little diarrhea when the mare comes into the 30-day heat. At four weeks, the timing would be right. I seriously doubt that you have neglected him in any way! If you don't see any more, I wouldn't worry about it. If he does have more diarrhea, you can judge by how he's acting and the severity of the diarrhea whether or not he needs to be seen by a vet. If he acts lethargic, or has enough diarrhea to make his tail wet for more than a day, then he should be checked out. I know there are mares that will allow other foals to nurse. Pretty amazing, huh!
Thanks for your kind words and if you have any other questions, please don't hesitate to ask.
Submitted by Linda in the USA on May 26, 1998:
I have had quarter horse brood mares for about 20 years and have experienced many unusual foaling problems. This, however, is something I've never come across. I have a 16 year old mare that was due to foal in April. We moved her to a pasture with another mare also due to foal. About the time she was due, we checked her one morning and she showed all the signs of having foaled, including some blood on her back legs. We searched the pasture and were unable to find a foal. There are coyotes in this area and we decided that they must have gotten the foal and dragged it off as we could find no sign. The mare appeared to be grieving and even tried to take the other mares foal a couple of times. The problem is the mare has stayed bagged up and still looks bred after nearly a month. An old cowboy told us that he had heard of mares actually breeding twice and delivering the second foal after losing the first. She was with a stallion for several months after she was bred. In your experience is this possible or is it more likely a false pregnancy? I have heard of stranger things! Any information you have would be appreciated. Thank you.
I've never heard of a mare holding onto a second fetus. To the best of my knowledge, if they deliver one, they deliver both. However, many years have taught me the hard lesson of not saying "never"! Did you have a vet check the mare? That's what I would do. At the very least, she may need to have her uterus "cleaned up." Please let us know what happens. I'm sure everyone that reads this column will be interested to know!
Hope everything turns out well.
Submitted by Brenda in the USA on June 8, 1998:
My friend bred her arab mare to a trakener last year. The ultrasound after breeding was inconclusive. The vets felt that there MIGHT be twins, but if there were, they would be too close to separate. Their suggestion was to abort the mare. The mare was difficult to get in foal so it was decided that they would proceed and take a chance. The mare delivered stillborn twins. The day after following the mare looked as though she was suffering from slight colic. The vet felt that it was probably uterine contractions. They treated her with Banamine, but later suspected that she had a twisted gut. Surgery was 5 hours away and the mare was aready in distress. The mare died the next day despite treatment with Mineral Oil and walking. This was very frightening to those of us with mares that are due to foal. Is this common? This mare was always a tough little mare, not prone to colic or anything of that nature. This was her first foal at age 15. She was overweight prior to breeding. Thanks.
I'm so sorry to hear what happened. Fortunately, I can tell you this is not a common event with mares, but your story points out how important it is to pay close attention to postpartum mares for especially the first five days after foaling (or aborting). This mare couldn't be helped, but most others can be. It's important, as with this mare, that the problem is discovered early and good veterinary care is provided.
Try to enjoy your mare's foaling and not worry too much. Chances are great that everything will be fine.
Submitted by Michele in Canada on June 9, 1998:
I recently purchased a pony mare in foal, due anyday. My concern is more after care. When do I give the foal it's first shots (which ones are safe for a foal) and when do I start deworming? I was told to deworm the mare after the foal is born, will this pass onto the foal through the milk ? Should I give the foal a shot for strangles? We had strangles in the barn in early spring, but we disinfected everything thoroughly. Your advice would be greatly appreciated.
Most veterinarians recommend giving the foal its first vaccinations at 3 months. These are followed with boosters at 4-6 week intervals two more times. You can worm the foal at two months. The best wormer to use is Strongid and it can be given at twice the foal's body weight. Note: Never double-dose Ivermectin, only Strongid. Strongid seems to do the best job on the worms that do the most damage to foals. Some people are worming their mares with Ivermectin within 12 hours of foaling, but there is some controversy about it. It probably won't hurt the mare, so do what you feel comfortable with. Check with your vet about vaccinating the foal for strangles. I don't like the strangles injectable vaccine because we've seen it cause a lot of problems. I'm not sure if the new intranasal vaccine can be given to a young foal, but if it can, that would be best. Again, check with your vet.
Please let us know how everything goes and good luck.
Submitted by Cathy in the USA on June 10, 1998:
I have a 5 yr. old appy/quarter cross maiden mare who is due to foal some time in July. She was bred the last week of Aug. 97 which afterward she showed some signs of coming into heat. We bred her again 3 weeks later and she once again showed some signs of coming into heat. I figured that it was too late in the year to breed her and forgot about the idea. Well, I found out from my vet who did a blood test that she is very much in foal. My question is should I go by the second breeding to determine when she is due to foal being that if she was pregnant she wouldn't let the stallion breed her again or is it possible that she took the first time? Also, what is the chance that she could have twins? Would she be extra big if she did? Thanks!
It's entirely possible that she took the first time. There are mares that will stand to be bred when they're pregnant. At this point, it would be difficult, if not impossible, to tell if she has twins. If she does, she should get extra large.
Let us know what happens.
Follow up Cathy on July 30, 1998:
I wrote you a couple of months ago regarding my maiden mare who was bred in August of 97 and I didn't think she took because she came back in season. Then we tried 3 or 4 weeks later and she had a small heat cycle after that time too. Well I found out in May that she was definitely in foal. Anyway to follow up on that letter, she FINALLY foaled!!! After going through false labor (or minor colic/discomfort) and sleeping in the barn on a bale of shavings for 2 nights 4 weeks ago, she started waxing up yesterday sometime in the afternoon. I had never seen waxing so any little thing on her udder was wax to me. Well now I know!!! Her vulva didn't lengthen like I imagined it would but her bag was huge! She never went through the pacing, nervous sweating stage...she just layed down about 7:30 pm (can you believe that????!!!!) and her water broke and 10 minutes later I had a beautiful buckskin colt!! It was amazing!! I want to thank you for all of your wonderful advice. This web site helped me so much. I copied each and every question and answer to keep with me down at the barn for reference!! Thank you so much. I wish you could see the little guy, he's soooooo cute!!
Thanks so much for letting us know about your mare's successful foaling! Sounds like she did it all perfectly. I'm glad you were with her because the ones that don't do any pacing, sweating, etc. can be really hard to catch. Convenient, too, when they do it so early in the evening! I'm really happy that the web site helped you.
Congratulations and have a great time with your new baby!
Submitted by Kristy from Canada on June 24, 1998:
Hi, I've been going through all sorts of foaling sites and noticed that you give the best advice, in simple terms that us nervos first time foalers need. I have a 5yr old 3/4 Arabian mare that was pasture bred to my own stud. Problem is, I moved away from home and my father thinks he saw her bred on July 16, 1997. She's over that date now, and her only signs are a huge belly. She's very even tempered and has never changed her mood so far. Her bag isn't very big, although right before it there are two little sacks. My farrier told me his maiden mares got those, and he was told they were milk sacks that hadn't been emptied into the bag yet. Is that what it is. I'd really appriciate any prelabor signs you could tell me. Also exactly how small can a first time mares bag stay? One more question, my gelding, Cody and Shay are very affectionate of one another, and I'd like to know how soon I can put them together again after Shay foals. Thank you for your time, and any advice you can give.
Thanks for your kind words. I'm glad you've enjoyed the column.
If your mare was last bred on July 16, 1997, then she would have been 340 days on June 21. That only makes her at 343 days today (June 24.) That's well within the range of normal, normal being 330-350 days. The filling in front of the mare's udder is normal. Many mares do this before their udders actually begin to develop. However, some mares that are not pregnant do this when they're out on grass. A maiden mare may not get a very big udder. Usually, it will enlarge as the foal nurses. Once in a while, a mare may not get any udder or very little. This can be peculiar to that mare or may signal a problem with infested fescue. Prelabor signs can include physical changes: relaxation of muscles over hips and around tail; relaxation of the vulva; the foal "dropping"--the mare's belly dips behind the breastbone, hollows in front of point of hips, gets fuller in front of the stifles; may also wax or drip milk. Behavioral changes can include rubbing rear end, kicking at belly, yawning a lot, pacing, off feed, being extra friendly or standoffish, etc. If you have any doubt about whether the mare is in foal or not, it would be best to have her checked by a veterinarian.
Let us know what happens and best of luck.
Follow up by Kristy on August 12, 1998:
Hi, I asked you for advice on June 24th about Shay, my maiden mare. Well I'm happy to share that she had a beautiful filly at 3:30 am August 10th. She showed all the signs, except she never changed her quiet attitude. Thank you very much for all of the advice you gave. The only thing better would be if you could have come to see her yourself. Anyway, once again thank you.
You're very welcome and I wish I could have been there, too! I'm so very happy that everything went well. It sounds like you have a wonderful mare, and I'm sure the filly will be just as great.
Submitted by Sini in Finland on July 1, 1998:
Hello Theresa, just found your site and it's absolutely great! I love the gentle and kind way you talk about horses. Our Fjord mare Kaci is about to foal any day now (I THINK, unpredictable as it was at least last year!). Her belly is much bigger than last year although the latest baby was unusually big for a Fjord. Yesterday morning her udder suddenly became full of milk, her belly has kind of dropped a bit, the area around her tail has softened almost a week ago, her spine seems to be sharper than before because of the muscles and bones making space for the foal to come out etc. Our only concern is: what if she's expecting twins? She was ultrasounded last autumn after being bred, and the vet examined her for ages and still wasn't sure if there was more than one foal. That's why she advised us to get a second opinion. The vet number two scanned Kaci in about 30 seconds and said there was only one foal. But who knows? What would you advice us to prepare for if it turns out there are two of them? Fjords are known to have given birth to completely healthy twins, but still... Thank you in advance and thanks again for your great work!
Wow! Writing from Finland! I'm thrilled to hear from you! It's interesting that the vet I work for does a farm here that breeds Fjords. What a nice breed of horses.
As far as twins go, some of the Fjords we work with get mammoth and only have one foal (hope that's the case for you). Depending on what stage of gestation the vet is checking a mare, twins can sometimes be difficult to detect. If there are twins, the best advice I can give is to try extra hard to be present for the delivery since twins are frequently malpositioned and the mare may need help. If live, healthy twins are delivered, be prepared to supplement them with mare's milk replacement formula. In my experience with twins (limited as it is), the mare may not produce enough milk for both foals to grow and develop normally. Other than that, if everything goes well, there isn't anything special you need to do. Oh--except to make sure they have an extra large stall so there's plenty of room for three horses!
Thank you for your kind words about the column. I'm glad you've enjoyed it. Please let us know what happens. I'm sure everyone will be waiting to hear!
Submitted by Linda in the USA on July 3, 1998:
Our mare who is due to foal is at 345 days gestation. We have been staying around the clock so that we can be in attendance if needed. She was very restless for 4 or 5 nights with what appeared to us as stage 1 labor and now has just stopped doing anything. Our vet says all is well, we are of course concerned that she seems to have just stopped everything. She is a maiden mare and is eating well and all seems fine. Are we just over anxious. We have read your foaling manual from cover to cover several times and think it is wonderful and so helpful. Thanks for making something available to the novice who is just getting started. Last week's activity was rubbing her tail, pawing and kicking at her belly, etc. She has a full udder, but is not streaming or leaking milk although she has milk. She has been in the stall and off fescue for over 80 days so think we are ok there. Words of advice?
The best words of advice I have at this point are: Hang in there!
Maidens are especially hard to predict. Your mare�s days of restlessness and then not doing anything are fairly typical for maiden mares, so I don't think there's any reason to be concerned. These restless times can look very much like first stage labor and the only way to tell if it's labor or not is to keep watching. Just what you wanted to hear, right! Also, maiden mares are more likely to show signs of discomfort (by being restless, etc.) from the foal's position than are experienced mares. When the foal is in a position that makes an experienced mare uncomfortable, she understands what it is and generally ignores it. However, a maiden doesn't understand the discomfort and therefore shows more outward signs that she's uncomfortable. As long as she continues to eat well and looks good (as much as a poor fat mare can!), I'm sure everything is fine. All the waiting and watching will be worth it. When that new little baby nickers for Mom, and Mom nickers back, you'll be amazed how your fatigue melts away!
Please let us know when your new foal arrives.
Submitted by Jodi in the USA on July 10, 1998:
Ny miniature mare foaled march 30 and had a perfect filly. At 3 months of age I noticed the foal having trouble walking. It looked like her hock locked up on her from time to time. I asked my neighbor (race horse trainer) and he said her hip was popping out of it`s socket because she was growing too fast. I weaned her from her mother and she only gets grass. He said they just grow out of it and there is nothing else you can do. Is this right and how long before she is better- weeks, months, years?
I have to admit that this is a new one for me. I've never heard of a foal's hip popping out of the socket. The first thing I thought of was a stifle locking up. Many times, they do grow out of it but it is very difficult to give a time frame. Especially since I have very little experience with miniatures. It is, however, unusual for a foal of that age to have a stifle locking up. So, the very best thing you can do for the foal is to have her checked by your vet. Also, ask about the diet. I think a three-month-old foal might need more than just grass.
Best of luck.
Submitted by Joan in the USA on July 17, 1998:
I've just added you to my bookmarks. This is wonderful !
In 1990, one of my mares had a foal by a Trakehner stallion. It turned out to be 17.1 h at the age of 4 & sold for a high price. But at 4 months, its bones grew faster than ligaments & we went through a very painful and expensive coffin bone rotation problem corrected by cutting the flexor tendon. Now, I'm breeding a new mare to the same stallion. I believe part of the previous problem was too high a ration of protein feed during and after the pregnancy (the vet recommended 18% protein). The breeding farm uses 12% (Pacer) & recommends that. (I'm sure it didn't help that my mare also went 12 months until dropping the foal last time). What would you recommend? I much prefer a pellet to sweet feed & am tempted to try Omelene 100. Your advice appreciated. Other people breeding to these W/B's have experienced contracted tendons too, so I know it's something to watch. Thanks!
Sorry about the problems you had with the last foal but as you said, 18% is WAY too high a protein level. I'm certainly not the best person to ask about feeding but overall, you're much better off with these fast-growing foals if you feed lower protein--12% should do fine. I'm not sure what the protein percentage is in Omelene 100. Also, stay away from alfalfa hay with these foals. You also need to be sure the calcium/phosphorus ratio in what you're feeding is correct. Your vet can help you out with that. You are on top of the potential problem now, so I'm sure your experience will be much better this time.
Best of luck.
Submitted by Jessica in the USA on July 18, 1998:
I have a 4 year old mare that is behaving like she might be pregnant. Is that too young? My main question is that last summer and this summer she has bagged slightly, and this week it has gotten rather large compared to what it usually is. I have looked in every book I can find for a clue, but have not found the slightest. Please help me!
Is there a chance that your mare is pregnant? Has she been around a stallion? If so, you need to have a vet check her. One thing that comes to mind is this: Some mares bag up when they're on grass. They'll do it routinely every year. I've even seen some that you could milk clear fluid out of. It isn't a problem--has to do with the estrogen in the grass (I believe that's correct). If you don't think the grass is the culprit, it's always best to seek the advice of a veterinarian.
Let us know what you find out.
Follow up by Jessica on August 10, 1998:
I think you are right about her just bagging up on the grass because now she is not anymore. Why don't more books and vets tell you that? She was around a stallion both times, but at least the first time she didn't foal. Thank you so much for helping me out there. This is a great site!
I'm glad if I helped. I don't know why more books and vets don't talk about grass making mares bag up. Maybe because it's just one of those things people pick up when they work around mares a lot, but don't really talk about.
Keep a close watch on her, though, just in case we're wrong!
Submitted by Rebekah in the USA on July 21, 1998:
My mare is due for a third Ultra Sound on July 24. My Vet found twins on the first ultra sound at 16 days but was unable to pinch one off because they were in the same sac. My question and worry is what to do if my mare has not reduced (Vet said in 80% of cases, mare will reduce themselves naturally) at this next exam. She is now over 70 days along. If the Vet aborts to start over, will this put my mare at risk. Should I take chances and keep both hoping she reduces at 90 days which the Vet said is also likely? I do not want to risk injury to my mare in any way. My mare is Andalusian, has successfully foaled twice, is now 18 yrs, health is excellent. Thanks for your help.
I don't have any statistics to quote for you, all I can tell you is what I've seen. Most of the time, one of the twins will resorb spontaneously. It usually does happen well before 70 days. If twins are still present at 70 days, it should not put your mare at risk to abort them. If she still has twins and you choose to wait until 90 days, it will be more stressful for the mare but should not put her at significant risk. The greater risk would be letting her carry them to term. I sure hope there's only one when the vet checks your mare again. Please let us know what happens.
Keeping my fingers crossed.
Submitted by Rayna in Canada on August 20, 1998:
I bought a Paint filly a few years back and I want to breed her next year. She is 4 now so she would be 5 when she has the foal. Could you tell me if it is too early or will she be old enough? I don't want to breed her too early so please let me know what age is the best to have her first foal.
Four is a perfectly fine age to breed a mare, so there's no need to worry about breeding her too young. I don't like seeing two-year-olds bred, and sometimes not even three-year-olds, but four is fine.
I hope everything goes smoothly with the breeding, and she gets in foal on the first cycle.
Submitted by Jaime in Victoria, Australia on August 29, 1998:
Last time we had a mare foaling ( 96-97) she hemorrhaged to death after having a upside down mispositioned foal that the vet had to deliver. The foal survived until 2 months old & it also hemorrhaged to death. The foal received NO colostrum WHATSO EVER but was fine till the morning she died. This year we have 2 more mini mares foaling & I was wondering if you could tell me what to do if the foal is mispositioned and we can't get a vet ( they are due 5th December & 24-27th December-Christmas time.) Last time it took us 8 hours to find a vet as ours was away. Could you tell me or give some advice on repositioning the foal? I LOVE your book it is so clear & easy to read. Where did you learn every thing you know? Thank You Very Much
I'm really glad you like the book. Hope it helps. So sorry to hear about the mare and foal! It's amazing that the foal lived without getting any colostrum!
There are too many variables with malpositioned foals for me to go into each and every one. The best thing I can tell you, if you can't get a vet (and of course, as you said, you can't wait for eight hours!!), is to reach in there and find whatever parts of the foal you can. Then, try to visualize what you're feeling. Next, try to sort it out and get the foal straightened to front feet first with head on top. I know that's vague, but they can get so tangled up that it's the only way I know to explain it. As we know, foals only have so many parts, so if you can figure out which part you're feeling, you can usually decide how to straighten it out. The very most important thing is to keep a cool head. Don't panic. Take your time and really figure out what you're feeling before you start trying to pull the foal out. It has to be repositioned before you try to deliver it. Also, when the mare's water breaks, don't be afraid to go ahead and check the foal's position. Especially if the amniotic membrane doesn't appear at the vulva within a couple of minutes. It's highly unlikely that you will cause any harm by doing the exam, but the sooner you find a malposition, the better your chances are to have a successful outcome.
I learned at the University of Hard Knocks!! That is, foaling mares and learning along the way. Also, the biggest farm I worked at had vets that were pretty questionable, and wouldn't always come. So, we had to wing it. It wasn't the ideal situation, but sure forced us to learn!
Best of luck with your mares and foals, and please let us know how it goes.
Follow up by Jamie on November 12, 1998:
Hi. Just letting you know my mare delivered a healthy chestnut filly on the 7/11/98!
Wonderful! That's just what we like to hear!
Thanks for letting us know.
Submitted by Suzanne in the USA on October 7, 1998:
I have a quarter horse mare that is 19 yrs. old that is approx. 6 months bred and I am curious to know how long and how frequently I can ride her. It is around 90 here daytime and she gets quite drenched with sweat when we go out for an hour at a leisurely pace - is it too much for her? Can I gallop her at all for short periods of time? Her last colt is now about 1 1/2 yrs, old.
Without being able to see your mare, it's impossible for me to give a truly informed opinion, but with her age and the heat, I think I'd be really careful with her. An hour is probably too long and I don't think I'd gallop her at all--more because of her age and the heat than because of her stage of gestation. Before you know it, you'll have a beautiful new foal that will make you forget all the hours of riding you missed!
Let us know how it goes.
Submitted by Leah in the USA on October 11, 1998:
Hi ! What a fabulous advice column you have! My question is about behavior of the mature orphaned horse. My newly acquired 9 year old mare's dam prolapsed at birth. Is this an inheritable trait? I would imagine she was bottle fed, as when I feed her carrots (she loves carrots!), she sticks out her tongue and sucks on it! She also gets a happy glazed-eye look on her face. What does this behavior mean? Did she never satisfy her 'sucking' instinct? In addition, my mare lives in a stall with an attached run with horses on either side. She gets very protective and nasty of her food if another horse can see her eating. Her former owner kept her in a pasture with two other horses, and said she was the middle horse in the herd. Could her aggression towards other horses be orphan related, too? She is a bit 'mare-ish' around other horses (normal). Also, I have heard that orphaned mares often do not make good mothers because they don't identify with their own species (i.e. foals). Is this true? If so, what could I do if my mare has difficulty mothering her foal if I breed her? Thanks for your advice in advance!
Thanks so much for your kind words about the column. I really enjoy doing it.
I've seen quite a few horses that suck on their tongues like your mare does, and they weren't orphans. I don't know how they figure out how to do it, but it seems to be just a habit they picked up somehow. The other things you have described sound like typical mare things. If the previous owner had her with other horses and she had a middle standing, I'd say she's just asserting herself with new ones. I've known orphaned mares who were fine mothers, so I don't think you'll have a problem there. Any maiden, though, can be a little touchy with her first foal so if you decide to breed her, be prepared to help her accept the foal. Most maidens do fine, but it just takes some a little while to figure out the routine.
Thanks for writing and enjoy your mare.
Submitted by Sarah in the USA on October 17, 1998:
I have a 10 yr old maiden thoroughbred mare that I am thinking of breeding in the spring. I am really excited about the idea of letting her have a baby because she is so athletic and has a wonderful temperment. I am very worried about the risks involved though. She had two colic surgeries within a year three years ago but has been fine ever since. Our vet doesn't think that at this point she has any greater-than-average risk, but since I have already been through so much with her, I am very nervous. Have you ever experienced a similar situation? If we do decide to breed her, are there any special precautions I can take?
Although obviously each case is different, I have foaled several mares who'd had previous abdominal surgeries. None of them have had problems. Since the mare has been fine for a decent period of time and the vet says she's okay, chances are good that everything would be okay. The most important precautions would be to make sure she has plenty of roughage (good quality hay) during her pregnancy to help prevent colic, and try to be there for her delivery.
It is an exciting prospect, isn't it!
Let us know what you decide and we can go through the whole thing with you.
Submitted by Barbara in the USA on October 25, 1998:
My mare has just entered her fifth month of pregnancy. I got three pneumabort-K shots from the vet and my daughter-in-law, who is a nurse, administered the shot in her neck yesterday. The site is swollen today in an oval shape which is rather hard. My mare does not seem like to have it massaged. When the mare was in foal last year, a neighbor gave her the first two shots and a nurse friend of mine gave her the third. All were in the neck, but none of them puffed up like the site is this time. Any idea what might be wrong? Should I call the vet? Your input would be appreciated. Thanks.
It isn't all that uncommon to have a local reaction to the Pneumabort. Without seeing the injection site, it's impossible to tell what might have happened. There might not be any explanation. For now, try putting some hot soaks on the swelling a couple of times a day. A drawing poultice, like Numotizine, will help also. If the swelling doesn't improve within a couple of days, or gets worse--bigger, more heat--call the vet. In the future, it might help if the injections are given in the rump rather than the neck. With more muscle mass back there, we've found that we have fewer reactions giving them that way.
Hope everything goes smoothly with the rest of the pregnancy. Let us know when she foals.
Submitted by Dinky in the Philippines on October 29, 1998:
I just want some advice about a foal I own which is having abnormal growth of the front hooves. The foal is around 3 weeks old. Two days after she was born, she started to favor her rear hock. We then kept her in her stall with her mother. She is now three weeks old and we have noticed that she stands in a very funny way. She does not favor her hock anymore but she now walks on the tips of her front hooves. It's like she's dancing ballet. We do not know what to do and whether to put her down. We hope you can give us some advice regarding this matter. The Vets here do not know what it is.
It sounds to me like your foal has contracted deep flexor tendons. There are three courses of treatment for this problem: 1) casts can be put on the legs to get the tendons to relax, 2) the vet can administer treatment of oxytetracyclin IV (sometimes the treatment must be done twice and results are variable), and/or 3) in extreme cases, there is a surgery that can be done to help correct the problem.
Please let us know what the outcome is.
Submitted by Jymann in the USA on November 5, 1998:
I can't believe everyone has the same questions about their horses (and their) first foal as I do. I am so glad I found this page! Your advice is so helpful and down to earth language. My questions have been mostly answered by reading others posts, but one thing I still do have a question about. My mare was bred when I bought her but we didn't know it until a few months ago. What worries me is that she is a 2 yr old NOW - so she was bred months ago, of course. Isn't this very young for a mare to be bred? What problems might she or the foal have because of this? I know nothing about foaling problems since this is also my first foal and my husband is gone for a week at a time on his job. What do I do if the mare won't let her foal suck? Also, she keeps walking around with her tail slightly elevated - and a week ago there was blood coming from her vulva (not a lot, but enough that it got on her tail as she was flicking it on her hips) the vet said some horses do this, but it has worried me. The next day she was fine, no blood. The next day, there was a thickish white/light pink mucus discharge from her vulva. That has all been about 5 or so days ago. She was bagged up with pressure on her udders, but last week it went away and her udders (nipples?) are now longer and thicker, but hardly any bag. Her disposition has gotten so bad the past 2 weeks, won't let me touch her bag or even stand by her hips, flattens ears and tried to kick me when i washed (tried to wash) her udders. I am going on and on, but nobody can give me any answers and I am so anxious I don't want to leave my house. Any advice for when you think she will foal and if the bleeding is a bad thing?
Yes, the mare is very young to be in foal. The best thing you can do is what you're doing--keep a close watch on her. From your description, it sounds as though she could be very close to foaling. If she is, the blood you saw was normal. As the cervix relaxes and there is more pressure on it from the foal, you will sometimes see a bloody discharge. Again, that's normal. The pinkish- white mucous discharge you saw could have been her mucous plug being expelled. After expelling the mucous plug, most mares will foal within 10 days, although some may hold off longer. The other signs she's been showing--tail lifted, irritability--also say that she's probably close. The coming and going of udder filling is also normal. Maiden mares, and especially ones as young as she is, can foal without a full udder, so don't count on that as a guide. I wouldn't worry about washing her udder at this stage. If she's that grumpy about it, just let it go. She'll be better after she foals. It isn't worth getting hurt over.
Most assuredly, you need to attend this foaling. If you think the mare's in the first stage of labor--pacing, rubbing her rear end, kicking at her belly, biting at her sides, yawning, getting up and down, sweating, rubbing her face on her front legs (she could do some of these or only a couple, or none)--and you're alone, I think it would be best if you have a friend come to be with you, if possible. Although things may go very smoothly, because of the mare's age, I would feel a lot better if you had someone there with you. If things go smoothly, you won't need anyone, but if there is a problem, one of you can stay with the mare while the other calls the vet. I don't know what the situation is with your vet, but you might talk to him/her and let them know what the situation is, and that you don't want to be alone. Maybe s/he would be willing to come and be with you if you think the mare is in the first stage of labor.
Thanks for your kind words about the column and I'm glad it has helped. The very best of luck to you and the mare, and please, please let us know all about your new baby!
Submitted by Deb in the USA on November 16, 1998:
Hi, I love this forum, it has been a lifesaver for me. This is the first experience my mare and myself have had with foaling. I have a four year old mustang that our vet thinks is due in December. I have been stalling her at night for a week now. Her tail seems to have dropped and she has a slight dip in the top of her hips. Her teats were very hard 2 nights ago but seem to have softened up a little. I'm not sure how big her milk sacs will get but there is a handful there. I'm concerned that she may foal during the day in the pasture as there is a mare and a gelding out there as well. Are there usually conflicts over a new foal. This gelding is not fussy about other geldings and so we keep them separate. With the symptoms I have given you what are the time possibilities. My husband says I'm acting like he did when I was pregnant. I just don't want to miss it.
Thanks for your kind words about the column. If people enjoy reading it half as much as I enjoy doing it, I'm happy!
I hate to have to tell you that maiden mares can be extremely unpredictable. From the changes you described, it sounds as though she should foal soon--probably any time within the next couple of weeks. The mare's udder may not get very big, but it should get warm and hard before she foals. The up and down size of the udder you've been seeing is normal and usually, the udder will stay up in size for at least a couple days before foaling. I wish I could be more specific, but it's impossible. Keep watching her, noting any further physical changes, and be sure to watch for behavior changes--rubbing her rear, kicking at her sides, pacing, etc. If she starts these or other behavior changes, be ready to stay with her. There can be problems when mares foal with other horses in the same paddock. Sometimes it's okay, but you can't count on it. If there is any way to separate them, I certainly would. Tell your husband it's okay for you to worry! It's a "girl" thing, and we're entitled! :-)
Please let us know all about your new foal.
Submitted by Anita in the USA on November 18, 1998:
At seven months of gestation my mare started bahaving abnormally with extremely swollen legs, lethargic actions, etc. Upon palpation by the vet one foal was found up high and far back ( head well within flanks of mare ) my vets concern that perhaps another "missed foal was up front "holding" this one up. Her bloodwork show low red cell, low white cell, low plasma, and low protein counts. We have increased her feed ration and protein (20 lbs alfalfa cubes 8 lbs alfalfa hay 4 lbs 4 way and 3 oz equi phar red blood cell builder per day) usually this would "blow this mare up like the good year blimp but she is barely keeping weight on also she is not "high" as I would expect on this diet. If we decrease ANYTHING her blood work starts dropping again! Now at the eight month her growth rate is LARGE she "drags" her back legs and walks as if extreme weight in hind end. I am really thinking twins were missed as she was bred far from home and was covered 44 times on 18 follicles and then five days later covered two more times before I discovered what was going on. At that time I requested they ultrasound her which they did the next day...17 days pregnant with three follicles. I was assured upon picking her up that it was a single pregnancy so I never worried until the seven month problems started. Where upon contacting the breeders again I discovered that the ultrasound performed the day after the last cover date where upon they found three follicles and a 17 day embryo was THE LAST ultrasound performed. Is there anywhere to find info on managing twin pregnancy?? Everything I can find is in relation to preventing. If this mare is carrying twins we are a little past pinching off. I know it is not a desirable position but if I had to go there this is the mare to do it with. She is a great milker, easily accepts help in ALL situations, a fantastic mother (even trying to adopt our orphan calves). She is not extremely large but is built not to fall apart. She has always been an extremely easy keeper.
It certainly sounds as though a twin pregnancy could have been missed. Unfortunately, there really isn't any place I can refer you to for info about handling a twin pregnancy. I have to admit that even my book doesn't have much about managing a twin pregnancy. But, it seems that you are already doing everything you can--keeping the mare as healthy and happy as possible. Be sure she gets enough exercise. Don't overdo, but she needs to move enough to help keep the swelling down and keep muscle tone.
My thoughts immediately jumped ahead to the delivery and after. It is especially important to attend the delivery of a mare when she is suspected of carrying twins. They are frequently malpositioned and the probability is high that the mare will need help. If both twins survive, it will be important to make sure each gets enough colostrum and then, enough milk. I've only had experience with one set of twins where both survived and even though the mare produced more milk than she ever had before, it became apparent when the twins were about a week old that it still wasn't enough for them to grow and develop properly. It was enough to keep them alive, but not to grow well. We began supplementing them with mare's milk replacement formula a few times a day and even tough they were born small, by the time they were a couple of months old, they had caught up in size with other foals born around the same time.
I hope this helps.
Our thoughts will be with you and please let us know how everything goes.
Submitted by Kathy in Canada on November 23, 1998:
I have an 18 year old Arabian mare that is having her second foal. (The first was when she was 6 and I did not own her). She is just past 8 months pregnant (241 days) counting from the ultra sound image and her bag has drooped down a little and feels slightly warmer than usual. I know that the mare is to start bagging up anywhere from 6 weeks to a couple of hours before birth, but this does not seem to be bagging up. Just a looser bag with some warmth. Her temp/resp/pulse are all normal. Should I be worried?
I wouldn't be worried yet. Watch for actual udder filling. And if you've seen foal movement (it's okay if you haven't yet), watch for it to continue. If the mare's udder starts filling, or if foal activity lessens (that is, if you've been seeing it routinely), or if the mare should go off her feed, let your vet know. At this stage of pregnancy, if there is a problem (don't get scared--everything's probably fine), there is a high likelihood of placentitis. It can be treated successfully most of the time, but treatment needs to be started as soon as the condition is suspected.
Again, there isn't a need to be worried yet. I just wanted to let you know what to watch for. I always feel better if I know what it is I'm supposed to be looking for. Then, when it doesn't happen, I know it's okay.
Let us know how it goes.
Follow up by Kathy on November 27, 1998:
I sent you a post at the beginning of the week regarding my 18 yr. old Arabian mare who is in foal and due March 1 /99 (340 days). At that time her bag had loosened and her milk sacs seemed to be filling. Now her bag is filling as well, her milk sacs are full and her bag is starting to fill. I can not get any liquid out her yet. I am worried that she is setting up for an early delivery, and that she may be too early. What is too early? I thought the earliest was 320 days and that is still 10 weeks or so away. She is not on grass, but is being fed a 14% extruded feed, 1/2 flake alfalfa and 2 1/2 flakes orchard grass hay. Could you please let me know if I should be worried about this? Thank you.
Yes, if her udder is really beginning to fill, it's time to have the vet out because it's much too early for that to happen. I would be most suspicious of one of two things--twins or placentitis. The vet probably won't be able to tell if she's carrying twins and if she is, and is getting ready to abort them, there's nothing s/he can do about it. However, if the vet suspects placentitis (which is one of the leading causes of abortion in mares), then treatment can be started. The mare can be put on antibiotics and maybe Regumate. The Regumate is probably a good idea with a mare of her age. If it works, you will usually see a regression of the udder within a few days. It doesn't work all the time, but does most of the time. It won't help if the problem isn't placentitis, but even if it isn't, the treatment is very unlikely to cause any harm.
Please keep us updated.
Follow up by Kathy on November 30, 1998:
Thank you very much for your replies to my first two postings. As of Saturday (Nov 28/98) the bag and milk sacs had receded and now seem empty. My vet was kind enough to return my call (he is at a competition in Mexico) and when I told him all that was happening, he suggested a hormone surge. There is still plenty of foal movement. Thank you so much for providing this service. I have read excerpts from your book and have it on my Christmas wish list. I will keep you posted on my mares development. Thanks again.
So glad things seem to be back to normal. Thanks so much for letting us know, and please do keep us updated.
Follow up by Kathy on December 31, 1998:
Hello again, I wrote in late November regarding my 18 year old Arabian mare who looked to be filling her bag early. Just wanted to give you a brief update; the mare is doing fine, her bag half fills then empties then half fills again a couple of times a week. She is still in good health and her bag has not filled completely, although this morning there was one small wax grain on one teat. She is currently 281 days pregnant (counting from the ultrasound date) and counting. What is the earliest date that she could safely deliver? I am sure I read that it was anywhere between 310 and 375 days. Is 310 days too early?
So glad to hear your mare is still hanging in there! Thanks for the update.
Gestation is usually counted from the date of the last breeding. So, if you've been counting from the ultrasound, you can probably add at least a couple of weeks to the 281 days. That would make her closer to 300 days, and that's good news! Most of the literature says that a foal born before 320 days is considered to be premature. That has been my experience also. Most born before 320 days, even healthy ones, usually look premature. Foals born after 320 days generally do fine, those born between 310-320 are more touchy and depend on the foal's maturity, before 310 days can be really iffy.
Thanks again for the update and please keep us posted.
Follow up by Kathy on March 1, 1999:
Hi! In November and December we discussed my 18 year old Arabian mare, Gaytalla. She was having a problem with bagging up early, and I was concerned that the foal would be premature. Well I was wrong!! On February 22, Gaytalla delivered (very easily) a beautiful chestnut colt. Thanks again for your help and advice. Your column and book are two of the best foaling advisories I have been able to find. Thanks again!!
Congratulations!! That's just what we want to hear! I'm so happy all turned out well. Thanks for your kind words about the book and column. Please come back and visit. Again, congratulations and enjoy your new baby!
Submitted by Liz in the USA on November 24, 1998:
First off, I need to tell you that I don't think we could have delivered our foal without the aid of your book. It gave us the knowledge and confidence to deliver a healthy miniature colt (19"). Thanks for everything... Our question: we do not have the facilities to separate mom from baby. He's now 7 months old and still nursing. We are giving mom some grain & corn oil to keep her weight up. Based on your experience, at what age do the moms wean the babies when left on their own? Thanks again for everything.
I'm so happy to hear the book helped you!! That's what it's all about!
In answer to your question, Mom may never wean the foal unless she has another one. I've seen two-year-olds still nursing. It would be best for both of them if you could come up with some way to separate them for at least a month.
Best of luck.
Submitted by Tara in the USA on November 30, 1998:
My mare had a foal 25 days premature on April 1. She stood within 45 minutes and attempted to nurse at 2 hours (she was so small she could hardly reach my 16.2 hand mares udder). I was concerned that my mare had no bag of milk and that the foal didn't seem to have much hair to stay warm. The vet told me she was fine and to treat her like a normal foal, even suggested I turn her out in a few days once she was off her fetlocks, even though it was 40 degrees out. He squeezed one squirt of milk out of my mares udder and said she had adequate milk. At 24 hours old my baby could no longer walk and she died at 2 days. The neo-natal specialist I got when she could no longer stand determined she died from malnutrition and hypothermia. (I had heat lamps in her stall, but they weren't enough). My question is: I have heard since of a test to determine if a mare has enough milk when the baby is born. (4 ounce test?) My baby tried to nurse constantly and because the vet said we were okay, I thought she was getting enough. My mom is re-breeding her mare again, and I don't want to be in this awful position of watching a foal starve. How does the test work? (I even had formula in the house ready, and wish I had not listened to the vet when he told me to never supplement her). Also, is there ways to tell when a foal should be sent to a neo-natal facility? I wanted to send my baby to MSU but the vet wouldn't allow it. Is there any way you can get a baby into a university like that without your vets approval? Lastly, should a foal born premature like this be given a whole series of shots right away? I wanted to wait on vaccinations until she was stronger, but the vet had the shots in his pocket and gave her three shots right after her enema. (she was 18 hours old).
I'm so sorry to hear about what you went through. Sadly, the awful outcome could probably have been prevented. I'll answer your questions one at a time. I am not aware of a test to determine how much milk a mare is producing. That doesn't mean it doesn't exist. Maybe it does and I just don't know about it. I'm wondering, though, if the test you're referring to is one for the quality of a mare's colostrum. If so, it can be done right on the spot with an instrument that measures specific gravity of the colostrum.
I suspect the foal's death was caused by at least a couple of things: 1) It didn't get enough colostrum, and so didn't get the antibodies it needed to ward off infection; 2) It didn't get enough to eat. Without enough to eat, its body wouldn't have the energy to function properly, much less stay warm.
The only vet school I am familiar with is Ohio State. You can take a horse there without a veterinary referral--that is, you can just decide to take it. Check with MSU and see if they will accept an animal without a veterinary referral.
There are some people who advocate a series of vaccinations when the foal is born. I don't really see any reason to do this and, according to some literature, it can actually be detrimental. Foals have been doing just fine on the immunity they receive from their mother's colostrum. Until I see proof to the contrary, I see no need to give a newborn anything other than tetanus antitoxin.
If this mare is to be bred again, there are a few things I would do. First, get another vet. Any time you aren't comfortable with what a vet tells you, it is your right to get a second opinion. Most vets are great and will go well beyond the call of duty to help you. However, as with any other profession, there are those vets that aren't as good. If you feel that you are dealing with one of those, get another opinion. As you found out, there isn't time to mess around with newborns--they go downhill too quickly. So, don't hesitate to ask for help from another source if you aren't feeling right about things. Second, I would be sure to have frozen colostrum from another mare or a colostrum replacement on hand when the mare is close to foaling again. Then, if she isn't producing enough, the foal can be fed the frozen colostrum or given the colostrum replacement. This is absolutely, positively essential. And third, have mare's milk replacement formula ready. I can see from your post that you did have it ready and the vet said you didn't need it. Go with your gut. If the foal is nursing constantly without seeming to be satisfied, if the mare's udder isn't full, if the foal stands up to sleep--these may be signs that the mare isn't producing enough and the foal should be supplemented. You can still allow it to nurse, and hopefully, the mare will begin producing more. But, you're right, a foal HAS to have enough to eat. As far as the prematurity: The foal getting up and continually trying to nursing are good signs. Premature foals are always touchy and it is possible that it wouldn't have survived anyway. However, I don't feel that your vet gave the foal the best possible chance. The length of time it survived without proper colostrum and nutrition seems to be an indication that it had a decent chance.
I hope this helps and if there's anything else I can answer for you, please let me know. Good luck getting the mare in foal again.
Follow up by Tara on December 2, 1998:.
Thank you so much for your response to my questions regarding the death of my foal. My mare will not be getting re-bred for a couple of years. My mare developed a severe uterine infection that required numerous antibiotics and flushings. I have a few new questions. I saved the placenta for the vet to see, and when he looked at it he said it all passed. However, about 3 hours after the baby died, she passed some large chunks of placenta and and began to drip infection. Fortunately, she never developed a fever or foundered. I guess we caught it in time. Question is, is there a way I can tell if the mare passed all the placenta? What should I look for? I'd like to be able to double check the vet (we do have a new vet since this happened, but I'm not going on blind faith ever again.) Also, could the fact that she retained placenta have caused her to not develop milk?
You're very welcome. In answer to your new questions--it would be very difficult to describe, without photos, what you should look for to see if all of the placenta has been expelled. There are photos of placentas in my book but since you don't have that, perhaps you could search the web. Maybe somewhere you can find a picture. Basically, though, there should only be one hole in the placenta--the place where the foal breaks through to be delivered. If you find more than one hole, even if you think it's just torn and there isn't a piece missing, it's always safest to assume some might be missing and treat the mare (usually with at least one uterine infusion with antibiotics). I'm so glad your mare didn't get sick. I've seen some really, really sick ones from retained pieces of placenta. It's possible that the retained placenta caused your mare not to have milk, but it sounds to me like she wasn't producing enough right from the beginning, so I kind of doubt that had much to do with it. Was she a maiden? If so, it could have been a maiden mare problem. Also, I don't recall any of the mares I've seen with retained placentas having milk problems, although if they get sick enough for any reason, it isn't unusual for milk production to decrease.
Take care and thanks for writing.
Submitted by Sarah in the USA on December 1, 1998:
I have two mares that are in foal. Since this is my first time foaling I have many questions. One of my mares (named China) is due to foal in March. How long do you determine until their due dates??? I have heard many different things. Also is it O.K. to use betadine on the foals naval ? This has been irritating me bad. I have read so many things on nutrition that I am so confused. I have read a lot on feeding alfalfa but China is one of those horses who is almost too easy of a keeper that I am afraid to feed her alfalfa. Right now both mares are on 2-3 flakes of really good grass hay twice a day, and one cup rice bran, 1 cup of wet cob, and a vitamin supplement which they have been on since they got in foal. They also have free choice Seliniam and mineral loose salts. Should you increase their diets in the last three months? My vet said to not feed alfalfa because it would make them too fat. Would an extra cup of alfalfa pellets be good to feed the last month? The vet also said only to increase the grain the last two weeks or so. Any info. would be greatly appreciated.
I determine due dates by counting 340 days from the mare's last breeding date. An example is that if she was bred on March 27, 1998, she would be due on March 2, 1999. But remember, that's just a rule of thumb. Normal gestation in the mare is 330-350 days and some go longer and are fine. So, there is a wide range of normal and the due date is just a guide. It's okay to use Betadine on the foal's navel, but iodine or Nolvasan (clorhexadine) is better. I've found that the Betadine doesn't "stick" to the navel as well as the others.
If your mares don't need alfalfa to keep their weight up, then you don't need to feed it to them. I've seen many, many mares have big, healthy foals and the mares never got a scrap of alfalfa. You've been in touch with your vet about what to feed them, and s/he is the best one to determine this since s/he can see the mares. The only disagreement I might have is to up their feed earlier--probably at about two months before their due dates. The reason I say this is because I've seen enough mares that didn't have their feed increased until later, or until they foaled, and they dropped massive amounts of weight in a hurry toward the end of gestation or shortly after the foal was born. So, I think it's better to up their feed a little earlier to keep that from happening. Once they lose all that weight, it's very difficult to get it back on with a nursing foal.
Best of luck and let us know when the mares foal.
Follow up by Sarah on December 4, 1998:
I wrote you a few days ago and forgot to say how much I love your book and website. Your book is very self explanatory and easy to understand. Just wanted to tell you.
Thank you so very much. I tried really hard to make the book as complete and easy to understand as possible. I remember when I started foaling mares, and how many questions I had that I couldn't find answers to. I can't describe how great it makes me feel to help people who are in the same boat!
Follow up by Sarah on December 6, 1998:
I wrote you a few days ago soon after I got your book. The book mentions that mares may develop sugary and salty looking grains on their teats when they get close to foaling. Our maiden mare which is 8 months pregnant has always had those on her teats. Is this normal. Her bag is also very big like it has been sucked on but it has always been like that even when we bought her before she was bred. We had a pre-vet exam before we bred her and she said that she was a maiden. Why does her bag look big and have those grains on it? Any info. would be appreciated.
Good questions. Some mares always have the grains on their udders and it's perfectly normal. Sometimes they come and go, and sometimes they're there all the time. When the mare gets close to foaling, and her udder gets full and starts looking shiny, watch for them to go away. When they do, then it's a good bet that she'll foal before long. Remember, though, that this is just another hint that may or may not hold true. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to get the mares to read the book! :-) I don't know why your mare's udder looks like it's been nursed from. Maybe that's just the way she is. Or, it's possible--and I'm not being critical--that your vet is mistaken. I've seen very experienced reproductive vets be fooled. On some mares it can be extremely difficult to tell by palpation--especially if it's been a couple of years since she foaled and has had only one pregnancy. You may be able to tell for sure after she foals. If she knows exactly what to do for the foal, how to stand for it to nurse, how to help it get back to her udder, etc., that's a pretty good indication that she's been there before. I'd still approach the situation like she's a maiden, though. If she lets you know that she understands what this baby stuff is all about, so much the better!
Thanks for writing and let us know when she foals.
Submitted by Sharae in the USA on December 10, 1998:
Your column is great ! Thank you for the information, it is invaluable! I bred my 15 yr old Appy mare last year and we lost the foal. She was a maiden mare, in great health. We had her in a stall for 2 weeks at night before her due date. She had never been stalled before but decided it would be safer than out in the field. Her bag was hard but no other signs for three weeks, and I slept in the barn waiting for her to foal. One night she was very restless, looking outside, pacing, kicking at her sides, but no foal. A veteran breeder visited and from her body condition said she probably wouldn't foal for about a week and we listened to the foals heart beat. We decided to let her in a small pasture to foal and I slept in the house that night. She was checked on at midnite and no more signs. The next morning at 7am she had delivered and the foal was dead and she was streaming milk with the wax hanging from her teats (it hadn't been there at midnite). The vet came and said my mare had a very easy delivery, no trauma signs, very little tearing of her vulva, the sac around the foal was open around her nose and down around her chest, legs in the right position, everything looked normal to my vet. It seemed like the only movement she made by the position of the sac was to move one of her front legs back a little as if she was going to try to get up. I chose not to have the foal autopsied and bred my mare again this spring. She is in foal again for some time in May. Will she carry the foal as long as she did last year, and will she exihibt the same signs again? It didn't seem like her vulva was lengthened, her muscles were not very loose and her bag was still hard the nite before - will the process go as fast again? I don't think she knows what happened and had no signs of interest or trauma towards the foal. What can I do if she is not interested in the foal? I also plan to take her to be foaled out at a vets as a safeguard in case there are problems and to make sure someone else is there when the foal is born this time. Thank you for any words of wisdom as I have been dreaming of having a foal out of my mare for 13 years!
I'm so very sorry that the foal was lost and am sure you'll have a much better experience this time. The first thing that struck me in your story was the fact that a "veteran" breeder told you the mare wouldn't foal for about a week. Obviously I don't know this person, but a truly veteran breeder would know better than to tell you not to watch a mare. Believe me, as soon as someone says that, they're going to get stung! If you should decide to foal the mare at home instead of send her to the vet, please, please, go with your gut. If you think you need to stay with the mare, then stay with her. I have never regretted spending a night with a mare and having her not foal. The only nights I've regretted are ones I didn't stay. I spend a whole lot more night with them feeling pretty sure that they won't foal than I do feeling that they will foal. I'd rather be safe than sorry and sometimes they just don't give you many clues.
My feeling is (and of course I wasn't there so this is just a guess based on my experience) that the foal probably died during the delivery. I have attended the deliveries of many maiden mares that didn't seem to understand the process--they didn't push, just lay there--to the point that if someone hadn't been there to help, the foal would have suffocated before she got herself together and delivered it. I just have to wonder if that could have been the case with your mare. The sac could easily have ruptured as the foal's front feet hit the ground, not because the foal moved and tore it open. And by the way, a hard udder is a good sign that a mare is close to foaling. They usually don't soften up again until the foal is nursing.
The good news is that if her delivery is attended, this shouldn't happen again. My best guess is that since her body has been through the delivery process, she should show more physical changes this time. Of course, no one can say for sure if she will or not, but I think the chance is good that she will. There is absolutely no way to judge if she will carry this foal the same length of time. Just keep a close watch on her, like you did last time, and once you decide she's close enough to stay with at night, stick with it and don't let anyone talk you out of it. Yes, the process could go just as fast the next time. It isn't surprising that she wasn't interested in the foal and I'd be willing to bet that she'll be plenty interested in a squirming, healthy one!
I'm very glad to hear that you've enjoyed the column. Now, we want a wonderful story from you about your new foal!
Follow up by Sharae on May 21, 1999.
I emailed you on December 10, 1998 about my appy mare who lost her foal. On May 13 she delivered a big healthy colt. Thank you for telling me to go with my gut feeling, I slept in the barn for 2 weeks and was there when she started waxing. I was at work and missed the actual birth by 5 min. but there were people there who helped her deliver. He was out and eating in less than 10 minutes. My mare didn't want to push and when she did it was short so it was good someone was there watching her! The foal is great, what a joy to watch him grow by the day! Your book was great and gave me assurance about what my mare was going through! I am recommending it to everyone! Thanks!
Congratulations! And thanks for letting us know. I'm so happy everything went well!
Enjoy your new foal!
Submitted by Marjorie in the USA on December 18, 1998:
I have two shetland pony mares that will be foaling in March and April of next year. We have just now built a fence around the barn to get them off of the fescue during their last few months. My question is when is it safe to put them back out to pasture after the foals are born?
Good for you for taking care of the fescue problem!
Generally speaking, it should be safe for you to put the mares and foals out on the pasture when the foals are ready. Usually, once the mares have foaled, the fescue no longer causes a problem. However, to make sure I've covered all bases, I have to say that there are those who believe that fescue may also cause some problems getting mares back in foal. So, if you plan on breeding the mares again, you might want to take that into consideration. My personal experience is that I haven't seen this problem, but have seen it raised by people I have great respect for.
Best of luck and let us know all about your new babies.
Submitted by Lisa in the USA on December 22, 1998:
Hi, I have a mare that is due to foal on or about January 3rd-1999...The question I have is about a mucousy discharge tinged with blood ,we found on December 20th. From my previous reading, this is a good indicator that foaling is very near? Usually within 72 hours? Well this mare has not bagged up very well, does not show MAJOR relaxation in her hip area, though the baby has shifted backwards some. Is this normal to lose the cervical plug this early and should I be on alert? We have her monitored on a closed circuit TV in our home. This is her first foal, I know maiden mares can be unpredictable, but I am a little concerned.
Not to worry, it sounds like things are fine. But you may be looking at a "ho ho ho" baby instead of a "Happy New Year" baby! Yes, a mare will usually foal within about 72 hours of the time she expels her mucous plug, but as with everything else with mares, there are exceptions. I've seen them go for as long as ten days and everything be just fine. You're right, though, since she's expelled the plug, she needs to be monitored very, very closely. And as you pointed out, maiden mares can do some very unexpected things. She may not bag up much more than she is now and she may not relax a lot more, or may do it in the last couple of hours. That the foal has moved back some, along with the expulsion of the mucous plug, tells me that she needs to be watched very closely. As I've said before, I'd sure rather watch them and have them do nothing than to not watch and have them foal alone. As long as the mare is acting okay and eating okay (for one so close to foaling), I wouldn't think there's anything wrong.
Hang in there and let us know about your new baby!
Follow up by Lisa on December 28, 1998:
Hi again, I had written to you last week about my mare having expelled her mucous plug on Dec. 20th, well still NO baby!! Have you ever seen a mare go past 10 days from expelling the cervical plug? I did have my veterinarian confirm that it was indeed the mucous plug? She still hasn`t bagged up very well, in fact not much progress since the the 20th...Today she is doing some pawing, not a lot, and she is yawning and curling her lip, sometimes she does both at the same time ! I will be staying up late again tonight I guess ! Also, I find this web site very educational and hope it will remain here for a long time, I also have your book and have gotten more than my money`s worth out of it! My husband laughs every time he sees me reading it, AGAIN!
Thanks for the update. I've been wondering if you had that "ho ho ho" baby. Maybe it'll be a New Year's foal after all. Although, yawning and lip-curling is sounding pretty promising. I, personally, haven't seen a mare go longer than 10 days after expelling her mucous plug, but have heard of others that have and everything has been fine. I don't think it's time to be worried yet, as long as the poor thing is acting okay. Thank you so much for your kind words about the column. I'll be here for as long as my kind hosts can put up with me. :-) And I'm very happy the book has helped you. I can't express what it means to me whenever someone says that.
Hang in there and please let us know when the new baby arrives!
Follow up by Lisa on January 5, 1999:
Hi...I had written to you previously about my mare that is due to foal, she had lost the cervical (mucous) plug back on December 20th and to this date, which is now January 5th, we still have no foal? What is the longest time you have seen a mare carry after losing this plug? As you can guess, we are pretty tired and a bit frustrated at this point as I have been watching nightly, for this baby! She still does not have a very large or firm udder, but the liquid it is producing is now at a thickened amber colored syrup and the muscles in her tail head ,hip and perineal area are quite loose. She is so uncomfortable, she actually almost fell over while sleeping the other night, I guess she is very tired? What do you think? Also love this web site and your book is very informative (I have read the book over and over for the past 2 years!) Please help!! Thanks...
Boy, do I feel for you! It sounds like your mare has gone into the dreaded "holding pattern." It doesn't mean anything's wrong, it just drives you crazy! I was wondering what was going on with you, so I'm really glad you wrote again. The longest I've seen one go after expelling the mucous plug was 10 days, but I've heard of them going longer without a problem. I'm surprised she hasn't foaled yet, but as long as she's acting okay (eating, drinking, etc.) while she's miserable, there probably isn't any reason to be worried. And yes, I've seen some fall all the way down because they've gotten so tired and won't lie down to sleep. After all this time, I'd expect her udder to be firm before she foals and the milk to turn white. There's no guarantee that'll happen, of course, but usually when they drag it out like this, they'll go ahead and make the rest of the usual changes before they foal. If it's any consolation, I have at least one every year that absolutely drives me crazy. Maybe you got it for me this year! :-)
Hang in there and please keep us updated.
Follow up by Lisa on January 16, 1999:
Hi everyone! Just wanted to update the status of my mare...On January 13th, she started to wax up, just a cloudy white wax, then the next day, she had white wax, milk slowly start to drip...her vulva had a stretched appearance and was swollen at the bottom. I don`t know if this means much, but on closer inspection of her vulva, the inside had turned bright pink/red and remained this way throughout the day...she had been acting very restless and pawing frequently, swishing her tail a bit as well. She never had any loose bowel movements though. At apprx. 9:30 pm, she started to steam and actually jogging around her stall, I knew it was time. I had already prepped her earlier by cleaning her perineal area and wrapping her tail, (I had a feeling today would be the day by her restless behavior), so I just had to get my foaling necessities ready, foal enema warming and video recording! Her water broke at about 9:45 pm and the delivery was textbook perfect, we now have a beautiful bay colt by LAST DETAIL! Thanks for you advice and good luck to all of you that will be foaling this year!
Thanks for letting us know about your wonderful new colt. I really enjoyed reading about how the last few hours went. It's great that the mare let you know when it was time, and that the delivery went so well.
Enjoy your new baby!
Submitted by Nanci in the USA on December 31, 1998:
I purchased a mare who is due to foal end of February/beginning of March. I live in Northeastern Ohio, where that time of the year can be brutally cold (as I am sure you know :-). I have never before had a foal do so early, since I usually aim for April/May foals. Our barn is an old post and beam barn (not a bank barn) and normally I really like the airiness and ventilation it provides. It is in good repair...no gaping holes or anything, but it does have louvers above double hung windows that let in some air, and the barn is definitely NOT air-tight. So I am worried about the mare foaling in this environment with low temperatures. I'm not really sure if I can get $$ together to buy infrared heaters for the stall. I have a suspicion that heat lamps would be pretty useless. I have thought about covering the outside of the barn in the area where her stall is located with heavy plastic to act as a wind barrier, also totally enclosing her stall (which currently has 3'-4' of open area at the top of each stall wall. I have even thought of just taking her somewhere to be foaled out. Am I getting carried away? Really, what are the ramifications of a foal being born in cold temperatures? What advice could you give me? Thanks in advance.
Yes, I understand Ohio's rotten winter weather, and you're in an area that's even worse than where I am. We'll keep our fingers crossed that the worst of it is over before your mare foals! To be on the safe side, though, I think your idea of covering the stall is an excellent one. It really does make a huge difference when the stall is covered. And no, I don't think you're getting carried away. My feeling is that it's always better to be over prepared than under prepared. If you are willing to cover the stall, then I don't see any reason to take your mare elsewhere to foal. Most healthy foals have no problem with really cold weather (as long as they are in some kind of shelter). Those born in February and March usually come equipped with really heavy coats and do quite well. Some people use foal blankets when it's very cold, and some even put sweatshirts on foals. I prefer not to use these, though, unless they're really needed because they can be a bit dangerous--there's the chance that the foal will get them twisted and get hung up in them. If you should be unfortunate and have a foal that's born weak or sick, then the cold becomes a major concern. However, if you've covered the stall, heat lamps can be used and will make a big difference.
I hope this helps, and please let us know how it goes.