Horses are obviously capable of conceiving, carrying and birthing new life all on their own, but educating yourself about the blessed event will help optimize the outcome in your personal circumstances. Complications don't usually mar the foaling scenario, but when they do occur the situation can quickly become life threatening for both the foal and the mare.
The normal gestation of a mare ranges from 320 to 380 days, shorter than 320 days is considered premature. Actual foaling time is influenced by many factors. Accurate breeding records facilitate the prediction of a foaling date but, since it’s the foal who initiates birth, the one thing you can count on is some degree of uncertainty for the exact timing. What’s an anxious owner to do during the, sometimes excruciating, waiting period? As your mare comes close to her due date, there are some fairly reliable physical changes that occur.
PHYSICAL OBSERVATIONS LEADING UP TO FOALING
2 - 4 weeks prior to foaling udder development, pendulous abdomen
30 days, give or take increasing relaxation of the pelvic area
24 - 72 hours prior milk in udder & teats, “waxing up” or waxy secretions
may or may not appear on teats
48 hours prior increased concentration of calcium in the milk
12 - 24 hours prior elongation & relaxation of the vulva & tail head
THE PROCESS OF GIVING BIRTH IN THREE STAGES
begins with the onset of uterine contractions. The mare may appear nervous, intermittently anxious or agitated and restless. She may show similar signs as with mild colic. This stage should progress to the next steps of vigorous labor within a few hours.
is “go time” and describes expulsion of the foal. This stage normally moves quickly, with delivery occurring in 15 to 20 minutes. After the “water breaks” (rupture of the chorioallantoic membrane) expect complete delivery of the foal within 30 minutes. Strong contractions often first push a bubble of pearly white amniotic membrane through the vulva. The membrane usually tears as the front feet are presented, one ahead of the other followed by the nose. When everything is on track, a foal will stand within 1 hour after birth, will nurse within 2 hours and will pass meconium within 3 hours. Human interference should be minimized to allow the mare and newborn to bond appropriately.
, no, you’re not done yet. Expulsion of the afterbirth is a vital stage for the mare. The placenta is normally delivered intact along with the foal, or within 1 to 3 hours post foaling. The afterbirth should be inspected thoroughly to be sure that it is passed completely and to check for abnormalities.
TEN REASONS TO CALL FOR HELP
1. If signs of stage one labor do not progress within a couple of hours.
2. If active labor suddenly stops.
3. If the water breaks and the foal is not delivered within 30 minutes or less.
4. If you see a red membrane coming through the vulva instead of the white,
pearlescent amnion, this sack should be opened and the foal delivered ASAP.
5. If you notice ANY abnormal positioning of the foal.
6. If the mare becomes unexpectedly painful.
7. If the foal does not follow the 1-2-3 hour rule of standing, nursing, passing
8. If the mare won’t allow the foal to nurse or she dripped significant colostrum prior
9. If the afterbirth is not expelled completely within 3 hours of birth.
10. If you’re just not sure about something… when in doubt call for help or consult.