Prepare For Foaling 

 Horse managers should be making a checklist now to help ensure that pregnant broodmares will foal as smoothly as possible during the birth process. Preparation is a key component of foaling management, both in terms of easing the birth process on the mare and in making life a little easier on those who will assist, said Dave Freeman, Oklahoma State University Extension equine specialist.

"It's important a foaling mare not be placed in a strange environment or have a stranger act as night attendant just prior to parturition," said Freeman. "In these instances, the mare often will delay foaling time until she becomes relaxed with her environment."

Instead, a foaling mare should be familiarized with her foaling environment and the presence of any night attendants beginning one or two weeks prior to the day of expected parturition.

The foaling environment should be clean, have adequate space and be reasonably quiet. A stall should be 14 feet by 14 feet or larger, and should be filled with clean straw rather than shavings. An eight- to 10-inch-thick bed of straw will cut down on dust, decrease the chance for infection and is easier to clean off the mare and foal.

If the mare is going to foal in the pasture, make sure the area is dry, with plenty of grass.

Freeman said a reasonably quiet area will help calm the mare and make for easier foaling. Barn lights should be regulated and not turned on and off at various intervals. Instead, the horse owner should use a small flashlight to monitor the mare's position whenever possible. An alternative for constant nighttime observation is to use a dim light in the stall, just bright enough to see the mare. Also, observation of the mare should be done from outside the foaling area.

Mares that have caslick sutures must have them opened at least 30 days prior to foaling. Caslick sutures are used to prevent problems in mares that have abnormal conformation of the vulva.

"Aside from the obvious foaling difficulties, if these mares are not opened, the owner risks the possibility of oblique tears to the vulva or vagina that are difficult to repair and may result in a deformity that leads to uterine infection," Freeman said.

Horse owners should not be overly concerned if the mares fail to deliver exactly on schedule. Although normal gestation for a mare is 330 to 350 days, there may be variations. For example, colts normally are carried longer than fillies. As parturition becomes imminent, the personality of the mare may change. The mare can become irritable, laying her ears back at the slightest provocation and appearing restless. If running in a herd, the mare may distance herself from the other horses.

Most foaling farms suggest that the mare's tail should be wrapped at this time. This will keep the tail out of the way if problems develop during foaling and assistance is required.

"Clean four-inch flannel, gauze or derby bandage may be used to wrap the tail," Freeman said. "Tight elastic wraps such as Ace bandages should not be used because circulation to the tail may be cut off."

Also, the mare's udder and vulva should be gently scrubbed with warm water, a mild soap if necessary and clean cotton. The horse owner needs to make certain all the soap is rinsed off, and should double check to make sure any caslick sutures have been opened.

Freeman said these preparatory procedures can help make the delivery a smooth one for the mare, while allowing attendants to render aid as quickly as possible should it become necessary.

Article provided by Oklahoma State University