Horse managers should prepare for
Foaling weeks in Advance
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
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.
"Aside from the obvious foaling difficulties, if these mares are
not opened, the owner risks the possibility of oblique tears
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 privates 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
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