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Foaling Difficulties


There is a lot to take into consideration with a mare in labor. With all of the below mentioned considerations, please remember to keep yourself safe as a mare in labor or a mare with a new foal can be aggressive. It is also important to monitor your mare from a safe distance. If assistance is needed, you can easily and quickly help the mare, however, most horses do not like nearby observers when giving birth. After the foal is born, it is also important to let the new mom and baby get acquainted. Unless medical intervention is needed, intervening with the mare and foal too soon can be detrimental.

•Dystocia (pronounced dis-tow-sha) is the word used to describe when a mare has trouble giving birth. A normal delivery should have both of the foal’s front feet and nose seen first, followed by the body and then the hind limbs. While the entire process can take a few hours, the active phase of labor should take 20 minutes or less. If the foal is malpositioned, the birthing time is protracted, or you don’t observe forward progress in the foaling within the first 15-20 minutes of initiation of labor contractions, you need to call the veterinarian immediately.

•If the umbilical cord is still attached to the mare and foal, do not cut it. In most instances, the umbilical cord will break naturally on its own shortly after the birthing process. If you think the cord needs to be cut, contact your veterinarian before doing so.

•A normal foal should stand within 30 minutes after birth, begin nursing within 30-60 minutes of birth, and pass manure (aka: meconium) within 1-2 hours of birth. Any prolonged deviation from these time frames, straining to urinate or defecate, urination from the umbilical stalk, inability to stand, not nursing, a poor or absent suckle reflex, a mare that will not allow the foal to nurse, etc. warrants veterinary attention.

•The mare should pass the placenta within 1-2 hours after labor. If the placenta is retained beyond 3 hours, you should contact your veterinarian. Never pull a passing placenta. Tying up the placenta to a level above the hocks can prevent it from being inadvertently torn.

•Depending on your experience and any potential risk factors that you might have with the mare and/or foal, you may have other questions or concerns that can arise during the foaling process. If you have any hesitation to the progress of the foaling, please call your veterinarian for advice.