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A report on a mares process of delivery

Last week we discussed preparations of the mare and foaling area in anticipation of Impending foaling. This week we will cover the 3 stages of parturition and what you can expect as your mare moves through these stages.

Many mares will foal in the night or early morning. Generally, this is a more calm and private time of the day without the disturbances of daily activities. In the wild, mares foal at night to avoid predators. Parturition Stage One of Parturition Once uterine contractions begin, stage one of parturition is initiated.

There are no obvious signs of the beginning of this stage, but as labor progresses, a mare will show the telltale signs that foaling is impending. She will be even more restless, possibly with more frequent bowel movements and urinations.

The mare may start to develop patchy sweat along her flank, shoulders, and chest. The discomfort associated with foaling may cause the mare to exhibit colic-like symptoms including getting up and down frequently, nipping at her sides, stretching or kicking and tail swishing.

Contractions might be seen along the abdomen and just below and in front of the flank. When these signs are seen, it is important to try to make her as comfortable as possible and provide a low-stress environment for parturition as discussed in Part 2 of foaling last week. Remove any manure from her stall quietly, and make sure your foaling kit is near. Even maiden mares will often make it through the process just fine on their own.

Stage 1 may last several hours and ceases once her water breaks. Stage Two of Parturition The passing of the allantoic fluid through the birth canal indicates the end of stage one and the beginning of stage two when the amniotic sac first appears. This fluid may be more than two gallons in volume and should be clear. The amniotic sac, which will be white or shiny in appearance, will protrude several minutes after the allantoic fluid has been released.

The sac should appear translucent and bulbous. If the sac appears red or dark in color, contact your veterinarian immediately as the foal may be rapidly losing contact with its oxygen supply. Next, you should see one foreleg appear just ahead of the other foreleg. The nose will appear a little further back. If the forelimbs appear without the nose, or if hind limbs are appearing first, or if there is no appearance of the foal at all for several minutes after the water breaks, then contact your veterinarian.

Signs such as these may indicate mal-presentation of the foal and it will be helpful and potentially life-saving to have your veterinarian present if this happens. Once the forelegs and nose have appeared they may slide a bit in and out of her body.

Your mare may be restless at this time and get up, walk around, and lay down again. This is normal and you should not intervene.

  • She will be even more restless, possibly with more frequent bowel movements and urinations;
  • This allows a different set of causes to be considered in a stillbirth, many related to the delivery or birthing process;
  • Signs such as these may indicate mal-presentation of the foal and it will be helpful and potentially life-saving to have your veterinarian present if this happens;
  • When these signs are seen, it is important to try to make her as comfortable as possible and provide a low-stress environment for parturition as discussed in Part 2 of foaling last week;
  • If more than three hours have passed and the placenta is still intact with the mare, an emergency phone call to the veterinarian is in order;
  • Completion of organogenesis has been proposed to be by day 23 of gestation by some and day 30 by others.

Contractions will be at their strongest when the mare is passing the withers of the foal through her birth canal. At this time, the foal is under the extreme constriction of the birth canal and would not be able to take a deep breath until the withers have been passed anyway. Once the withers have passed, the mare may take a few moments to relax while the hind legs of the foal are still in the birth canal.

Equine Pregnancy Terminology

With one or two final contractions, the rear legs will be expelled and a successful delivery has occurred.

The birth of the foal demarcates the end of stage 2 of parturition.

  • Next, you should see one foreleg appear just ahead of the other foreleg;
  • The classical cause of postmaturity is consumption of endophyte-infected fescue grass by the mare;
  • The average length of gestation is between 320 and 370 days.

Once the withers have passed, a deep first breath is possible. Stage 2 only takes 10 to 70 minutes to complete 10-20 minutes in the average mare. Stage Three of Parturition The mare then will begin to pass the placental tissues.

Ideally, the placenta will pass within a couple hours post foaling. Do not pull the placenta from the mare, as this may increase the risks of small pieces being retained, which can later lead to infections. The placental tissues can be tied in a knot, which prevents the mare from stepping on or dragging the tissues and also puts a small, gravitational force on the placenta.

If more than three hours have passed and the placenta is still intact with the mare, an emergency phone call to the veterinarian is in order. Retained placentas are very dangerous to the dam as they increase the incidence of uterine infections, laminitis, and will delay her next cycle. If a retained placenta is present, the veterinarian may inject the mare with oxytocin, which is a hormone that stimulates the uterus to contract.

An infusion of antibiotics into the uterus may also help reduce chances of uterine infection after the placenta has been expelled. Final Remarks Foaling is a remarkable process. Most mares will go through the process without needing any help. However, never think twice about calling your equine veterinarian if a problem is suspected as prevention is always the best medicine.