Care of the pregnant mare and the newborn foal
Pregnant mares need special care and attention to optimise the likelihood of a healthy viable foal. Attention needs to be paid to feeding, preventative vaccination and general healthcare.
GENERAL MANAGEMENT OF THE MARE
During the last three months of pregnancy the mare requires slightly more energy than when non pregnant. Feeding a stud balancer or stud mix is a good way of providing this. The mare should be kept in good but not over-fat condition. She should be kept with a stable group of mares and isolated from horses which could bring in infectious diseases. If you are planning on moving your mare to stud to foal, she needs to move at least one month before she is due to foal to enable her to acquire immunity to the pathogens present at the stud.
Mares should have regular worm egg counts done and be wormed as necessary to prevent the build up of parasites. She should also be vaccinated against equine influenza and tetanus. A booster vaccine against tetanus should be given one month prior to foaling. At risk mares should also be vaccinated against Equine Herpes Virus. They need to be vaccinated in the fifth, seventh and ninth month of pregnancy.
Mares should be checked regularly for premature udder development as this can be a symptom of placentitis. They should be watched for leaking colostrum so that plans can be put in place if the foals Igg levels are low. Its also important to watch for vaginal discharge as again this can be a symptom of placentitis. Placentitis is generally treatable if caught early.
The normal duration of pregnancy in the mare is very variable, anywhere between 320-360 days. Most mares get an obvious increase in udder size, waxy secretions at the teats and obvious relaxation of the tail head in the 48 hours before they foal.
A normal foaling starts with restlessness, sweating and mild colic symptoms. This stage normally lasts a couple of hours. They then progress to the next stage where the mare will begin to strain to push the foal out. The foal should appear with one foot slightly in front of the other foot followed by the nose resting on the front legs. This stage should not take more than 20-30 minutes. Once the foal has been born try not to disturb the mare to prevent premature rupture of the umbilical cord, however do check that the white membranes have been cleared from the foals nostrils to allow it to breathe.
The final stage is the expulsion of the placenta. This should occur within 2 hours of foaling.
WHEN TO CALL THE VET
If in any doubt phone your vet if there is a problem with a pregnant or foaling mare. Prompt professional advice can often save a foal.
Any abnormal presentations when foaling need urgent attention.
If a thick red membrane appears at the vulva this requires urgent attention too.
If any of the stages don’t occur in the expected time frames this requires attention to.
If in doubt call!