Ask A Vet: Foaling Prep – What should you be ready for in anticipation of your next new arrival?

February brings Valentine’s Day, more winter, maybe even a fun President’s Day weekend trip.  The days are slowly getting longer and by the end of the month the weather will hopefully start to slowly slip from winter to spring.

For some of us horse owners, February can signal that we will soon be expecting a new arrival…a foal from our favorite mare!

Foaling may be something that you are intimately familiar with, or this may be your first time helping your mare to safely foal out.  Depending on when you bred your mare, you could be expecting a foal anytime between today and June.  You’ve made it through an entire 11 month pregnancy, so let’s talk about what you can do to ensure a smooth delivery.

Regardless of when the big day is, you’ll want to get together some basic supplies to help foaling go as smoothly as possible, and so that you’re prepared to help, or call for help, when the time is right. A basic foaling kit can keep everything handy in one location for when the moment arrives.  Gather together the following items and keep them in a tote, a Rubbermaid container or even a box near the foaling stall.

  • A watch or clock, or even your cell phone’s stopwatch– This will be important so you can time the stages of labor and make sure that everything is happening as it should.  During exciting events our perception of time is often skewed, and keeping track of the exact time will make it clear if you need to call for additional help.
  • Tail wrap– Use this to gently wrap your mare’s tail to help aid in post-partum cleanup.  Make sure to NEVER use vet-wrap or similar products for this, as they can constrict the and even cause the mare to lose her tail!
  • Plain white Ivory dish soap– This will be for the final night when foaling is imminent.  After you’ve wrapped your mare’s tail, use this soap and some warm water, to gently wash the vulva and perineal are of your mare.
  • You veterinarian’s phone number– You do not want to have to search for this when you desperately need it at 3am!
  • A flashlight or headlamp – Additional light always comes in handy when you need to see into a shadowy area, or even if you just need to run back to your house or car from the barn without tripping.

Hopefully everything goes well and you are lucky enough to actually see the event, but this is not always the case.  Mares can have some control of when they decide to foal out, and they will often time their foal out during the middle of the night.

If you are fortunate enough to see the whole thing be sure to record the starting time, as well as contractions.  The timing of each of the stages of labor can be a crucial bit of information for your veterinarian if your mare ends up needing additional help.  If you have concerns, or if the mare has not made any progress within 30 minutes of starting to actively push, call your veterinarian immediately!

Foaling is always an exciting time and everyone loves a brand-new baby. Making up your foaling kit in advance will help you enjoy the event a little more and be assured that if anything goes wrong you are prepared.

*image courtesy Alison.McKellar on flickr

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