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Birthing Tips

Mare Alert - Preparing for Birth

Two weeks before your mare's estimated foaling date is a good time to put her in an area by herself and to watch her everday habits. Once she varies from these habits you will know she is getting ready to foal. Some signs to watch for are as follows:

  1. By checking her tail dock area as time gets close there will be less resistance when lifting it up to check vaginal area. The sign here is when there is no resistance and it lies flat against her body with no life to it at all.

  2. When she suddenly is pacing her paddock area, back and forth.

  3. Pawing at the ground like expecting something or anxious.

  4. Quick movements of her head whipping around to look at her backside. These type of movements will have the same look as collic.

  5. Her udders will be full with milk to the point of possibly dripping down her legs. This sign would indicate birth within l2-36 hours. This will be the best sign. This does not always happen in all mares but if it should, keep a constant watch on her.

  6. Urinating constantly or taking the position is another definite sign of just hours to go. 7. The making of, what I call the pain face. The mare's upper lip curls over and head in the air. This shows she is having pain.

Birthing and Imprinting

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Your mare is definitely beginning labor, your phone calls have been made and help is at your side along with your imprinting kit. Are you all ready to start?

If the foal is already on the ground along with mare, you may at this point quietly and slowly walk up to them. Try not to all rush up at the same time, don't want to get your mare up and on her feet before she is ready. Remember she has just had a baby.

Start by peeling off the sack from the baby. Do it gently as this is part of the afterbirth that you will inspect at a later time. Allow the umbilical cord to break on its own accord. Do not force the break. Usually either the foal will pull hard enough or the mare in trying to get up will break it.

The person caring for the mare should gently hook a lead line to her halter. While the mare helper is doing this part, you and a second helper are positioning yourselves on the back side of the foal. One should be at the head and one at the tail. The helper with your kit should be passing the spray bottle of "tamed" iodine to disinfect the stump of the cord. Next a towel may be used to dry the head and body of the foal. This stimulates circulation to the foal. Make sure to remove any obstructing membranes or mucus from the mouth and nose.

During this time if the mare has risen to her feet, allow her to approach the foal either at the tail end or head end. This reduces her from being anxious and avoids placing you or your help between mare and foal.

Training procedures now begin. Do not allow the foal to get up by gently but firmly holding him down on his side. A good way to do this is position the foal's head towards it's shoulder (the fetal position). This will help keep him down and will not harm him as this is the position in the sack before born.

You want to rub your hands over his entire face and head area. The foal will try to resist, do not stop. You will work on this part until the foal relaxes (a sigh of exhaled breath) and continue just beyond that point. You can never overdo but you can underdo. If you stop to soon and the foal is struggling to escape you fix that behavior in him and the foal will remember that this is except- able behavior. This is so important that I can not stress it enough. What we are doing now is to desensitize or habituate the foal. Each stimulus we do must be repeated until the foal no longer shows any resistance. Do not continue on any other parts until the foal relaxes. Usually it will give a sigh and you will feel the relaxation in him.

From the face and head, include the poll and the ears. Rub and massage the ear until its desensitized to your touch then insert a finger into the ear not too far to harm him and wiggling it until this area is desensitized. With your arm wrapped around its neck so that your hand can hold near his cheek area of his head, you'll do the same to its other ear. Remember, what you do on one side of the foal you have to do on the other side as well. This might be a good time to have your helper with your tools to pull out the clippers, turn on and run it on the backside of the cutting part against the foal enabling the foal to feel the vibration and the noise. Do this also till the foal once again is totally relaxed.

Next is the mouth. Massage the upper lip, the underside of the lip. Insert a finger in the mouth and desensitize the mouth inside, on each side and the tongue. Your foal will now always be easy to put a twitch on, bridle, worm or perform dentistry upon without fear.

Completing the head next is the neck area. Do both sides of the neck including the mane. Be aware it will take at least an hour to completely desensitize the foal that as yet has not been on its feet.

After the neck comes the withers and back which is done all the way to the tail. Then comes tail and the perineum(area under the tail.) Insert your finger a short way into the rectum to desensitize this area. This makes vet exams go a lot easier.

While the foal is lying on its side do the upper shoulder, rib cage, and the chest only. At a following session you will do the stomach area. Following this, the upper most limbs, stroking the full length until that is completely densensitized. Flex the joints and finally pat and rub first, then tap on the bottom of each hoof at least 50 times. Patting on the bottom should be hard enough to make a slapping noise. It teaches the foal not to fear the farrier's handling or work on the foals hooves.

Desensitize the groin area. If the foal is a male, be especially thorough about the sheath. If it is a filly, pay attention to the udder area. All these things are elimating fear in the foal for vet exams, well or sick, for temperature taking and generally easier handling during grooming procedures.

This is when I introduce the Spray bottle of warm water, crackling paper(newspaper),and plastic bag(white for visual view)to overcome spooking to sounds on windy nights or paper suddenly blowing in front of them.

Without allowing the foal to get up, roll him over. I find the best way to do this is both you and your helper holding a set of legs and gently turning over the foal. Carefully watching out for flairing legs. It is now time to repeat the whole procedure on this side. When you finish both sides the foal should be relaxed enough with you to just lie in your arms and not struggle. Try this for a few seconds. Now its time to let the foal and mare bond.

That's it. You are finished with your first of daily sessions. This should be done once or twice daily. Before leaving the area allow the foal to stand, get his strength and balance and begin to nurse. Once you are sure it is starting to nurse leave your mare alone with her new foal to do her bonding.