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January 12, 2015

Be Prepared – A Foaling Out Checklist

by DePaolo Equine Concepts

Foaling season is upon us. Are you ready? If you’ve decided to foal your mare out at home rather than taking her to breeding farm or veterinarian there are definitely some essential items required.  We’ve asked our friend Rick Ford of Cinder Lakes Ranch, a premiere stallion station and reproduction center in Valley View, TX, to give us a rundown of his checklist.

“Having these items is important but knowing how to use them is crucial,” says Ford.  “Some items you may only need in case of emergency but it is best to be prepared with everything you may need at hand during and right after your foal’s birth.”

  • A clean dry stall with fresh straw bedding

It is important to have your mare foal out on straw rather than shavings as the small wood particles can get caught on mother and baby. If straw is not available try and use the largest flake shaving possible.

  • Tail wrap

It is important to wrap your mare’s tail BEFORE the birthing process starts. Using a clean athletic sock or vet wrap (do not wrap the tail bone too tightly) you can wrap her entire tail to keep it clean and from passing dirt and debris onto the foal as it is coming out of the birth canal.

  • A list of key contacts and phone numbers

This could be your veterinarian or other acquaintance experienced in foal birthing. If an emergency arises, you may only have a few minutes to call for help.

  • A phone

Going along with the above – a cell phone or a cordless phone that gets good reception in your barn.

  • A flashlight with fresh batteries

Mares usually give birth at night and prefer a dimly lit, quiet area.

  • A watch or stopwatch

Once the foals feet can be seen, they should be totally out of the birth canal in approximately 10 minutes. If it is longer than this or if the mare looks to be struggling you will want to call a vet.

  • Clean towels

Although it is the mare’s job to clean the foal you may need to clear the nostrils or airways of the new baby.

  • Plastic bags or bucket

You will need to collect the placenta for your vet to view the following day to make sure it’s complete. A healthy placenta should be approximately 10-11 percent of the foal’s bodyweight.

  • Surgical Gloves

Disposable sterile gloves are necessary incase you do have to handle the mare or the foal.

  • Halter and lead rope

This is for the mare in the situation that you have to move her or restrain her for any reason.

  • Sharp sterile scissors

You may need to cut the umbilical cord or pierce the placental sac if the foal is having trouble break through on its own.

  • Clamps or sutures

Even sterilized fishing line will work if the ends of the umbilical cord need to be tied off to stop excess bleeding.

  • Antiseptic

This is to dip the umbilical “stump” in. Greater than 2 percent iodine can cause tissue necrosis so most vets recommend a 0.5% chlorhexidine solution to dip the umbilical. This should be done each day for several days after birth. The umbilical “stump” can be a point of infection so it is imperative to keep clean.

  • Foaling alarm or security camera (optional)

Although an investment, these items will save you many hours of sleepless nights and long walks to the stall to check on your mare.

I would also recommend your veterinarian do a ‘wellness check’ within the first 24 hours of life.

  • Colostrum

You may also want to consider administering Colostrum once the foal is on the ground.  This is very important for any new born. It helps fight infection, creates antibodies and delivers proper nutrition that is critical in the first stages of life. Colostrum can be checked using a Refractometer. If one is unavailable, have your veterinarian check your foal’s hematology to be sure the foal has received adequate antibodies from the mare.

Each mare will go through the foaling process differently. There are many other items you can add to your foaling kit arsenal based on your comfort levels with the foaling process. Although most mares will give birth naturally without incident, it is important to be knowledgeable about the process or have someone experienced at your fingertips. Don’t be afraid to call your vet.

If you are not 100% sure you are well-equipped for the foaling process, you might want to look into breeding farms in your area that have experienced staff on hand, 24 hour care, video monitoring and large clean foaling stalls. Many breeding facilities – even if they specialize in other breeds – will board your mare and help with the foaling process. The larger ones have full time breeding attendants on staff and state of the art equipment in the case that something goes wrong. It is not worth leaving your mare or foal’s health to chance.

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