February 12, 2010
Create the best environment for a mare that is ready to foal.
- It Happens Fast. “I think what people need to realize is how rapid and athletic an event it is,” Dr. Ben Espy says. “It is very violent and very fast. A normal foaling will only last 15 minutes. Typically, if a foal doesn’t come out vaginally within about 20 or 30 minutes, it is dead. On rare occasions, you may have a dystocia (difficult birth) and get the foal out in about 45 minutes, but that is very rare.”
- Keep a Low Profile. It is important to remember that mares have some ability to delay birth until they feel safe.
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“A lot of old-timers say the foal will decide the day of foaling, and the mare will decide the time,” Dr. Espy says. “What that means is, very frequently you can have mares in the first stage of labor – sweating and all that kind of stuff, and if you turn on the lights in the barn or walk past their stall, they can literally go to eating and stop at will. A lot of people believe that’s sort of the old inherited ability to avoid predators or predation — the ability to stop labor.”
So camping by a mare’s stall is probably less productive than you think – flipping on the lights or a radio or just staring at the mare might cause her to delay the birth.
Invariably, if you fall asleep for 10 minutes or go to the bathroom, they’re going to have the foal while you’re gone,” Espy said. “It’s pretty much worthless to camp out and really believe that you’re going to see a foal being born. It’s very, very rare and a special occurrence for you to see a mare have a foal.”
Stay tuned for the last part of this four-part series.
Hyperkalemic periodic paralysis is a serious muscle deficiency in horses that causes muscle twitching, weakness and more. Find out the details on this genetic disease in AQHA’s FREE report, HYPP Survival Guide.