Thursday, March 15, 2007

First Arabian Horse Breeder's Foaling of the Season - Dystocia! Part 3

Since this colt can't figure out how to stand, he's sucking the wall looking for food.

The first part of this story begins here.

Act Two

Just getting the foal on the ground is not all there is to foaling. Still critical to the health and safety of the horses (the newborn foal and the mare) are the following issues. The mare must pass her placenta within 2-4 hours. The foal needs to stand and nurse to receive colostrum. The foal needs to be monitored to be sure all the appropriate plumbing is working and the foal's umbilicus needs to be treated. There are other things to do as well, but these are the big issues.

I'm a type A personality and probably a worrier especially when it comes to my Arabian horses. I get the most stressed about getting the foal to nurse and the mare dropping her placenta. I don't know if it's because I've ended up having to transfuse foals and had a couple of newborns that ended up in the hospital along the way and a couple of proplems with retained placentas. But I just can't relax until these things are taken care of. To complicate this when I get stressed, I get short on patience. This isn't good working with horses! Number one rule working with horses, patience, patience, patience....with foals multiply that by about one thousand.

It was obvious from the start that this colt was going to have a lot of difficulty figuring out how to work his mile long legs. Since how well foals utilize colostrum is directly related to how soon they ingest it after birth, I decided to take some pressure off both the Arabian horses and me. I was going to milk the mare and hand feed the colt his first colostrum since it didn't look like the young horse was going to figure out his legs anytime soon.

Before doing this I thoroughly cleaned the mare's udder with warm water and a very mild soap I then rinsed the horse's udder with more clean warm water to be sure there was no soap residue remaining. I was careful to get deep in between the crevice down the middle of the horse's udder so that no "crude" was missed. I've learned over the years foaling out many horses that the thoroughness of this washing can really help ease the diarrhea the foal experiences during the mare's foal heat.

Once that was done, I tried milking the mare. Thanks to the twin Arabian horses of last year, I have a lot of experience with milking mares. It only took a couple of seconds to know that I was in trouble. The mare's milk had not come in. I was getting a little bit of sticky colostrum but not much and no milk.

I applied hot packs to the mare's udder to help let her milk down and then tried again. Working very hard at milking the mare I managed to get only 60cc of the valuable fluid. (For comparison, last year that same effort produced 3 cups) I poured the colostrum into a large dose syringe and gently force-feed the colt, being careful not to injure his soft palate with the hard plastic tip of the syringe.

The young Arabian horse (foal) actually was very receptive to the hand feeding and only had one trickle of the sticky colostrum run down the side of his little horse mouth. The rest he swallowed greedily getting it all to his stomach. The fact the Arabian horse foal had gotten some colostrum was a relief but I had no way of knowing if this was enough colostrum to provide the antibodies so necessary for the foals survival. Try as I might the Arabian mare wasn't giving up any more. I wasn't going to get any relief from stress ing over this young Arabian horse getting enough colostrum. The clock was still ticking.

The other problem becoming rapidly more obvious was the mare was not shedding her placenta. Even now almost two hours after the horse had foaled, the only thing protruding from the Arabian horse (mare) was the umbilical cord and the sack.

I had tied the sack into a knot with the still dripping end of the umbilical cord, hoping to add a little weight to encourage the placenta to begin to break lose. It's tricky to do because it's important to not pull on the cord or placenta since that can cause permanent damage to the mare's uterus. The knot wasn't working on the Arabian horse. There wasn't really even enough available to try and tie in a small towel as another safe method of adding weight and gravity to remove the horse's placenta. There was nothing else I could do for the Arabian horse (mare) without oxytocin.

Fortunately, oxytocin is the answer for both of these problems. Oxytocin causes contractions in the mare. Contractions are what is needed to help the mare shed the placenta and the letdown of mare's milk is directly related to the contractions. So it's not surprising to have these two problems occur together. Although they do occur more often individually, thank God for us mare owners one of these issues is stressful enough. In this case it tells us this horse's body did not produce enough oxytocin naturally which also explains her weak contractions and not laying down for the foaling.

So I put a call into the vet to get oxytocin. He was all backed up with a critically ill filly. It was going to be a while before anyone could get to us with the hormone needed to fix these problems in the Arabian horse (mare). The temperatures here were cool so that gave us a little more time in regards to shedding the placenta but there was still the issue of colostrum in the foal. The clock continued to tick....

To be continued....

Part 4


  1. Darn! You got me again. So engrossed in the tale and suddenly up pops ... "to be continued" ... ARGH. LOL :)

    Got a name for him yet?

    Take care.


  2. LOL at Barbe, my feelings exactly, it is like watching a series, they always end when it gets exciting!! MiKael writes so well too and her explanations are so well worded, so they are easy to understand and if I ever find myself in any of these positions I will know exactly what to do or who to call!!!

    Thanks for the comments on my blog MiKael. On the question of where to post answers to questions. I usually either put it in my next days story or I answer on the blog of the person asking the question. I dont always get time to go back and check on the blog where I have asked something so find it easier, that way I know the person asking has seen it.

    Stay warm, cold here again.


  3. Foaling stories are so interesting to me, since I've always missed them in person. I'm still hoping to catch a mare foaling on

  4. This was really interesting reading. thanks.

  5. Got me too! You do write well, MiKael. Thanks for stopping by our mustang blog.

  6. Rising Rainbow,
    I want to scold you for leaving us with "The clock was ticking...." Do you really find it necessary to agonize your readers???? Not nice!!!

    Hope the little one is standing and nursing by now. A photo of that would do a lot to make me feel like it's gonna turn out all right in the end.