Monday, March 24, 2008

Foaling Season - A Learning Experience

Thank you to twosuperstudponies from marestare for this collage of pics!

Foaling season is in full swing even though I don't have a foal due for a couple of months still. I know the peak of the season is coming on because I can't visit Mare Stare without catching a mare foaling. Of course, I'm not spending a lot of time on the site watching for mares who are close. I have way too much work here to be doing that. But checking in the evening hours, I've watch three mares foal in two days.

The number of live webcams on foaling mares has shot up through the roof. Mare Stare has divided threads in the forums to separate Mare Stare cams from others just to help the "Starers" be able to keep track of horses more easily. There were so many mares due at the same time that confusion was the name of the game.

The separations of the cams by location and then moving the newly foaled into the nursery was supposed to make it easier to keep track of information mares getting close. I'm not sure if that's the case with the huge increase in numbers of live webcams So I just head for the chat room and ask if anyone thinks any particular mares are worth watching. Those are the mares I watch - that and I have a few of my favorites I've been watching for three seasons now.

If you're wondering what I'd doing on Mare Stare when I don't have a mare even close, it's strictly for the experience. Sure I've foaled out around thirty foals on my own but I know I have a lot to learn. The more foalings I see, the more I learn.

Some go like clockwork and that's good. That's what we all hope for. But with that large number of mares foaling there are bound to be problems. Those problems are why I watch. I can see the signs instead of read them in a book. I also get to see how different people find solutions.

Just last night I watched a dystocia. (difficult birth) I'm still not sure if the foal locked a shoulder or had its head turned back, maybe even both but clearly the birth required intervention. I knew early that there was a problem. The reason I knew, I'd seen the signs before. The farm owners knew exactly what they were doing. It all ended successfully.

In the two previous seasons that I've watched on Mare Stare I've seen some real heart breaking foalings. But what I have learned from watching has made me more prepared for problems in the future. I know my first red bag delivery I saw on Mare Stare. I've also seen two sets of twins and a lavender foal born through that site. I've seen enough that my first foaling last year that was a dystocia, I knew immediately. I was on the phone with the vet before I even got to the barn. I could tell by the picture on my computer.

There's no amount of reading in books that compares to watching mares foal. I wish I had this resource when I first got started in horses. I've learned more in the last two seasons on Mare Stare than I've learned the rest of my foaling experience.

For anyone expecting their first foal, I strongly recommend some time watching mares foaling AND studying your own mare's behavior. There's nothing more helpful than knowing how mares behave when left alone. Watching from a distance can give you a baseline to go by. Mares behaviors will change in some subtle ways that clearly tell you the time is coming IF you have something to compare.

If you do this on Mare Stare and you don't understand what you're seeing, ask questions either on the thread for the mare or in the chat. Most likely someone who knows will tell you what you're looking at. I know I answer a lot of questions in the chat room. I also post what I see that are important signs. It's a learning experience I just won't miss.

The pictures above were taken off the computer by someone on Mare Stare watching while my mare, Bey Aana, was foaling last year.


  1. I miss being at the farm to see the babies being born. I don't know why, but my mom always referred to the new foals as "weezers" or "weezees." So I still call them that...even though it makes no sense:-) I have yet to check out Mare Stare...I am going to do that tonight!

  2. Mare Stare is a great learning opportunity! Whomever came up with it should be sent a box of chocolates every day as a thank you!

    I keep meaning to post about, but always forget, twin mustangs! They were found orphaned. How incredible is it that they A) survived at all, and B) survived after the death of their mother? On my Mesteno blog I've got a photo of Duchess, one of the twins.

  3. photogchic, I wonder if it's a take off on weanlings, like weaners. I've watched on and off tonight and seen three mares foal!

    tracey,I'll let heather know that you think so, I think she'd appreciate the sentiment.

    How old were those twins when they were found? That is amazing.

  4. That is a wonderful teaching tool, it won't tell you everything you need to know but it can help get you prepared and know what to look for when things aren't going just right. I know mares get a bad rap in general, but I happen to like them. They are amazing animals,I love to watch a mare who is a good mother as she teaches her foal how to behave.I am going to check out marestare tonight.

  5. i looked at mare stare just now. What do they mean by "angel filly" on the calendar?

  6. Thanks for this post Mikael. I will definately start watching Mare Stare a litte closer. This is my first foal, and while I am used to the behavior of cows, there will surely be differences.

  7. Cool collage of birthing photos. My friend, Jess has got one on the ground now 2 weeks and more on the way.

  8. I just sent my daughter the info on Mare Stare - thanks so much! She's a young "vet wannabe" so she'll love it.

  9. grey horse, there are threads in the Question section that have plenty of great information as well, including many great foaling links.

    emily k, the angels referred to there are foals that didn't survive. Usually those posts will have info on the situation as well. Hard to read but informative.

    kathy c, yes I have heard that there are differences between cows and horses. My understanding is that horses are more vulnerable when foaling that cows. Time is of the essence.

    callie, wow Jess was having foals in that cold weather you had. Must have been cold watching there. How come no baby pics on the blog?

  10. Saturday evening my mare Candy had her first foal. I have a Barn Cam set up in her stall, and watch through dinner time and into the night until after breakfast. With a first timer, you never know what they're going to do. In fact Candy started waxing up two weeks before the baby actually decided to 'hit the eject button' and enter this world. I thought for sure that she was going to foal once I saw the 'wax' on her teats. For several nights, I was glued to my TV watching her behaviour. Nothing exceptional happened. She just happily ate and pooped. After a week or so, she stopped progressing and kind of started over. Then at about day 330, she looked again like she was getting down to business...sort of. For about four days she was eating and relaxed. Then Saturday at about 6, she started pacing and walking her stall. By 8:30 she was down and in labor. I went out, and found her way too close to the wall (it didn't look THAT close on the barn cam), so I got her up and made her move. Once she laid back down, I was in position to help. I knew we had a situation, as the two front legs were out, one behind the other, but not as FAR out as needed. AND the head was right on top of the knees. Usually one front leg comes first. When it gets about 6" out, the second front leg appears, and when the second front leg is about half way up the cannon bone, you'd better see a nose. It was obvious to me later that Candy's foal had locked an elbow. She had pushed the foal into the wall, I guess, and one of the legs had folded at the elbow and the elbow was hooked behind the pelvic arch, keeping the foal from moving out any farther. Luckily I was able to help her get un-stuck, and once that elbow was un-locked, the foal came out like gang busters. Now all is fine. Mom and baby (a chestnut filly) are doing great. This is about my 30th foal, and this is the first time I've had this situation. There's always something to watch out for.

    The best part of this is that I had an opportunity to see how the mare acts when not on the brink of foaling, and then when she is. That information will help me when she foals again.

    Best of luck to everyone out there with a foal on the way.

  11. I haven't heard of Mare Stare. Thanks for the info.! Will send my vet wannabe right there!

  12. I will have to check out Mare Stare, sounds very interesting! You always need to learn and there always new things and problems with horses. Kiddos to you for studying and keeping yourself informed. THanks for sharing!

  13. I am so nervous about my old mare foaling this year that I don't think I could watch any others. We have probably had a hundred foals that I can remember on my family ranch and the places that I have worked and only ever ran into a few problems. They were all fatal. One was a lethal white paint foal that was so huge we had to pull him. Unfortunately, he was so big he damaged his mom's hips and she couldn't get up. The vet thought if we could keep her eating and drinking for a few days, she might be strong enough to get up and be alright, although he said she was done as a broodmare. Two days later she did get up and promptly fell down a small incline and broke her front leg. That was rough. Of course the foal had to be euthanized because he was a lethal white.
    The first time I had ever experienced a bloody bag delivery was last year and we lost the foal. It was heatbreaking because he was a fully formed grullo stud colt. His nose was turned sideways and all it took to get him to come out was push him in a little and get his nose lined up with his legs. We just waited too long to do it.
    Mares are not like cows - once they start foaling - that foal has to get out. Cows, you can move them around, give them a little time. Mares - if they haven't foaled within 30-45 minutes from the time their water breaks or they start staining, you aren't going to get a live foal.
    Thank goodness most of the time everything goes just fine or I wouldn't be able to handle the stress and heartbreak.

  14. notablogger, congrats on your filly.

    anne, yes mare stare will be a good place for someone who wants to be a vet. I have learned so much about foaling complications. More than I could have ever learned on my own.

    kris, I'm grateful that mare stare found me after the birth of my twins otherwise I probably wouldn't have a clue they exist. It's been a great tool.

    browneyedcowgirls, I understand those foaling complications all too well. The second stage of labor on my twins lasted over two hours and I had trouble even getting a vet. I'm grateful I knew as much as I did because I was able to get the mare and the twins through and that was even before I knew about mare stare.

    But I know so much more now. What I learned on mare stare probably saved a mare of mine last year. I knew instantly there was trouble where before I would have give it some time. That time is so crucial, I'm sure it made all the difference.

  15. Oh wow what a great series of pictures to have!!!! I am going to so miss having no babies this year. If I ever get myself organised I am definitely going to have the big stall we have (16'x12') installed with a web cam. I have only seen two of my foals actually born, the one would have been a problem if I hadnt been there and was at about 10.30pm, this mare always foals late in the evening rather than early in the morning.

    So I am very grateful that my brood mares seem to cope with everything so well or I would be in trouble, would spend the whole summer sleeping in the barn LOL.

    Love the collage!!!!!

  16. Thanks for the information about Mare Stare. Even though I have attended several foalings and had one problem one that ended in success, I agree, it really helps to see as many as you can. Since my problem birth ended successfully, I can say that I am glad for it because it was such a good experience for me and now I am not as fearful about having to intervene. There is always something more to learn.