Foal Delivery

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I love the birth of a foal more than anything else concerning horses. For the most part, it is an exciting and explosive event few horse owners get to see as they usually occur in the quiet early morning hours. 90 out of 100 births go without problems, and of the remaining ten births, about 9 have small and easily resolved problems. The remaining 1%, the 1 in 100, is what we all live in fear of happening to our mares.

This subject shows a normal birthing (of a donkey, but it’s the same as a horse, both small and large). It also shows you how to handle the most common cause of a difficult birth (elbow lock) and the one event you will not have time to wait for help (red sack delivery).

I’ll also look at some of the postpartum (right after the birth) things that are normal (nursing), and that are not normal (orphan). I will tell stories of helping a mare in shock after foaling and her life-ending injuries, mares successfully birthing and suddenly dying, and mares retaining their afterbirth (placenta).

Many more subtle things happen that are unique to every birth and take hundreds of birth observations for you to start to become comfortable. There are degrees of pain and pushing that only experience can teach. Some foals take hours to find the milk, while others take only a few attempts. Hopefully, you need to attend with an experienced mentor to become good at this.

I will never forget my first foaling and my first difficult birth. I also spent a year calving during my first year out of vet school. I saw things I couldn’t believe (amorphous globosus, hydrocephalus, Schistosomus reflexus and other fetal monsters). I have witnessed foals born without front limbs and a few born with an extra digit (secondary cannon, pastern and hoof).

Delivering foals is exhilarating but is not for the faint of heart, nor is it for those who lose their composure quickly or those who freeze when quick action needed. If you want to become good at helping the delivery of foals then observe as many as you possibly can. Experience with mentorship is the best teacher.

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