McKee-Pownall Equine Services | Health Care FAQ

Health Care FAQ

How can I prepare for my mare to foal this spring?

Equine Pregnancy

Having a foal is a very exciting time, but also a very nerve wracking one as well!  Being prepared is the best way to have the best chances for a healthy mare and foal at the end of the day.

Mares have a very long gestation of 11 months (335 – 342 days on average) as compared to 9 months in people.  Knowing your mares breeding date or when she was confirmed pregnant will help give you an idea of her due date.  However, unlike in people, we do not induce mares if they are past their due date unless we are faced with illness or other complications.  Typically mares will not begin labour until the foal is fully developed and ready to enter the world.  Every mare is unique and although these are general guidelines, not all of them read the book when it comes to pregnancy and foaling!

The Last Few Weeks of Pregnancy

Vaccines

Just because your mare is pregnant doesn’t mean you should forget about her vaccines.  We recommend mares be vaccinated for Equine Herpes Virus Type 1 (EHV-1 – rhinopneumonitis) at 5, 7 and 9 months of pregnancy.  This virus causes snotty nose and respiratory illness in normal horses, but can cause abortion in pregnant mares.

In the last 4 weeks before she is due to foal she should receive boosters of her normal vaccines.  This could include Rabies, Tetanus, West Nile Virus, and Flu/Rhino, but your veterinarian can give you the best advice as to what vaccines your mare should receive based on risk factors in your region.  These vaccines are critical as antibodies will collect in the mare’s colostrum (first milk).  The colostrum is the only protection your foal has against diseases until his own immune system develops.

Deworming

Your mare should be dewormed in the last few weeks before foaling to ensure the foal is born into a clean environment.  Your veterinarian can advise you on the best dewormer for your mare.

Foaling Kit

As your mare gets closer to her foaling date there are a number of things you can do to prepare.  Put together some items that might be useful during foaling.

-       A bucket of warm water

-       Cotton, gauze or a clean cloth

-       Clean towels

-       Clean tail wrap (standing wraps or polos work well)

-       Watch

-       Thermometer

-       Fleet enema

-       Blunt ended scissors

-       Flashlight

-       Antiseptic naval dip (such as iodine/betadine)

-       A large plastic or garbage bag to store the placenta for examination by your vet

-       You veterinarians contact information

Signs of Impending Parturition

-       The udder begins to fill with milk about 2 weeks prior to foaling

-       Muscles of the vulva and croup relax in the few days prior to foaling

-       Waxing of the teats occurs 1-4 daysprior to foaling

-       Some mares will leak milk for a few days prior to foaling.  Thin straw coloured fluid will change to milky white.  This fluid then thickens and becomes more yellow/orange indicating good quality colostrum.  If your mare is leaking this colostrum it can be collected and frozen.