Larry Catt, D.V.M.
Larry G. Martin, D.V.M.

24 Hour Emergency
El Cajon (619) 590-1991
Ramona (760) 789-6845

The Three Stages of Parturition of the Mare Including Prenatal Mare Care and Immediate Postnatal Care of the Foal

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I. Care of the Pregnant Mare:

  1. Deworming every two months, rotating dewormers to prevent parasite resistance.
  2. Immunization Program
    1. Rhinopneumonitis vaccine at 5-7-9 months to prevent viral abortion.
    2. Tetanus, Influenza, Encephalitis vaccine at 10 months to boost immune status and maximize colostrum levels of protection.

II. Normal Parturition:

  1. Mammary gland begins filling 30-45 days prior to foaling.
  2. Maximum gland filling with “waxing” 24-48 hours before foaling.
  3. Relaxation and lengthening of the vulva 24-48 hours before foaling, no vaginal discharge will be seen normally before foaling as in other species.

III. Gestation Length:

  1. Variable, normal being 335-360 days.

IV. Stages of Labor:

  1. Stage 1
    1. Restlessness.
    2. Colic symptoms.
    3. Tail switching.
    4. Stretching to urinate, looking at their flank.
    5. Frequent small bowel movements.
    6. Stage 1 ends and Stage 2 begins when the “water” breaks (amniotic fluid).
  2. Stage 2
    1. Rapid phase of labor usually lasting an average of 20-30 minutes.
    2. Feet present first, usually on foot, then the head and second foot together.
    3. Forceful contractions will occur as the head and shoulders come through the birth canal.
    4. 20-30 minutes is average but can take up to 60 minutes, longer than 30 minutes after the water breaks should warrant a call to your veterinarian.
    5. Celebrations and flash photographs should be delayed until after the umbilical cord breaks.
    6. Allow the mare and foal to lie comfortably so that maximal placenta blood reaches the foal without premature rupture of the cord. Clamping of the cord is beneficial.

    Stages Time
    Water bag breaks Time 0
    2 front feet and head appears Time 10 minutes
    Feet, head, chest and hips Time 25-35 minutes
    Foal standing Time 1-2 hours
    Fetal membranes passed Time 2-3 hours
    Foal nursing Time 2-4 hours
  4. C. Stage 3
    1. Passing of the placenta.
    2. Normal passage of the placenta is less than 3 hours after foaling.
    3. Retention of the placenta longer than 3-4 hours would warrant veterinary attention.
  5. D. Stage 4
    1. After care checklist:
      1. Care of the Umbilical Cord
      2. Enema for the foal if necessary.
      3. Be sure the foal nurses, this can occur as soon as 1-3 hours, longer than 2-4 hours without nursing should warrant veterinary attention.
      4. Save the placenta for examination to be sure that it is present in its entirety.
      5. 18-36 hour test for Immunoglobulins. This test determines the amount of immunity that the foal has received from the mare’s colostrum.
    2. Problems:
      1. Improper presentation.
      2. Failure of the placenta to rupture and the foal unable to pass out of the membranes.
      3. Premature rupture of the umbilical cord.
      4. Failure to nurse.
      5. Failure of progression during Stage 2 of labor.
      6. Rectal and Vaginal tears to the mare.
      7. Uterine artery ruptures of the mare.
      8. Prolapsed uterus of the mare.