Inner Pinch Snap

Inner Pinch Snap

Our First Foaling Experience

 

Common Symptoms of impending birth:

 

For a mare, all of the below signs are admittedly variable and only serve as a guide. Anyone who has dealt with horses will tell you that usually things don’t go as planned. Perhaps the mares haven’t read all the information available!

 

Two to Three Weeks Prior to Delivery:

 

     

  • Most mares display some enlargement of the udder and swelling towards the flank and belly.
  • Decreased activity.
  • Relaxation of the abdominal muscles.
  • Dropping of the abdomen and widening toward the lower flanks.
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One to Two Weeks Prior to Delivery:

 

     

  • The area on each side of the tail softens and hollows.
  • The muscles and area lateral to the tail-head noticeably soften and relax in preparation for delivery.
  •  

 

Day of to One Week Prior to Delivery:

 

     

  • The mares milk sacks fill out at four to eight days prior to foaling
  • A clear, watery, or sticky secretion is present in the udder and at times is seen as a clear drop on the end of the teat maybe four to five days prior to foaling.
  • A cloudy color two days prior to delivery gives the appearance of wax on the nipple. This is commonly referred to as “waxing”.
  • Most foal births are between the hours of 9:00 PM and 6:00 AM and our foal as you’ll learn later on was delivered at approximately 10:51 PM on a full moon evening.
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Delivering Our Foal:


 

 

What we have been told to expect and what really happened with Holli, was not the same. During her initial stage, our mare did often become uneasy, and restless. She paced the pasture and corral, would lie down, get up, nibble at her grain, surprisingly became standoffish, and she began to steer clear of us.

 

We were told that mild colic signs were common to watch for and it may or may not be accompanied by tail swishing. Holli’s tail moving exposing her vulva, sweating and/or frequent small amounts of urination. We had planned on cleaning the perineal area and wrapping her tail but as you’ll see further along, Holli did not do exactly what we had been instructed to look for.

 

Previously during Holli’s routine physical examination and vaccination, we observed that she would start to isolate herself from the other horses when she was in the pasture. Her isolation, we were told, could be another one of the many signs of a mare’s impending delivery. When she was checked, Holli’s vulva had slightly lengthened, her abdomen was beginning to drop slightly, and she began to show a noticeable decrease in her normal activities. She had not yet developed a relaxation of her tail head; we were looking for this area to feel like the consistency of jello.

 

After some discussion with other horse owners, we decided to begin watching her progress. With each morning and evening feeding, either Sharon or I would check Holli’s udder; there was only a mild enlargement, no waxing of the nipples, and when squeezed no evidence of streaming of milk. In retrospect, maybe a more experienced horse-owner may have seen that some of her outward signs were not strong enough for a novice (as us) to see but they were there and evident.

 

June 22nd was a warm, bright-sunny, clear blue-sky day and it was around mid-afternoon when I decided to leave the confines of my lazy chair and see to my girl. I arose from my comfort, grabbed my hat and gloves then ventured outside to the back deck. I stood for a little while and wondered what could I do and what would happen if Holli actually needed my help? Could I step up to the plate and make a difference and save her foal? I had always been told, as with my dogs and cats, to just let nature take control and if it is meant to be, it will be.

 

I went down the back steps, one by one, and started to walk across the backyard. As I came closer to the pasture, I paused and watched her actions, wondering to myself, when will you have your baby. I guess Sharon’s emotions and mine of watching a live birth of our first foal was on our minds or at least in our everyday thoughts. As I neared the gate, I paused momentarily to watch her walk then slowly prance around, nothing seemed out of the ordinary; she appeared to be just a horse playing in the pasture.

 

As I stepped through the gate, Holli stopped, turned her head towards me and stood there alone, watching my every step. Suddenly and being far from the other horses in the pasture, Holli’s head lowered to the ground, her front left hoof slammed down disturbing the grass and sand beneath. As I casually approached, I spoke softly called out her name “Holli, come here baby” after which she would normally turn and walk or sometimes even run directly to me. This time, however, she just deliberately turned her head away and began to step out walking along the fence line of the pasture. Holli maintained her distance from me of approximately twenty or so yards. This was a most unusual reaction from her and very much unlike what Holli would normally do when she and I were together. Holli was a very loving horse and always wanted a lot of physical attention. I decided at this point that I would do something different and what we’ve done with Jessi, in order to trick her into letting us get closer to her. I slowly raised and extended out my hand as though I had a horse treat that they had become accustomed to having when we did this hand gesture. She did not approach me but I continued to walk towards her and after fifteen minutes was able to reach her and I placed my hand on her halter. I gently began to rub her mane, stroked her back, then carefully moved my hand to the underside of her belly. She stood still and did not resist but turned head in my direction keeping a watchful eye on what I was doing. I worked my hand back to her udder; bent enough to look at her underside and saw there was no waxing over, filling of her milk sack or dripping of milk. From this exam, I slowly moved my hand up from her belly and across to her tail head. At this time, I gently lifted her tail and noted nothing different from the dozens of times we had done this exercise. I kept my hand rubbing her tail head for awhile and talked with her then left her still standing by the fence. What I did happen to notice is, that even with my walking away, she still had her head turned watching my every move and probably waiting to see what I was going to do next. I left the pasture through the same gate I entered, stopped and turned to see what Holli was doing. She still was standing in the same location I had left her, and sure enough, she was still watching me. I turned away from her and walked back to the house for another cup of coffee. I entered the house; got my copy then returned to comfort of my chair where I would jot down notes I had stored in my head on my visual and physical observations.

 

The early evening of June 22nd was a quiet warm night without the abundance of visible stars or the glow of the moon in the night’s sky. At this particular time, a slight overcast of clouds filled the skies, which would periodically allow the opening of a window to let the full moon rays to illuminate the pasture providing us a beautiful silhouette of our horses as they peacefully grazed. Sharon and I were both sitting on the back deck having yet another coffee and watching our horses at play, that is except for Holli, who was still standing off alone, keeping to herself. We both looked at one another and began our discussion on the pregnancy and when would she deliver? Would tonight be the night, was on both our minds. I told Sharon of the experience I had with Holli earlier that afternoon. Sharon said that maybe this is the beginning. We both looked at each other, shrugged our shoulders, nodded to each other then turned back to watch our horses. I’m sure that deep down inside, we were both hoping, anxious, and looking forward to the birth of our first foal, the first for our mini-horse ranch.

 

It was now nearing 10:30 PM and we both had sat long enough, watching, and waiting for any signs that the time was near. I was the first to stand, Sharon said that she’d thought it best if we move Holli into the foaling pen for the night, she’d feel more comfortable and at ease. I know now we had both anticipated facing another restless and sleepless night. Sharon went back into the house to make sure that all of the essentials were gathered for our foal birthing kit, turned on our local evening news and weather to find out what our area outlook was going to be for the remaindered of the night. I had already left the back deck and was headed for the hay barn for a bale of coastal hay. I planned on using this to lay down in the stall as bedding and use to fill the hay feeders.

 

There are kits available on the market that is equipped with the necessary times for foaling. What we did was talk with our vet to get the basic items that we would need for our foaling experience. All the items for your foaling kit listed below can be put into a clean, secure plastic container and left in your foaling barn or house. The bucket we used had a snap lid and handle making a nice foaling kit and easy to carry.

 

 

Items


 



Purpose


 

Flashlight & Batteries

Foals usually enter the world at night, so a flashlight will provide the necessary light.

 

Plastic Bag

 

To put placenta in and take to vet.

 

String

 

To tie off umbilical cord if it doesn’t break.

 

Scissors

 

To cut string, sac around foal, or tie off cord.

 

Iodine 7%

Pour iodine on the tip of the foal’s umbilical cord. This will help prevent infection.

 

Mild soap & warm water

 

To wash mare’s vulva and udders prior to foaling, if time permits.

 

Dry towels.

 

To pull out the foal, clean the foal, or mare.

 

Shoulder length gloves

 

To keep hands clean

 

Ace Wrap

 

To wrap mare’s tail prior to foaling.

 

Notepad & pencils

 

To record time, how foaling goes.

 

Halter & lead ropes

 

To move, tie or restrain mare, if necessary.

 

Clean bucket

 

To rinse hands, foal, mare.

 

Watch

 

To keep track of time.

 

Paper towels

 

To clean your mare, foal, and yourself.

 

Cordless or Cell Phone

 

To call your vet in case of a problem.

 

 

 

It had only been a few minutes since Sharon and I sat on the back deck and planned moving Holli to the corral. It was nearing 10:40 PM and I had just placed several flakes of hay in the feeders and was now filling the watering trough. I had not yet placed remainder of the hay in the stall, this was to be my next chore, or as I thought it was too be. As I pulled the water hose from the trough, I just happened to turn and glance over to the pasture and caught a moonlit outline of Holli, standing just feet from the gate. She was pacing in a small tight circle, turning 360 degrees over and over, then she would stop, paw at the sand, then when cleared enough, and she dropped heavily to the ground, falling onto her right side.

 

I immediately dropped the watering hose and ran over to the gate. I guess my emotionally state and anticipation must have kicked into high gear as I was breathing a lot harder and could feel my blood pumping throughout my body. I’m sure that a lot of my inner feelings were that this was the time. I stood there at the gate almost paralyzed with my left hand tightly grasping at the latch, eagerly ready to enter, but instead paused, almost frozen, waiting to see whether this was the beginning of a new adventure. There, only ten feet away, Holli stayed lying on the ground for another two or three minutes before she stood and gained her composure.

 

I now had reservation on whether to enter or not, was this a false alarm, was I over-reacting, what should I do next. Well, Holli made the decision for me. She stood there, turned her head in my direction and just looked at me. I felt inside that she knew something was happening, but not sure what and was looking at me as if to say, I’m hurting, something is happening, help me. Several moments passed and she began to walk in another tight circle, pawed the same sand, and again dropped heavily to the ground. This time, I was standing so close I did notice her walk was more wavering, she seemed less sure of her footing, and the dropping to the ground was more powerful than before. I didn’t know what I could do; my mind drew a blank on what should I do next, what was I told to do, could I do everything right.

 

Again, it seemed like an eternity but one minute, when I snapped out of it and realized that this was the time we had been waiting so patiently for, our foal was on its way into our world. I remembered the vet and in my readings of many articles that this was a common action of a mare just before she would give birth. I released the latch from my grasp, turned to the house and immediately ran to let Sharon know the time was near, really near. I burst into the rear door, looked at the kitchen clock; 10:44 PM remember that. Sharon was sitting on the couch waiting for the 11:00 PM news and weather. I ran past asking where the delivery bucket was, “In the closet”, she replied. I said back in an excited tone, “Holli’s down and its time”. She jumped up, I grabbed the birthing bucket and we both bolted out the back door. I’m not sure whether or not either one of us touched any of the steps from the back deck, but I know she was right on my heels as we streaked across the back yard, heading for the pasture.

 

As we approached the gate, Holli was still down in the same place and position I had left her just minutes before. As we opened the gate and entered the field Holli began to rise. We both stopped dead in our tracks just feet from her and waited to see what she would do next. As for us, let’s just say that foaling time proved to be exciting, yet at the same time, very stressful. We both were extremely anxious for our new foal to come into our world. Well, as before, Holli circled, pawed and dropped like deadweight to the ground. I walked slowly behind Holli and continued to talk softly, as not to disturb or alarm her, then slowly reached down, lightly took hold of her tail and lifted it over her rump. After the release of a little fluid, her contractions became more powerful, and I noticed the vulva was opening and closing with each contraction.

 

She was fully dilated and Sharon and I both watched as the contractions occurred in rhythmic waves. They came and they went. Sharon looked at me and said, “Too late to move her now”, meaning she would not be brought into the foaling pen I was readying for her delivery. Remember this was our first foal and both Sharon and I were not sure of what Holli would do if we tried to get her up and move her. Would it cause complications? Would something be wrong with the foal? What if she couldn’t deliver the foal? When do I remove the sac or will Holli do that? Do we have everything I need in the bucket? Everything and many questions were being brought to light in both our minds and I know that we did a lot of shouting and probably ran around like children on a Christmas morning in anticipation of a specific wanted gift.

 

I told Sharon to stay there and watch her and I ran back to the house to get my cell phone and a flashlight in case we needed to call the vet or someone else for assistance and to use the light in case we needed to do so. Remarkably, in just my short absence, the contractions continued and it soon became apparent that this continued pressure was forcing the foal’s placenta through the cervix where it finally broke. Sharon told me as I returned that approximately 2 to 4 gallons of fluid spilled out of the Holli. This meant that the “breaking water” stage was over. I came back to Holli’s side and Sharon was still so filled with excitement of what had just happened and she witnessed. I guess looking back I was kind of jealous that Sharon had seen the beginning of a new addition to the ranch and I missed out for a cell phone. I recalled reading that after the water breaks, a semi-clear, white sac containing the foal will appear, ideally with the foal’s feet and nose first.

 

Holli was lying on her right side with her left leg drawn up towards her front legs. At this time, I moved over and knelt behind Holli, I reached down and again moved her tail away from her vulva and towards her rump. As active labor contractions continued, we observed the sac and feet of the foal become visible from the vulva. Then the sac and foal would retract back into the Holli and this continued for several minutes. With several stronger contractions the sac pushed further out exposing more of the foal’s legs with the foal’s nose tucked between the legs at the knee level. Then all of the sudden, it seemed as though something was wrong, the foal was not being delivered, had delivery been stalled, the foal was not coming out anymore. I made the decision to reach inside the vulva to check for any obstruction or turning of the rear legs. What I found was that the foal was hung up at its hip area. I slowly and gently stretched my fingertips to around the back of the foal’s hips and during one of Holli’s contractions applied slight pressure. The abdominal muscles and contractions worked together to deliver the foal within a couple of minutes. The whole delivery process began at around 10:44 PM and was completed by 11:08 PM.

 

I admit I was nervous that this had taken so long, but the foal was still inside the sac. I gently picked up the sac with foal, cradled it in my arms, and then placed it on my lap. I noticed the sac had not broken but could see the foal’s mouth inside opening and closing. I drew a complete blank of what to do next so I asked Sharon, “Should I break the sac?” Then I remembered what our vet had told us. When the foal is born make sure that the foal’s nostrils are clear so it can breathe. If needed, you can dry the foal with a towel, but Holli will most likely clean her foals. Treat foal’s umbilical stump with iodine for the first several days to prevent infection. Recalling these facts and before waiting for her answer, I placed my hands close to where I could see the foal’s mouth, I pinched the birth sac with my fingers and pulled my hands apart exposing the foal’s mouth and nostrils. Once the sac was drawn away from the foal’s mouth and nose I leaned forward and was ready for mouth to mouth, if needed. Then it happened the foal took its first breath. We just both stared and listened to our new foal taking in its first, second, third breath; it was going to be all right. I have to say that this was one of the most unbelievable experiences both of us has ever experienced and I’m sure we will both remember and cherish this moment. I was still holding the sac and slowly and gentle slid it down off the foal’s neck and over it’s front feet.

 

Holli remained lying down after delivery for about five to ten minutes. This allowed her to rest after such a big exertion but more important, allows transfer of placental blood to the foal before breaking the umbilical cord. To break the umbilical cord, Holli will stand which stretches the cord until it breaks free from the foal. At that time, we need to apply iodine to both the umbilical cord and the bottom of each it’s hoofs.

 

I did a visual exam of the vulva region of Holli post-foaling and checked to ensure that there where no lacerations or injuries caused by the delivery.

 

We watched the pushing out of the placenta and membranes that was accompanied by occasional cramping and these contractions lasted only minutes. We had been told that some mares may continue this for a few hours even after the membranes are on the ground, fortunately Holli and us did not have to experience this. The pushing out of the placenta and mucus membranes was the last stage of delivery. I gathered my twine and carefully began tying the membranes to the tail so the mare would not step on them when she began to stand. We were told that if the placental membranes are not expelled within two to three hours after foaling, veterinary assistance is needed for removal and/or medication. This is critically important and could affect the mare’s future breeding and fertility.

 

NOTE

: If veterinary assistance is needed, the mare can be walked which will delay the foaling process.

 

I conducted another vaginal exam after the placenta and membranes were completely out and hanging by the twine I had attached to Holli’s tail moments earlier. At close inspection, I was confident that it had not torn and no pieces were left inside. I untied the twine and picked up the membrane and placed everything into a five-gallon bucket. This I would take to the veterinarian for inspection the following day. The vet will ensure that everything is intact and that nothing was left inside the mare.

 

On later reflection, I now realize that there are many similarities to horse or human birth. I had been trained for humans birthing through the fire department, American Red Cross and military but used the same skills, even though Holli is still a horse.

 

In retrospect, I have theorized that perhaps a lot of nervousness that Jessi was displaying in the pasture over the last couple of days and Holli’s restlessness in the foaling pen was because Holli had always been kept in the pasture. This would account for her foaling in the large field as opposed to being moved to the foaling pen. As for Jessi our other mare, she may have sensed the upcoming event and wanted to be close by.

 

This whole book has been dedicated to our horses and donkeys and our first foaling experience. We had preconceived ideas about how everything would happen and from what others had told us. Nothing went according to our plans or was ideal for the situation. Although the outcome of this event of our horse ranch’s growth and our personal experiences was not what we had expected – the foal was healthy and a very sweet colt, later named Chief Squanto.

About the Author

I consider myself a growing freelance writer who specializes in environmental, health and safety compliance issues, emergency preparedness, business continuity and other relevant topics of the day. I tailor written programs or articles to meet company needs, design for a variety of facilities including construction, manufacturing, health care, telecommunication, plastics, computer, and security industries. I have been writing for publications and corporations for almost 20 years specializing in compliance related issues

I started writing on a freelance basis as a way to stay home with my animals. We have a mini-horse farm in Benson, NC and the animals need everyday care and maintenance.

My true special interests include writing articles, poetry and short stories that can help the general public or a business. This could include environmental, health, and safety related topics, as that is where my true writing style began. I have since written numerous published articles on emergency preparedness, avian influenza pandemic (Bird Flu), hurricane preparedness, business continuity and many work instruction, policies and programs.