Mare in Distress While Foaling

​​QUESTION:  How to assist a mare in labor having problems? - Sandy


With very few exceptions, our mares foaled in the pasture, avoiding the stalls, although leanto's were always available.  A mare will frequently circle and pace during labor, making a standard 12 x 12 stall too small.  A mare experiencing complications that requires human assistance needs at least a 24 x 10 space.  If the foal is not positioned correctly, the mare will repeatedly circle, throw herself to the ground, rise, circle, throw herself to the ground to reposition the foal.  We had this happen twice.  Both times, only one leg/foot emerged, indicating the other leg was crossed over, preventing the birth.  The first time, the older mare succeeded in repositioning the foal and delivering before the vet arrived, although she was too exhausted to get up and clean the foal, watching while we did that.

The 2nd time, I had a vet on the phone giving me instructions while he was enroute:  with one arm, reach in and find the folded leg; gently pull it into position next to the forward leg so that both emerge together.  Then working with the contractions, gently pull the foal out and down in a curve motion (like a diver going into the water).  You will think the contractions are going to break your arm while you are repositioning the legs.  As soon as the head emerges get the membrane off of the nose and clean the nostrils.  You probably will not have to cut the cord as it will break when either the mare or foal begin to get up.  You can clean the foal with a soft cloth - or as we did with the first mare - the shirt off my husband's back.

 We have both of these births on video, and I still ask myself why I was the one rearranging the feet and my husband was the one taking the video; the obvious answer is that my arms are smaller - Carolyn B

​We had a mare with complications once - foal had one hoof tucked/bent back, and she was repeatedly rising, circling, then throwing herself down (no way she could even go down gently with the colt in that position).  She actually injured her leg in all that, likely cracking the bone, and it took all summer and fall to heal.  I know how much room she took up and then how much room we needed for assisting them.  That foaling in a stall would have been much worse, and anything less than 12 x 12 would have likely resulted in a tragic ending.  Making enough room saves a lot of heartache. - Meagan