Now that you are aware of difficult births, it's a good time to prepare for them.
Difficult births occur, on average, around 13% of the time. Although, individual studs can experience difficulties up to 50% of the time. Last year was a particularly bad year in NZ for some reason. Difficult births or deaths are very traumatic, particularly if it's a highly sought after foal from your favourite mare. So what should you have in your foaling kit? We'll break it into important and nice to have.
A lot of what goes into your foaling kit will depend on your budget, but here are a few that we have:
- Iodine - for sterilising the umbilical stump
- syringe - this is a cheap way of harvesting colostrum
- knife/scissors - to break open the bag in the event it doesn't break on its own
- rectal thermometer
- blanket or rug for the foal
- someone to help/emergency phone numbers
- foaling alarm/monitor/a method of waking up at the right time
Nice to have
- pool strips - for testing milk (results and accuracy are highly variable)
- bottle and teats - for feeding the foal should it have trouble standing or the mare rejects it
- cocoa powder - induces milk production for a mare with no milk
- refractometer - for testing the mares colostrum quality
- stethoscope - if there is a problem with the mare or foal you may be advised to take their heart and breathing rate
- foal resuscitator - in case the foal isn't breathing when it is born
- umbilical clamps
- Oxytocin - helps the uterus clear the placenta (if stuck)
- enema - in case of impaction
- Straps/ropes - to help pull the foal out if it's stuck
- milking device (e.g. ezymilker) - for collecting colostrum
Most of the things on the Nice to have list can be scrounged from around the house in the event of an emergency.
For example, you don't need to wear gloves, most vets don't. You don't need a special towel for the foal. You can make an umbilical clamp out of bailing twine or other thing you have lying around. You can get buy a proper foal bottle and teat, or you can make one out of a lamb/calf/baby teat and plastic water bottle.
I know that list seems like a lot, and the odds are you won't need most of it.
Another very important aspect of foaling is being alert and capable of making good decisions. Sitting up all night for days, or weeks, will result in you wearing yourself out.
When the big moment finally arrives you could be so tired that you sleep right through it! Sleep exhaustion/deprivation doesn't help you or your mare, so get organised and find a method of waking yourself up when the mare is in labour. Whether that's a baby monitor or a foaling alarm, it's equally important that you look after yourself.
On the plus side, a Smart Foal alarm is both a monitor and alarm. You can check in on your mare whenever you like and use it to wake you up as well. It uses motion data, not video, so it won't consume all your data; and you can access the app from anywhere in the world. You can also put the monitor on the foal once it's born if you are worried about it.
Further Reading and equine/ultrasound images: https://loriequinesection.blogspot.com