DISCLAIMER: I did not breed this mare, I really bought her foal from last year and she came as a package deal - she was essentially a rescue. There was a possibility when I got her that she was bred back but it wasn't certain - well now we know and there is no changing that. She will not be bred again. I'm not an idiot and I do know how to deal with pregnant mares and births, I've delivered many foals, just never my own before. So please, looking for helpful advice here!
I have some questions about my mare, Freyja. I got her last July with a colt at heels. At the time I got her I was told she had been pastured with the stallion since the birth of the foal, so was possibly bred back, though I had my doubts at the time due to the poor condition the mare was in.
Well, it became clear the mare was definitely bred. The vet has been out several times for various purposes and has always given her an exam each time he has been here, and last week he came and gave her an update of shots, etc. Health wise she is in good shape now, she had reached good body weight by fall and held her weight and gained through the winter. I have worked at a couple different stables over the years, and had lots of hands on experience with delivering foals, but this is the first time with my own horse and I am seeing some inconsistencies in relation to what I have experienced in the past so I am hoping you guys might have some thoughts for me.
As I mentioned, I got the mare in July. The breeder was obviously not the careful type, it took her a while to get back to me with the birthdate of last year's colt, and I'm uncertain it wasn't a guess. Assuming the breeder WAS correct, the colt was born April first. Now, guessing that Freyja was bred back to the stallion on her foal heat, around April 10th, that would put her due around March 18th, based on a 342 day pregnancy. However....
That would mean she is on day 294 now. She had gotten so huge in the last few months - she showed very early (probably partly due to being underweight) and she is also doubtlessly carrying quite a big baby. Her last years colt is huge, and this baby is out of the same stallion - an 18 hand Shire. The mare is half shire, half paint, but although built heavy she is not overly drafty, and stands at about 15.2 or 15.3. So figuring on a huge baby. As of yesterday her belly very noticeably dropped - she went from all sticking out to the sides to all hanging below - her sides are nearly flat, so the baby has clearly moved. In the last four days she has had a lot of udder development - she's not engorged yet, but better than half full. Yellow fluid, but no proper colostrum when expressed. The muscles around her tail have relaxed down and she has no tail resistance at all. Her back end is puffy and elongated. To my experience, these signs usually show up when a mare is about a week or two off from being due. But even two weeks would put her at only around day 309 or 310 of her pregnancy - premature by anyone's standards.
I assume this mare has just been bred year after year, back to back most of her life. She's a ten year old now. In my previous experience, I have seen mares develop some early signs - particularly early udders - when they have been frequently bred - almost like they have some kind of body memory and just prepare a bit earlier. I'm not overly concerned about that. But I haven't often seen clear signs that a baby has turned until very close to the due date, and that is what has me worried. Should I be preparing for a potential preemie? My barn is old, and cold - it's 7 degrees out today. I had gone ahead and moved the mare into her foaling stall a few days ago, however she is still being turned out in the pasture during the day. Anything beyond the standard stuff I ought to have on hand? I've not raised a preemie foal before - several preemie goat kids and lambs and dogs in the past, but not horses, so I wouldn't be sure where to start, if it comes to that. Do you tube feed preemie horses? Would I need to give a dose of penicillin straight off?
I'm also wondering this - I wouldn't be surprised if the breeder was off by a month on Finn's (the colt) foaling date. I thought when he arrived, that he seemed awful big for a not quite three month old, but I hadn't been around that many 3/4 Shire colts to have a good gauge. Right now, at (supposedly) 9, almost 10 months he is 14.3 and a good 690 lbs last taping. I think there is a possibility that the colt was born a month earlier, and then Freyja bred a month earlier than what the breeder said - which would put her due date on or around Valentine's day. This would put her current signs right on track with what I am used to seeing, and mean she is on day 325 of her pregnancy now - which all seems to fit. However I have no way of being sure. The breeder couldn't give me any good information on the mare - no idea of her typical pregnancy length, if she showed signs early or anything - I think frankly the woman just has way too many horses and far too few organizational skills. She said she knows the baby is born when she walks out in the pasture and sees it. :shock:
So, for those of you who have experience with this sort of thing - is it common to see mares exhibiting these sort of signs a good 6 weeks or more before they are due? I know no mare can be 100% predictable when it comes to foaling and many don't play by the "rules" :lol:. I know I might well be worrying for nothing. I just want to be prepared in any event.
Thanks so much!
Those do seem like pretty advanced signs for 6 weeks to go, so I would lean towards the previous foaling date being a month off. But then again, I had a mare who regularly foaled between 322 and 327 days and all of her foals were big and "well cooked".... so if your mare really is around 300 days she might have only 3-4 weeks to go rather than 6, depending on her gestational habits and this particular foal's preferences...
Dang mares anyway. I HATE not having a breeding date to go by, but sometimes even when you do, the mares sabotage you.
As far as preemies go-- anything born before 300 days is usually not considered viable. around The closer you get to 310 the more likely the foal could make it, but often with neonatal ICU type care as it might not be able to nurse un-assisted for a week or so. (mattress to put the foal on, heated area, IV and tube feeding, etc.) 320 you are getting close to the normal gestational length for some mares.
Unofortunately, there could also be the possibility of twins--- Mares carrying twins usually deliver early. Not overly likely, but something to be aware of.
The most reliable sign, in my experience, of the ones you described is the relaxation of the tail head. Lots of mares bag up early, I've seen some drip fluid from their udders (light dripping that you see specking their thighs and hooves) for weeks beforehand, same with waxing up and even with the baby dropping/appearing engaged in the pelvis. But six weeks out? Nah. 4 weeks out, yeah, sure, some mares exhibit some of these signs 3 - 4 weeks out.
Tail loose and no resistance, and depressions on either side of the tail head, combined with the other signs? I think you're a week or two away, considering this is an experienced broodmare.
I also agree with your logic that she was probably bred back on her foal heat; so whenever *you think* the colt at her side was born, subtract 10 days from the anniversary and that's your potential due date.
Cold time of year for a baby - yikes!
I'd try to borrow some foal or pony blankets to be on the safe side. We used to put human down vests on early babies on cold nights, works pretty well in a pinch. Heat lamps are great as well, but of course have to be *very* closely supervised.
Thanks everyone! I was really hoping to see someone step up and say "oh yeah, my mare develops this early all the time" *lol* but wishful thinking only takes you so far and probably it's better to be prepared.
Easttowest ~ Gosh Twins hadn't even occured to me. Goodness I hope not! I had mentioned an ultrasound to my vet when he was looking at her, he was actually here just last week, the day before her udder started enlarging. He said at this late in the pregnancy ultrasounds don't show a lot and that it wasn't really worth it - she sure seems big enough to be carrying twins but I was just betting on a ginormous baby, like last year's. The vet seemed to think the due date of March 18 was still accurate, but that was before the signs started this week. Bah, it is a big hassle, I breed my Collies, but have never really been interested in breeding my horses. After this colt, my poor girl is DONE! *l* I've never tube fed a foal, though I have seen it done, so I'll have the vet show me how when he is here. I've tube fed lots of puppies. I already have a couple heat lamps out there, not turned on at the moment though. I have 600 bales of hay stored in the loft over the stalls so I haven't been comfortable running a kerosene heater out there - I could put a couple ceramic heaters out though. I have an old mattress I could take out there if needed - however if the baby is preemie enough to need IVs other than just subQ fluids I'll probably have them take it and Freyja down to the vets and care for it there anyways.
Thunderhooves ~ no kidding, that's a thought to freak me out! hahaha.
Maura ~ that's my experience too. I've seen early udder development before, but not bellies dropping and the prominent tail head until very close. I do actually have a little foal blanket, the velco closure kind, I had bought it last year in prep. for Finn's arrival, but he never needed it and it was too small for him anyways. I have a winter rug for my pony, but it would probably be too big for a baby. If the foal blanket I have doesn't fit then I can get a hold of something else, but good idea there too with the vests. My fiance has a REALLY nice down vest from the gap he got for chirstmas I'm sure he'd be thrilled about contributing :twisted:. I think I'll go out to the barn today with a couple cans of spray foam and try to seal up any additional cracks in the siding and such. It IS far too cold - was really counting on those extra few weeks to at least be not in the dead of winter!
Thanks so much everyone for the ideas! I'm going to go call the vet again about an ultrasound. I'll keep you posted!
Ask your vet if he has any colostrum stored or frozen, and barring that, a hyper-vaccinated plasma donor available in case the baby doesn't get colostrum and it's IGG is low.
Of course, this is all paranoia - it may just be a whooping big *term* foal.
I admit that I have not read all the posts but have a lot of experience with pregnant mares and foaling as I work for a board certified theriogenologist (repro specialist). Mares develop premature signs all the time and fake us out by going another month or two. You can have the vet out to ultrasound her and get a date (accurate within a few days) by measuring the eye. I also would have checked a field bred mare for twins, is there another vet available, more experienced in repro techniques? (I am concerned that he didn't know about measuring the eye or didn't want to check for twins...) Also, the kits you can buy for testing the milk from her udder (predict-a-foal) are pretty accurate- at least enough to tell you if she is bagging up weeks early or if a foal is coming in a few days.
It sounds like you're experienced with what to do once the time has come, the only advice that I'd offer up is that most mares do best when left alone. However, since you're unsure on the due date and status of pregnancy- ie twins versus singleton, I'd want to be on hand in case of dystocia. DO NOT PULL, no matter how tempting. If she is working at it for more than 20-30 minutes once the labor is rolling, get a vet out. Please keep us posted on your girl, sounds like she had a hard luck deal and is in much better hands now. Good luck to all of you.
Tealamutt ~ Thanks for the advice. I do not think this vet is probably well versed in reproduction - he's just sort of your average country vet type. He can float teeth, do Xrays, stitch wounds and give vaccs but probably not a lot beyond that. I mean, he's fine for what he does but I wonder too about the ultrasound, he really didn't think it was necessary and said "the foal is so big you see nothing but a jumble of legs on ultrasound at this point". So probably not. All the same, I have left a message at his office about scheduling an ultrasound this morning, however I haven't got a call back. He is unfortunately the ONLY vet servicing my area - my other option is packing my mare up and trailering her down to Purdue - a four hour trailer ride is probably not in her best interests right now. Are twins really that common in pasture bed horses? I've had zero experience with horse twins - never seen it happen, although I know it occasionally does, I thought it was exceptionally rare. That's a scary thought to me.
I've done the milk predictor kits before, actually, that tests for high calcium levels right? I think I'll get a hold of some - although right now she just has yellow liquid when expressed, it's not turned milky at all yet. Thankfully she isn't touchy about her udder being handled at all. She's more full today but still nowhere near a fully engorged udder, the back half hasn't filled all the way, it's still soft and spongy, although the front half of the udder is full, and she still has a relatively deep crease down the middle. Her back end is still very long and loose, but it's not gaping. There's no signs of discharge of any kind, the tissue is nice and pink, not red at all. Her tailbone is very prominent, and her tail itself is completely loose, that "muscles cut" sort of lack of resistance.
But she's pretty much acting herself around me. She's not more clingy or more stand offish to me than normal, she's eating and drinking with as much appetite as normal, no more or less. She does seem a bit more lethargic and inclined to stand around, she's not following with the others when they head into the other pastures, she just stays near the barn and wants back in. But that can also attribute to being heavily pregnant and just not wanting to move. She doesn't fight to stay in the stall when I turn her out in the morning, she's happy enough to go out, just doesn't seem interested in wandering very far.
So she might well still be ages off. I don't know much of her history, but like I said, it wouldn't surprise me if she's just had babies year after year since she was a three year old. I'm hoping this is just her being very prepared! If she delievered Finn with no problem, I'm not figuring on any complications here, all the same I do have space next to her foaling stall to camp out when I need to. Don't think I'm there yet, but that might be the plan of action here in the next few weeks.
Thanks so much for the advice!
We had a premie last year. First one ever and she did very well and nursed well herself. She was also out of a maiden mare. We wouldn't tube a foal. Just have baby bottles/nipples on hand. Strangely enough, our premie was the most outgoing and forward foal we've ever had.
We expect one only foal this year and didn't breed the mare ourselves, so can only go by what we were told. She is supposed to foal Feb. 11th, so we'll wait and see. But right now, the mare doesn't look very big at all. This will also be her first baby. I wouldn't worry too much. Just keep an eye on your girl.
Here's a little list we keep on our forum, of things to have on hand. Some will never be needed, but it's best to have them, just in case.
1. Scissors (disinfected).
2. Towels & Rags...washed in nonscented detergent.
3. Ivermectin for momma.
4. Tail wrap.
5. Baling twine.
6. Iodine for naval. Some prefer Chlorhexidine these days.
7. Garbage bag & bucket with lid to "hold" placenta until vet inspects.
8. Flashlight (with fresh batteries).
11. Halter & Lead for Dam.
12. Cell phone with vet emergency numbers.
13. Latex & sterile OB shoulder gloves.
14. Sterile lubricant.
15. Baby wipes.
16. Baby bottles with nipples.
18. Banamine (only if needed).
19. Clock (that lights up) and notepad to record times of everything.
20. Camera (digital & video).
21. Oxytocin (just in case).
23. Bulb Suction for nose.
24. VitaFlex Foal Response.
25. Soapsuds enema (only if needed).
26. Truck & Trailer hooked up (just in case).
27. When you are recording down everything that goes on, go ahead and have it prewritten. That way all you have to do is put the time next to it. Less work during the craziness of foaling.
28. A bag of shavings and a bale of straw/hay. When the water breaks, spread a little down to absorb the moisture. Then lay down straw right on top of it as well if you're not able to pick it up before the foal is born. That way the foal is laying on straw, but won't slip since the moisture was absorbed.
29. Sterile Fishing Line (In case the navel is bleeding, you can tie it off.) Most prefer naval clamps these days or white shoe lace that has been soaked in chlorhexidine, dried and placed in a zip lock bag.
30. Feed for the mare afterward.
31. For maiden mares make sure you have a partition setup in case you need to separate mare and foal.
32. A foal halter is a good thing to have on hand because the sooner you start putting it on and taking it off, the easier time you'll have of it. You'd be surprised at just how independent and strong those little buggers can get from the time you leave them for a few hours sleep till you get back to the barn to check on them again.
That's about 31 more things than I have ever had when a mare foaled.
To the OP: It sounds like you are maybe worrying a little too much. A watched pot never boils. I have never been good at guessing how far away a mare is from foaling. There are so many variables. Some mares don't drop very much in the sides because they are young and in good condition while older mares that have had a few foals have a belly that just about drags on the ground. Some mares get a bag twomonths before the foal is born and some bag up the night before. I have one mare that doesn't milk real well and she never has much of a bag but a mare in the same pasture has enough milk for three foals. About the only thing that I have found that is an indication of birth within a week or ten days is the loosening of the vulva. When it gets real sloppy and loose looking then foaling isn't far away.
I wouldn't cover the placenta and afterbirth either. The mare eats it and it helps her release her milk a little better.
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