Foaling Protocol – Henry & Associates
Foaling Protocols for Horse Farms
Suggested routines and management ideas for new foaling barn personnel. This program may be more useful for horse farms with large numbers of nonresident mares, or commercial breeding farms with numerous employees.
- Check mares frequently and quietly (15 minute intervals)
- Wrap the tail, wash the vulva and udder. Check for Caslicks. (Is the mare sutured?)
- As allantois ruptures call management team. Call earlier if the mare is straining or rolling.
- Provide assistance or traction as needed, but only if needed.
- Make sure drug box, clean stainless steel bucket, disinfectant, sleeves, oxygen tank, OB chains and handles are available.
- After foal is born, clear nasal passages, insure that foal is breathing. Use oxygen to assist foal’s respiration. Tank, mask and hose must be nearby.
- Do not manually separate umbilical cord. Allow it to remain intact as long as possible. Do not excite mare or foal. Draw foal’s blood into vacutainer with EDTA (purple top) for compatibility check with maternal colostrum.
- Take a clean 6 c.c. plastic syringe case filled with tincture of iodine, immerse the navel stump in syringe case, hold there momentarily.
- If mare is drawing air into the vagina, clamp vulva closed.
- It may be necessary to dry the foal and provide a heat source to reduce stress. Note the time of birth, sex, color and markings in the records. Photograph foal for owners’ files.
- Do not upset the mare or foal at this time, allow each to remain undisturbed if possible. Observe the mare and foal for difficulties (rolling, bleeding, shock or unusual behavior).
- As the mare stands, rewash underline and udder, and rinse.
- Tie end of placenta to tail so it’s not stepped on, note time and weight, condition and shape of placenta as it’s expelled.
- The foal should receive 5-6 c.c. penicillin (IM), the mare should receive 20 c.c. penicillin (IM). Tetanus antitoxin should be given to the foal, especially if the dam has not had a recent tetanus toxoid.
- Note time of first successful nursing by foal.
- Draw blood from foal at 24 hours for postnatal IgG test.
- Monitor mare and foal closely for the first 48 hours, and then follow foal with regular rectal temperatures frequently. It may be necessary to check temperature and vitals at four hour intervals. Watch for diarrhea, straining, yellowish mucous membranes, change in temperature, increased heart and respiration rate, swollen joints or navel, loss of suck reflex, lethargy, diminished capillary refill time, dehydration or abdominal distension.
Check List for Foaling Barn Personnel
Dam’s name ___________________________ Sire _____________________
Date of last vaccinations for mare:
influenza ________ rhinopneumonitis ________ tetanus ________
encephalomyelitis ________ distemper ________ rabies _________
wax formation: early ________ late ________ none ________
colostral loss? ____ date mare foaled ________ time of foaling ________
ease of foaling: no assistance ________ slight traction ________
moderate traction ________ severe dystocia ________
oxygen necessary? ____ time & manner of umbilical separation ___________
iodine navel _______ placental expulsion: time _________ weight ________
attitude of foal _______________________________ first stood ____________
blood/colostrum agglutination: none ___ slight ___ moderate ___
first nursed: _______ meconium passed: _______ urinated: _______
tetanus antitoxin adminstered to foal ___________ enema necessary? _____
antibiotic administered to: dam _____________ foal ____________
weight of foal __________ color of foal __________ sex __________
markings drawn on application? ______ photograph? ______
check foal’s vitals at 4, 12 and 24 hours postpartum:
4 hour vitals: heart ______ respiration ______ temp ______
12 hour vitals: heart ______ respiration ______ temp ______
24 hour vitals: heart ______ respiration ______ temp ______
IgG test results ______________________________________________
ARVAC needed for mare? ______ given? ______
(These forms have been used successfully by many farms I have managed, partly to provide structure and repeatability for employees with limited reproductive management background. However, vaccinations or protocols used and recorded should be based on the recommendations of your veterinary consultants. It is important to remember individual horses and farm management systems have varying histories of success and failure. The needs for structure may be better addressed with other preventative health programs specifically designed for the region, breed and owner’s capabilities.)
Personal observations and notes follow:
When I used the foaling predictor kits and I saw there was a 20-40% chance that the mare was expected to foal I still had to stay up and watch. I didn’t hold it out as much real practical value, as we usually had several mares in the same stage of readiness. If there was any chance the mare would foal, I pretty much needed to have someone there. Since, there’s about a 5% probability of dystocia (difficult births) it makes sense to be around, out of sight but nearby as much as possible. For that reason, I liked to hang a video camera in the stall and cable it into the office or tack room where I could read or do paperwork and keep an eye on things at the same time. There’s some good videotapes on foaling that would be worthwhile so you can see the natural progression of things and get a sense of timing and normal presentations. Most owners feel the urge to get in there and tug on the foal, and that’s often not the right thing to do.
How many of you with foaling mares keep a kit with various items in it for emergencies? Care to provide a sample inventory? Ideas for: “must haves”, “nice to have”, “don’t do without”? Go back to my home page and add to my basic kit through my access and reporting form area. Just to “start off”, I had in the foaling barn a box with: lead shank, twitch, tincture of iodine, empty 6 cc syringe cases to dip navel with iodine (much neater); obstetrical hook, OB chain, wire snare, OB handle; stainless bucket, betadine scrub, roll cotton, tail wraps (actually eleastic ace bandages but clean athletic tube socks work too), 1″ white adhesive tape, scalpel, scissors, hemostats, clamps, vacutainers (purple and red top) for typing and isoerythrolysis testing, instant camera for markings and owner “feel-good” photograph, small oxygen tank and ventilator, towels, injectable antibiotics and tetanus antitoxin, syringes and needles, “whirlpaks” to freeze colostrum, rectal thermometer, stethoscope; I also had a wide range of drugs and surgical instruments normally not available, but occasionally useful, etc. There was actually a lot more, but I thought it would be helpful to throw it out and let you build a kit for your barn with your local vet’s help.
There are 4 basic conditions in newborn foals you need to worry about, briefly:
1. anatomic problems, e.g. ruptured bladders, deformities (seen immediately to 48 hours post foaling)
2. isoimmune hemolytic anemia, e.g. foal’s blood antigens causing the dam to produce colostrum with antibodies to foal (usually seen 24 – 72 hours post foaling) can be tested, prevented, and occasionally treated if you’re talented with transfusions
3. infectious agents e.g. E. coli, K. pneumoniae, S. equi, Salmonella, Shigella, Pseudomonas, Corynebacterium, several viral problems, etc. (seen 48 hours onward unless foal born already infected)
4. neonatal maladjustment syndrome = barker, wanderer, dummy foals, are usually caused by fetal stress (seen 12-48 hours post foaling)
Generally, we took heart rate, temperature, respiration rates every 4 hours for 1st day, then every 6-8 hours for next 3 days, then daily for next week. It was inconvenient, but foals were handled, it forced us to examine foals carefully and check the following:
color of eye (jaundiced?), capillary refill (pink gums pressed and return to color), pinch test on skin of neck for dehydration, swelling of navel, diarrhea, etc. I’d say paying attention to foal for deviations from normal is most important part of management. I saw more problems in barns where there was a lot of traffic and stall movement among horses. Typically, contaminated foaling stalls are a potential problem as the mare is thrust into an environment that she’s not acclimated to and her colostral antibodies were formed based on her environment in another barn or a pasture. Foal is born and may be less protected as a result. That’s one reason we saw more problems in the third and fourth batch of foaling mares unless were super sanitary. So problems like this are hardly flukes and bear watching.