Birth

 

Mare is ready for birth

Time is up, The Mare is ready for birth.

 
Lusitano-BirthTime is up, The Mare is ready for birth:   Your mare’s teats have been dripping milk for a few minutes.   Then she slowly and carefully lies down and moves her tail to the side.   It is time to call the veterinarian to alert him about the impending birth.   He may not be necessary.   But if he is, time is of the essence.   Normal labor takes between thirty and forty-five minutes.   If it takes longer than that, call the veterinarian because something is wrong.   The first miniature hoof pops out followed by the second.   They are the foal’s front legs.   The head comes next and the placenta rips, letting the fetal fluids out.
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Lusitano-BirthAfter some more time the foal is completely out and lying beside the mare.   The only connection left between them is the umbilical cord.   Do not touch it or cut it.   Many theories say that the foal continues to receive blood and fluids from his mother.   Cutting it too soon may produce circulatory problems which can cause convulsions and “dumb”, weak foals.   It will break by itself or be cut by the foal or mare so just let it be.   Once it breaks dip it in a mild iodine solution which will help it dry out and fall.   It is possible that bacteria enter the foal’s body through the stump and this will cause a severe systemic infection that may kill the foal in no time.
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Lusitano-BirthNow that the foal is out and apparently safe, it is time to give the family some time alone so they can bond and the mare can clean him up a bit.   Horses are social animals.   They even have an established hierarchy within the herd.   So step away and let them catch their breath and get to know each other.   After a few minutes approach the couple slowly and quietly and watch the foal.   The mare should have already cleaned his nose and he should be breathing normally.   If he is breathing on his own let it be, if not take a clean towel and clean his face and nostrils in case there is some obstruction.   If this doesn’t work, blow softly into its nostrils to jumpstart the breathing reflex.   Yet again, if there is no response rub him vigorously and push gently on his ribs.   Pick the foal up and let it drop to the ground from about one foot up.   If all this doesn’t work, you are in trouble.   Get your veterinarian asap.
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Lusitano-BirthThe placenta should be completely out within the three hours following delivery.   It is important for you to bag it for the veterinarian to see and make sure that all of it is out.   Placenta residues can cause severe uterine infections, laminitis, and even death.   Weigh the placenta once it is out.   A normal size placenta will weigh approximately ten percent of the foal’s weight.   This and the veterinarians inspection will confirm that it was all expelled.   If the placenta is too heavy it may be a sign of infection or congestion.   The veterinarian should be called into action.   This is critical to the mare’s health and future pregnancies.   So don’t forget to do it.
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Lusitano-BirthThe foal should stand up in the next hour.   Do not worry if it falls down a couple of times before getting his feet under himself.   He is finding his balance.   Remember he has floating inside his mom for almost one year.   Do not interfere with the standing process either.   If you pick him up and make him stand his legs may not be ready and you may hurt tendons and ligaments in his legs.   After it stands he will approach his mother wanting to feed. He does not know how to do it or even where he will get his food.   So his mom will nudge him and point the way.   Do not get involved.   This is part of the bonding process.   Only keep in mind that he must nurse within the first two hours after birth.
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What Happens Next?

Lusitano-052The foal is up and standing.   A little wobbly, but standing and looking for food.   He will search while his mother points the way until he hits the bull’s eye and starts sucking on the life-giving colostrum.   He will start his search close to the fore and hind quarters while the mare nudges him towards her udder.   If it is not feeding or cannot find the udder within the next two hours it is time to intervene.   Start by wetting your finger and the outside of the udder with milk.   Put your finger into the foal’s mouth and gently guide him towards the wet udder until he manages to suck from it.   Be patient it may take a couple of tries for him to understand.   If the mare rejects the foal or acts aggressively against him because it is her first time and the udders are very sensitive and hurts it may be necessary to restrain her.   If this behavior continues your veterinarian may sedate her a little until she gets used to milking the foal.
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Lusitano-022The foal should drink between one and two pints of colostrum during the first twenty-four hours.   This is probably the most important feed the foal will receive in his life.   Colostrum is filled with antibiotics that come from the mother and have “memories” with regards to bacteria, viruses, and other dangers.   Through the colostrum, the mother transfers her immune system into the foal.   It is protected from any exterior and interior bugs that can make it sick or kill it.   The most important antibody in colostrum is IgG, for it to be effective the colostrum should have a concentration of 800 mg/dl. Your veterinarian should take a blood sample within the first eighteen hours after birth to make sure the concentration is not less than 400 mg/dl. If it is, a supplement of antibiotics or a plasma transfusion must be given immediately to the foal to ensure his present and future protection.
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Lusitano-041The foal should drop its first manure within twenty-four hours of birth.   It is called meconium and it is pasty and pelleted.   Its color should range from dark brown and black.   A prophylactic enema will help the foal expel the meconium and clear its digestive system of any obstructions.   After this, manure should be soft and light brown colored.   A close watch must be kept over the foal’s umbilical stump to make sure it is dry and clean.   If there is any liquid like urine or blood coming out of it, the veterinarian should look at it and test the foal to find the reason for the dripping.
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