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Preparing yourself for the birth of your foal

Tips for handling dystocias

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#1 Miniatures



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Posted 04 May 2013 - 06:37 AM

This topic is being shared to help you "picture" some of the abnormal ways our little ladies can present their foals.  If you've been watching some of the babies born here, you have seen these steps in action by several of the breeders -- and they work.  THIS IS NOT TO SCARE YOU....but to help you prepare -- just in case your assistance is needed.
This is a compilation of several articles and pictures that are available, as well as personal experience, and hopefully other breeders here will share their own experiences with things that have worked for them in these situations.
This next section is from Anna: It's known as the "DON'T WAIT" steps for foaling:
I know that us old (and hopefully experienced) Aunties here on LB keep on and on about the importance of actually being in attendance when a mare foals in case assistance is needed, and most of you do your very best to be with your girls at this very special time.  But some folks like to wait a while and to just watch leaving it to the mare to produce her baby naturally without human interference. In many cases this works just fine, but I have two words that, in my opinion, are more important than anything else at this moment of birth - DONT WAIT!!
Don't wait for your mare to produce her baby by herself - that delay can be too long to correct any difficulties that might be occurring.  Once a mare goes down and starts pushing, two or three good contractions (three or four in a maiden mare) should produce the familiar pale 'bubble' of the coming foal. Don’t wait! Get in there with your mare and watch for the first foot to appear as she contracts again making sure they are the front feet (!)  Don’t wait.  With clean hands and short trimmed nails (no nail polish when foaling mares!) gently feel up inside the vulva for the other foot which should be following close behind. Another contraction and once again feel further in for the 'knob' of the approaching nose, it should be lying approx level with the knees or just beyond them. 
If all is well with your foal's position then with the next contraction, you can gently take hold of the legs around the cannon bones, not the fetlocks, and keep a gentle 'pulling' pressure there with every following contraction. Try to keep the first leg still slightly in front of the second exactly as it was presented in the first place, the reason for this is because nature has made it important that one leg leads the other - when the foals elbows come through the birth canal they come at the same time as the withers, together forming a triangle which can put immense pressure on the nerves in the mare's back/spine region, one leg/elbow passing though this tight area of the canal slightly in front of the other reduces this pressure.  Make sure that, as you apply your gentle 'pull' on the foals legs, you are keeping the legs coming in the direction of the mare's hocks - downwards, not out towards you. 
Once the head clears' the rest of the foal's body should slide out reasonably easily.  By now your baby’s legs and head should be curved round towards the mare's tummy - so that if she sits up, she can reach her baby's nose and face to give him/her the first greeting. Quickly clear the bag from the foal's head if it has not already broken and peel it back over the hindquarters. Leave baby laying here while you give it a bit of a rub down with a dry towel as vital blood supply is still passing between mom and child via the cord. 
The cord should break naturally as the mare gets to her feet, just pinch the end of it when this happens to stop any bleeding and then dip or swab it with whatever you are using for the purpose.  Now is the moment to check for the sex of your new little one, then providing all seems well and the mare is up on her feet, leave the stall and give Momma a chance to see/clean and bond with her new baby - please note that I said HER new baby!  As much as you want to cuddle, fuss, fiddle with, coo over this new little life, it does belong to its Momma, NOT to you!!  Foals do not see well early on, and go entirely by smell and it is very important that the new baby registers its Momma's scent and not that of human beings.  With a straightforward foaling there is no need for any further help at this time, so step back, give yourself a pat on the back, have someone go get a cuppa and just watch the happy pair from a distance. 
Luckily most births are without too much difficulty, but DONT WAIT to see how things are going, get right in there with your mare and do those first checks for the early signs of a correctly approaching foal.  If one 'thing' seems to be missing DONT WAIT - you may well save the life of your foal and that of your mare by your quick reaction!
There is actually no need for a foal to feed for even 6 hours or so, in fact a healthy baby will often find the teat more quickly if left alone, rather than with human intervention.  But you do need to watch out for Momma to pass the afterbirth and baby to pass the first poop.  So take a deep breath and as I said, step back and just take pleasure in watching a new little one take its first steps after the miracle of birth!
Once a mare goes down and starts pushing, and has 3 to 4 minutes of serious contractions with nothing appearing, dont wait, call the vet, better that he comes to find that a foal has arrived than wait any longer if something is wrong!
Only one leg or no nose up past approx knee level, dont wait, call the vet!!  (with one leg only, do have a little search for the second one, sometimes it is just hooked over the top of the head and you can pop it back to where it should be!)  Try to feel/search without breaking the white bag.  And if you do have a wrong presentation, then it is a good idea to get the mare to her feet and walk her slowly round her stall if you can, this can help take the 'force' out of the contractions and help to keep things on hold until the vet can get there, which will make it easier for him to push the foal back in to give room for any adjustments.  :yes
Now on to the different presentations -- and how to prepare…..
If you are confronted with any one of these problems, the first thing to remember is do not panic. Call your vet.  If you are confident enough you may also try to resolve the situation yourself as many of us do, because of lack of access to a vet.  Some of these malpositions -- or dystocias, as they are called -- are common in the world of foal deliveries, and this is presented to help give some basic steps that can be taken to help get baby safely to the ground.  
Keep in mind that your vet is going to try to resolve the situation by manually repositioning the foal in order for it to be delivered successfully.  Many of us over the years have called the vet for assistance, and then taken the steps below.  It is better to have called the vet and have him arrive to find baby safely on the ground, than to wait too long to call him, and compromise baby's "window of opportunity" to survive. 
Things to do while waiting for the vet to arrive: The first and most important thing is to get the mare up if she is lying down and get her moving. This will stop contractions and assist the foal to slip back into the uterus making the repositioning task easier. If you have a person to assist you and your mare is quiet, one can lead the mare while the other walks behind the mare with a gloved hand/arm inserted in the birth canal and put pressure on the foal to aid its retreat. If you feel confident to this point you can feel for the foals forelegs and head and reposition them yourself. If not, keep the mare calm and moving and wait for your vet.
Do not put unnecessary pressure on yourself. Take a good look at the pictures and work out in your mind how you would resolve the situation.
Be sure to only do as much as you genuinely feel confident with, that's why we pay vets the big bucks.
Abnormal Presentations of foal (dystocia)
Critical Things to Remember:

  • Before putting your hand in the mare, ALWAYS WASH carefully and LUBE generously!
  • If you know there is dystocia, keep mare from pushing and straining, as she is jamming the foal tighter against the pelvic wall. If a mare is walking, she cannot push!
  • Pointing the mare downhill may help, too  
  • If you pull, only pull with the mare's contractions, and you must pull downwards toward her hocks.
  • Always think about the arc-like pathway that a foal must follow to emerge from the birth canal. He is delicate, as are the inner tissues of the mare. 

Presentations where you MUST PULL THE FOAL OUT NOW!
In the following three presentations, you must always get the foal out immediately. If not, the foal will be oxygen deprived and could die. In all three presentations, the umbilical cord is being pinched so the foal is getting no air from that source. After the umbilicus is cut off, time is of the essence and you have and extremely short “window” before the foal’s first breath and 6 minutes before brain damage.
1. Red Bag
You will see red, terry cloth like sac coming out of mare.
The foal is inside of the red sac and white sac. DO NOT WAIT for the vet.  You must cut the red sac, go inside that, rip the white sac, go inside that and pull the foal out FAST!
Remember, ALWAYS pull a foal out downwards, towards the hocks of the mare. 
In this presentation, the placenta has separated and baby has only minutes to survive as the foal is getting no oxygen. 
2. Backwards Foal (hind legs coming first)
You know that you have a backwards foal because the hind legs come first. The
soles of the feet are pointing up, and not down as usual. The umbilicus is being pinched on pelvic rim.
Grasp the legs, and pull toward the mare’s hocks.  The tightest fit will be the foal’s butt/tail, but as you are pulling down, the foal’s front legs should unravel and baby should make its appearance.
With this presentation, you will have to make sure that baby’s nose is cleared of fluid, as the foal’s head has been laying in the pool of amniotic fluid, so once on the ground, pay attention to clearing the foal’s airways.                
3. Hip lock (Foal's pelvis is locked on the mare’s pelvis.  Four approaches for unlocking....
dystocia 3.jpg
First approach – cross foal’s front legs, and while pushing foal back into mare (only push during a time of no contractions) twist the front legs in a rotational movement. If the foal doesn’t “pop” out, cross legs the other way and try again
Second approach – Roll mare onto back. Have helpers hold her on back. Grasp the foal’s forelegs. Even though you are still pulling towards the mare’s hocks, you are now pulling towards your waist because the mare is on her back. Baby should pop out
Third approach – grasp foal’s front legs and pull down to the left, then down to the right, slowly trying to walk foal through birth canal. Alternate the way you are pulling, down to left, down to right.
Fourth approach - Grasp foal's forelegs and attempt to rotate foal 180 degrees, pull foal upwards and out.



This post has been promoted to an article

icon_warning.pngEdited by Castle Rock Miniatures, 18 May 2013 - 07:39 AM.

This post has been promoted to an article   This is a 3 part article continued below. This article is also on our Health and Information pages HERE
CREDITS:  This compilation of information is from personal experiences of some of the AUNTIES (members) here, and from several well-written articles found at the following websites:
BIG Thanks to Beth at IAm Ranch for allowing us to use information provided on their website at http://iamranch.com/miniarticles.htm
Foaling Kit  -    30 Days before Foaling  -  Post Foaling
Thank you to Maryanne Cerullo of Miniature Ventures for the use of her articles at http://www.miniature...sourcepage.html

Basic Foaling   The RH Factor Foal  Red Bag Birth   The Septic Foal -plus more
and we’d also like to mention a number of fine articles can also be found at the Scott Creek Farm website at http://www.scottcreek.com/ under Horse Health Articles.
Dystocia  -  Premature Foals  -  Breach Foals

I'm sure there are many other fine articles out there to help prepare for the birth of your foal, and hopefully, others will share sites where these can be found.
Thank you for reading.

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#2 Miniatures



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Posted 04 May 2013 - 06:39 AM

Presentations that may need your intervention....or a nearby vet. 


  1. One forefoot or foreleg deflected back (most common dystocia)

dystocia 4.jpg


You will see only one leg and a nose.


Tie a clean shoe string around the visible pastern. Next, push the head and leg back into uterus a little ways. Slide your clean, well lubricated hand into mare, with palm towards center. Locate hooked leg, slip two fingers behind knee, pull up, then towards the middle of foal’s chest, then out. If the leg does not come, try grasping toe of hoof and bringing it forward.


(If the foal’s left leg is missing, use your left hand with the palm towards center of mare) Whenever you are moving foal’s legs inside the mare, protect her uterus from the sharp hooves by cupping the foal’s hoof in your hand. 




2. Both forelegs back (second most common dystocia)


dystocia 5.jpg



You will see the nose, but there will be no legs


If the foal has a blue tongue, don’t worry; that is normal in this situation


Enter with your palm towards center and do the same process as written above on both legs instead of just one leg




3. Head caught on pelvic rim


dystocia 6.jpg


The legs may or may not be in birth canal.


Tie string to visible pasterns and then reach in mare. Find the foal’s two mandibles, then run your hand down his face to his chin. Grasp under chin while having your helper push the foal back into uterus. (with each contraction, the foal’s head is being jammed harder and harder into the pelvic rim. That is why the helper must push foal back to undo the blockage) with your hand under the chin, gently but firmly pull on it and unhook from the rim. Once the head straightens, the foal will deliver without further ado. 




4. Head & neck turned to one side


dystocia 7.jpg



This presentation may look like the one above, but when you put your hand in, on one side of the foal will be a mass of neck. Tie strings to the pasterns, and, while helper is pushing foal back, slide hand along neck to chin. Grasp chin and gently straighten head.




5. Upside Down


You will see the soles pointing upwards, telling you that the foal is either upside down or backwards. Discern position by entering and trying to find head or hocks. If there is a head, the foal is upside down.


This position may correct itself. Allow time for the mare’s rotational contractions to turn foal. Allow time for mare to lay down and roll to position foal before getting worried.


dystocia 8.jpg



If intervention is necessary, first put hand in and re-check foal’s position to make sure that only 2 legs are in the birth canal. If hind leg is there, do not push foot directly back in!(Read section 6 on how to unhook a third foot) Foal will be tipped to one side. This is because the rotational contractions are trying to turn the foal that direction. Work with the pre-established direction of the foal. If foal is tipped to your left, grasp foal’s legs and cross right leg over left. Hold the legs crossed, and wait for mare’s contractions to pull. (mare should by laying down).  When she pushes, pull and twist firmly but gently. Rolling the foal happens gradually, not suddenly. Don’t pull when the mare is not having a contraction, but in between contractions, don’t let the foal slip back, hold all progress you have made.

This post has been promoted to an article

Edited by Castle Rock Miniatures, 18 May 2013 - 08:59 AM.

#3 Miniatures



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Posted 04 May 2013 - 06:40 AM

6. One hind foot coming under chest (Dog-sitting position)


dystocia 9.jpg


Instead of the normal two front feet and a nose, there will be 3 front feet and a nose. The first thing you have to do is figure out which leg is the back leg. Put hand in and feel for hocks or run hand down foal’s front legs to find chest.


Once you find the back foot, put two fingers behind pastern/ankle try to LIFT HOOF over pelvic rim while your helper pushes foal back. As soon as you feel any movement or release, slide your hand with palm upwards and catch the sharp hoof tip as it falls, protecting the mare’s uterus



 7. Forelegs over head/ears


dystocia 10.jpg


Foal will be coming out, except for that the hooves will be on top of the nose instead of the nose on top of the hooves. Lube well and go in with your palm towards the center


Once you locate the knees, which will be hooked over the ears, gently lift legs from head into normal position



D. Presentations to CALL THE VET


In the following presentations, while waiting for the vet to arrive, walk the mare slowly around the stall. A mare can’t push and walk at the same time. Have your trailer hooked up, deeply bedded and ready to haul her in.    



1. Full Breech (Backwards with no legs coming)


You will see a tail and a butt and no legs, emergency! 


dystocia 11.jpg


After scrubbing and lubing, palpate your mare. Remember in some cases the mare's water will not have broken yet. After feeling around it will be apparent why if you have the rear end of the foal plugging the cervix and pelvic opening. 

Get your mare standing. Sometimes mares will not cooperate, however, if the mare stands, the foal and all of the mare's weight tends to pull away from the cervix and pelvic opening.


Tear the placental sac covering the foal’s rump as it protrudes through the cervix as in the case of a red bag delivery. The hindquarters of the foal will be pressed tightly against the cervical opening like a stopper and very little water may be released even when the placenta is torn.


Now picture your foal in your head. Pass your hand through the hole made in the placenta and you should feel the smooth, amniotic sac containing the foal. You should feel the tail. While you can try to manipulate baby through the amniotic sac you ca also rupture the sac to actually be touching baby and have baby’s butt in your hand. IF you rupture the sac at this stage, be prepared to move quickly and smoothly through the following steps.


Follow the butt down to the legs.  You should be able to determine how baby is standing or laying -- in this presentation many times baby will be in the same position as the mother.


Now you have 2 legs in the birth canal.  Once the body of the foal enters the vagina, its blood supply will most likely be shut off. This is due to the umbilical cord being flattened by the pressure of the foal's body against the wall of the vagina. In this presentation the foal's head will be immersed in amniotic fluid in the uterus. Once the umbilical cord is pinched off, no oxygen will get to the body. If the delivery is not quick, brain damage is of immediate concern and, of course, the life of the foal and also the mare was at risk. 


 dystocia 12.jpg


Grab the rear legs and pull forcefully as the mare contracts. Once in the feet back position, the foal should be delivered easily pulling with the mare’s contractions.



2. Upside Down Breech (backwards & upside down)


It will look like a full breech, but with the tail on the bottom


3. Back (spine) of foal first, also called transverse


Mare will be pushing…nothing coming, you stick your hand in, and hit a solid wall of foal, the foal’s back.


4. All 4 feet coming at same time, another transverse






CREDITS:  This compilation of information is from personal experiences of some of the AUNTIES (members) here, and from several well-written articles found at the following websites:
BIG Thanks to Beth at IAm Ranch for allowing us to use information provided on their website at http://iamranch.com/miniarticles.htm

Foaling Kit  -    30 Days before Foaling  -  Post Foaling


and we’d also like to mention a number of fine articles can also be found at the Scott Creek Farm website at http://www.scottcreek.com/ under Horse Health Articles.

Dystocia  -  Premature Foals  -  Breach Foals


I'm sure there are many other fine articles out there to help prepare for the birth of your foal, and hopefully others will share sites where these can be found.

This post has been promoted to an article

icon_warning.png  Edited by Castle Rock Miniatures, 18 May 2013 - 11:20 AM.

#4 Miniatures



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Posted 04 May 2013 - 07:43 AM

Hopefully, some of this may help someone get baby safely to the ground. 


We welcome all comments and other ideas, or questions on something presented here. Our forum is all about sharing and learning, so please give us your comments, suggestions or questions.


Here's to bringing these precious little ones safely to the ground!!  :ThumbUp

#5 Eagle


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Posted 04 May 2013 - 07:58 AM

Exellent information, it is so much better to go into things fully informed. This is perfect to print and stick on the stall wall.

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#6 Crystallos


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Posted 04 May 2013 - 10:09 AM

Wow! Excellent information all in one place. We will be printing this to put in our foaling kit. Question: When you say to push a foal back into the mare to reposition, does it matter what part you push? Do you need to avoid the nose or delicate structures of the head?


#7 Mousie96


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Posted 04 May 2013 - 06:23 PM

This is great!! This will help so much if penny does foal!!

#8 Maple Hollow Farm

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Posted 04 May 2013 - 07:51 PM

Great info, presentation 3 was the dystocia one of my mares had this year and all legs back too.  I didnt have help but she stood really well for me when I got her up and worked on her, I used my wrist to keep pressure on the forehead to keep it back and then hooked my fingers under the chin to straighten.  I only had a few seconds to get the legs as the minute I had the head everything started moving!!!

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#9 AKMiniMama


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Posted 05 May 2013 - 03:28 AM

Thank you, this advise is priceless and it sure helped my little Wildfire, I am forever grateful.

#10 Miniatures



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Posted 05 May 2013 - 08:31 AM




Wow! Excellent information all in one place. We will be printing this to put in our foaling kit. Question: When you say to push a foal back into the mare to reposition, does it matter what part you push? Do you need to avoid the nose or delicate structures of the head?



Pushing a foal back in to reposition it, you have to work with the part that is presenting -- and sometime that is just a leg.  The thing to remember is be careful of eyes on faces and the softest part of the nose, and moving slowly and carefully, as the inside of momma is very delicate -- so must be protected i.e., from baby's hooves -- so we cup the hoof if we can when moving it. Calmness is the key -- panicking is for AFTER baby is safely on the ground.



Paula, thank you for your very kind words.  I'm honored that we could assist you in getting little Wildfire safely on the ground!


We're all here to help in any way we can, and hope that this information will help someone learn some steps that will help get their babies to the ground safely!

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