This morning I had a phone call and urgent Facebook message from a friend. Her mare was in labor and it was a Red Bag presentation and she didn't know what to do. My heart is hurting for her right now.
Please...if you have a pregnant mare......please research this, just in case.
In the 25 years we've been involved with foaling, we've only had TWO placenta previa presentations....commonly called Red Bags.... because that's what it looks like. Instead of seeing the white bubble with two front feet and a nose, you see the raw red membrane of the placenta pushing out. (I'm knocking on wood right now because one never knows....)
Keep a knife or sharp scissors in your foaling kit for this possibility. You only have a few minutes to jump in and act. 90 percent of the time the foal is in the proper presentation inside the bag (the placenta) and it has pulled away from the mare's uterus too quickly, so the foal is no longer receiving oxygen through the umbilical cord.
The moment you see red appear instead of the white bubble, grab the red and tear or cut. Reach in and feel for legs. Work with the mare's contractions and pull.... Pull downward. (We were lucky and realized immediately what was happening and reacted.)
Once the foal is out with the bag, it means carefully breaking the umbilical cord in the cleanest way possible and being extra diligent about dousing the foal's navel with iodine/bedadine/vetricyn - which ever you use. The foal may also be oxygen deprived and "slow". Nose to mouth CPR may help...Having your vet on their way too..... Usually the foal will end up being fine.
Sadly, there is a small percentage of "Red Bags" that occur because the foal has already died inutero. Essentially, it's either a late abortion or still born. This is when the foal has NOT positioned itself properly for birthing and you are are dealing with both a distocia/malpresentation AND a placenta previa.......This is what my friend had. Both her vet and I have tried to explain to her that because the foal was probably already dead with his feet folded back (often called a parachute position), all that could be done was to help the mare......and get the dead foal out in any way possible without damaging her.
On a positive note, my friend's mare only has bruising and a small tear to her vaginal opening from the manipulation in getting the foal out. Stupid vet didn't advise her about Banamine, for the pain, but she's been given it now. And I've advised she give the mare more this evening. The mare has also been given antibiotics.
Sorry this is so long, but I felt this was important to share with foaling season upon us in the Northern Hemisphere and the topic hadn't come up recently.