I am wondering how often the mares are able to deliver the foals without any assistance from the staff. All of the foaling videos that I’ve seen show considerable help being provided. I know that horses foal in the wild without any help – are special precautions in order for TBs?
South Euclid, OH
A:A month from foaling mares are brought to the foaling barn, and until they foal they are watched 24/7. They are turned out in the daytime so they can move around freely and exercise, which is very important for heavily pregnant mares. Someone from the barn will patrol the fields frequently to make sure no one has decided to go off and foal outside on their own. Late afternoon the mares will be brought in and fed and have their bags (udders) checked for any changes. Wax on the teats or dripping milk gives us a good indication that the mare is getting close to giving birth.
We have a night watchman stay in the barn at night and keep an eye on everybody. Once a mare starts to show signs of foaling he will alert whom ever is on call that evening for assistance. We typically have at least three people present at each foaling in case of an emergency.
I know some of you are worried about the pain Zenyatta will go through during the foaling process but you needn’t worry! The birthing process is far quicker than that of humans. Once they break water, as long as the presentation is correct, it is all over in a matter of minutes. Horses have to be able to give birth and recover quickly in the wild, as they need to be able to protect their newborns from potential predators.
Once the mare has broken water we check the presentation is correct with the nose and forelimbs coming first. The mare will typically lie down to foal, although very occasionally we will get an “airmail” when a mare foals standing. This can happen with maidens that haven’t quite got the process figured out yet! Provided the mare is comfortable with our presence we will help guide the foal out gently. Normally a mare will rest for a few minutes post foaling and then get up, which is usually when the cord breaks.
The foals are usually up within an hour and nursing and getting that much needed colostrum that helps boost their immune systems. They are designed to keep up with their mothers almost immediately, so provided they are strong enough we like to get them out into a paddock or a round pen on day one for a few hours and let them begin their new lives.
Client Management, Lane’s End
Alys has been at Lane’s End for fourteen years. She has worked in every division of the farm and is now in charge of client management, keeping owners up to speed about the lives of their horses.