Here Comes Baby: Part I

Prepare for the new arrival with last-minute preparations and an on-hand foaling kit.

The months of planning and waiting are about to pay off for breeders around the world - their mares are preparing to deliver the next generation of champions. If this is your first time, or if you need a few refresher tips, the Racing Journal consulted with Dr. Ben Espy on things to keep in mind.

Getting Mama Ready

1. Watch her figure. It’s pretty common to feel sorry for the mother-to-be as she grows larger, but it is best for her health to keep off the pounds. Don’t give in to feeding her more until she begins lactating in her final few months. “Foaling is an athletic event, and it’s really critical that these mares are in good shape,” Dr. Espy says. “It’s very well-respected in the reproductive and nutritional communities that pregnant mares only need the same amount of calories as a non-pregnant mare or gelding up until the last three months of gestation.”

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When you do increase the feed, it should be about 1.2 to 1.3 times the amount of calories as a non-pregnant mare, preferably in the form of fat calories instead of an increase in carbohydrates.

2. Boost Immunity. At 30 days out from her foaling date, the mare should be dewormed with a dose of ivermectin and a dose of pyrantel. The combination is used to combat intestinal parasites that are resistant to one of the dewormers; there doesn’t seem to be a population resistant to both. A Caslick procedure done to the mare should be removed. Also at that time, give the mare all the vaccines you want the foal vaccinated for - the baby will acquire the antibodies when he takes his first drink of colostrum after birth. It will be safer for both horses, and it’ll save you money - “you can vaccinate two horses for the cost of just the mare,” Dr. Espy says.

3. Be Prepared. Most foalings happen so fast that a vet won’t have time to arrive if there is an emergency, so don’t expect him to be able to provide live assistance. Most veterinary assistance that produces a normal foal will come over the phone. Prepare by watching videos, reading books and talking to your vet about what a normal birth looks like, and know how to deal with emergencies, such as a red bag emergency. Figure out and write down your mare’s normal vital signs at rest. If she begins to colic or have other problems after birth, you will need to be able to differentiate between what’s normal and what’s not for your mare. Stay tuned next week for the next part of this four-part series.

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