Labor of Love

A horse's labor involves three distinct stages.

From Bayer Animal Health

When your mare is ready to "pop" at any moment, your nerves are running high. By knowing what to expect when the labor begins, you'll gain at least a little peace of mind.

Three Stages of Labor

Stage 1 begins with the onset of contractions and generally lasts one to two hours. During this phase, contractions move the foal through the cervix and into position in the birth canal. The fetal membranes may become visible at the mare’s vulva. When the sac breaks, signaled by a rush of fluid, Stage 1 ends.

Stage 2 is the actual expression of the foal. This phase moves relatively quickly. If it takes more than 20 minutes for the mare to deliver, there could be a problem. Call your veterinarian immediately. If labor seems to be progressing, wait and watch. Even in a normal delivery, the mare may stand up, lie down and roll several times to properly position the foal for delivery.

It takes a lot of work to actually end up with a healthy foal. The first part of the work, of course, is breeding your mare. With all the available breeding techniques out there, it can get confusing. Get AQHA's "Equine Insemination with Frozen Shipped Semen" DVD today for a simple explanation of the process involved.

Normal presentation of the foal resembles a diving position, with front feet first, one slightly ahead of the other, hooves down, followed closely by the nose, head, neck, shoulders and hindquarters. If you notice hoof soles up, the foal may be backward or upside down, and you should call your veterinarian immediately.

Stage 3 is the phase during which the placenta is expelled. Most placentas are passed within one to three hours after the foal is delivered. If the placenta has not passed within three hours, call your veterinarian. A retained placenta can cause serious problems, including infection and laminitis.

Foal Care

  • Allow the foal time to break the fetal membranes. Once the foal breaks through, be sure it is breathing.
  • If the umbilical cord has not broken during delivery, it will usually break when the mare or foal gets up.
  • Treat the umbilical cord with an antiseptic solution, recommended by your veterinarian, soon after the cord breaks and for several days thereafter to prevent bacterial infection.
  • Observe the mare and foal closely for the next 24 hours.

Maybe you didn't breed your mare last year. Maybe you won't even breed her this year. Sometime down the road, though, you'll be ready to usher your very own bundle of (horsey) joy into the world. When that time comes, you'd better be prepared to get your mare in foal! Explore one options with AQHA's "Equine Insemination with Frozen Shipped Semen" DVD.