Foal Complications: Now What? (Part One)
You do everything correctly. The best nutrition, the most comprehensive care, consistent monitoring, a stocked foaling kit and textbook timing. You're ready and waiting for that foal, and there when the mare first begins to look uncomfortable. You recognize it as a the first sign of labor - anticipation over. It's go time. No worries, because you're like a boy scout - ALWAYS PREPARED.
But things don't always go as planned.
As breeders, we know that, even with the best care and best planning, things can always go south. And when they do, it can happen very quickly. Over the years, we've made some very difficult quick decisions. Some of these resulted in happy, healthy dams and foals, but others have ended in tragedy. And we've heard countless tales of the unthinkable from fellow breeders. In these instances, all you can do is rely on your preparation, your experience, your gut and, if there is time, the advice of your veterinarian. This is why it's vital to choose a veterinarian you respect and believe in (quick shout out to Barrow Veterinary Service - Dr. Barrow and her staff are THE BEST).
We had one of these experiences last week. To top it off, it wasn't with one of our own mares. Ashley has Zoe at our main location - her family's boarding facility, Wellspring Farms. She formerly showed Zoe in the Hunters, so she was excited about the opportunity to assist her friends with Zoe's pregnancy and foaling.
The pregnancy was very textbook, and Zoe is also a super chill mare. We joked that she would most likely give birth when least expected. Zoe's bag filled up, her milk dropped below a 6.4, straw was put down and Ashley began her vigil in the barn office (side note: I was assisting from monitors - Zoe's owners were coming to help, and we are all doing our part social distancing with COVID-19). The first night....nothing. Second night...nothing. Third evening...nothing. But by 2am that third night/fourth morning, Zoe was in full-blown labor and her colt was on his way (FINALLY)!
Zoe's labor ended up taking a little longer than expected, but she did deliver unassisted. Once he was out, we realized why - he was HUGE! He was given an enema and his umbilical cord tended to (standard for all of our foals). As happens sometimes with these really leggy ones, he needed some help standing for the first time (we let him try on his own for about an hour). Zoe was an attentive mother, but once it became clear he wanted to nurse things changed. She was NOT HAVING IT. Remember, Zoe's the stoic, easy-going mare that never minded milk testing or other handling, so this was a surprise. A dose of Banamine did not help. Finally the vet had to intervene and Zoe was convinced that she should, in fact, allow her colt to nurse.
The colt passed meconium, but continued to strain as though he needed to pass more. We find that the boys in particular often need additional enemas, so he was administered a second (we use Fleet brand saline, as recommended by our vet).
At this point, EVERYONE was exhausted. Three nights of foal watch, a tough labor and additional assistance had humans, mare and foal completely worn out. Dam and foal were left alone for an hour, with hopes that the little guy would stand and (be allowed to) nurse on his own soon.
Unfortunately, that wasn't the case.
TO BE CONTINUED...