After foaling, fit and healthy mares get up fairly quickly and show concern for their foals.
However, many mares are exhausted and may take a long time to get back up on their feet. This can present problems for the future well being of the foal.
The mare that has a difficult or prolonged foaling needs special care afterwards. You should make sure she has water to drink and if foaling has been in late winter or early spring, make sure the water is not so cold that the mare will not drink enough for adequate milk production.
Increase feed gradually
Do not rush her with a lot of feed. Give some good quality hay or chaff in small quantities more frequently, rather than one huge feed as soon as she has foaled. As her appetite returns you can then increase the amount of feed. If the mare has been grain fed, do not allow her to become too fat before foaling and do not overfeed her straight after foaling.
It is a bad mistake to cram feed into newly foaled mares for a number of reasons. They may become colicky, they may overeat and become foundered, or they may over-produce milk, which can lead to mastitis in the mare or scours in the newborn foal. So, bearing this in mind, the mare’s feed is increased quite slowly to avoid over-production of milk in the first few days.
Underfeeding can also cause problems
Of course, the reverse position of too little feed after foaling is also a serious problem. This means that the mare does her best to produce milk for the foal, but if she is half-starved, or given poor quality feed, her milk supply dwindles so that the foal is poorly fed, loses condition, and may end up dying due to lack of milk.
Incorrect feeding can cause late foaling the next year
A second problem that can develop is again related to incorrect feeding - both over and underfeeding – and that is the production of follicles for the ensuing breeding season. If a mare is over-producing milk and being underfed, she gradually loses condition and we have found that these mares do not produce good follicles at the foal heat, or at the second heat period either.
In bad weather this condition can be a serious problem on stud farms. This means that the mare is late foaling the following year and may even miss out altogether if she has already foaled late due to the same problem the previous year
Checking the placenta post-foaling is critical
After the mare foals, it is important that the placenta or afterbirth is carefully examined by an experienced person who can tell whether it is intact, whether it is torn and a portion is still retained in the mare, or if it shows some signs of infection or other disease that could be detrimental to the health of the foal.
If there is any doubt that the mare has not fully cleaned, is torn inside, or may have mastitis or other problems that are making her dull or quite ill, then you should consult your own veterinarian as quickly as possible. Failure to remove the entire placenta within the first 12 hours after foaling can be quite serious. At the very least, it can make it difficult to get the mare in foal later on.
If the placenta begins to decay inside the mare, harmful bacteria become established in the uterus of the mare making it difficult to get her in foal, or even cause her to lose the foal after she becomes pregnant. However, if the placenta is missed and is still inside the mare, she can become very sick, may founder, and even die due to septicaemia (blood-poisoning).
Removing the placenta
Do not ever just ‘pull’ the placenta out of a mare that has not cleaned. This often breaks small, or even quite large, pieces of placenta off and may even tear the mare. All of these mistakes can make it difficult to get the mare back in foal the next season, providing of course that she does not die due to poor attention to this problem. Normal mares take approximately 7 – 10 days for the uterus to settle down and reduce in size so that conception can take place.
Some mares will come into season on the third or fourth day after foaling and, if served, some will definitely go in foal. However, it has now been proven that a larger number of these lose their foals during their pregnancy, often as early as 20 - 30 days after conception. This is because the uterus has not had time to recover from the previous foaling properly before the fertilised egg arrives back in the uterus for the commencement of the next pregnancy.
Also, early 3 - 5 day post-foaling service can introduce bacteria, which multiply and result in infection of the uterus. This presents difficulty in getting the mare in foal later in the season, or it may cause the death of the developing foal, giving rise to an early abortion.
The whole idea is to get your mare into the best possible state so that she can breed without troubles. Therefore, it is wise to reduce all those trouble spots before they become serious.
Is a Caslicks required?
Not many Standardbred mares require stitching to prevent them from sucking air and other contaminated material into their breeding tract, but those with poor conformation will require stitching. If this has been done the previous year, cutting the stitched area as close to foaling as possible will reduce contamination, and the mare becoming infected again.
Some mares foal early before being opened and occasionally tear quite badly. While this is unfortunate, it is not impossible to remedy. They should receive expert care and be re-stitched as soon as practical after the birth of the foal.
All efforts must be made to ensure the mare does not become infected at foaling, just after foaling, or before being served, as this will reduce her chance of pregnancy quite considerably. Do not assume that every mare is going to be a problem and rush in and over treat her either. Many mares foal and clean normally, and if a careful check is made and they are normal, little treatment is required. On the other hand, when problems arise, immediate treatment gives the best results for next seasons pregnancy.