Foaling Part 2

Foaling Part 2

Help Your Mare have a Safe Delivery

If your mare has made it through 11 months of pregnancy, you’re almost home free. Labor and delivery, while momentous, are generally uneventful.  In most cases, you will simply need to be a quiet observer – if, that is, you are lucky enough to witness the birth.  Mares seem to prefer to foal at night in privacy, and apparently have some control over their delivery.  Because most mares foal without difficulty, it is usually best to allow the mare to foal undisturbed and unassisted.

What you can do, however, is prepare your mare for a safe and successful delivery.  Follow these suggestions from the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) to help the new mother and baby get off to a great start:


  • Write down your veterinarian’s phone number well in advance of the birth and keep it by all phones.
  • Keep a watch or clock on hand so you can time each stage of labor.  When you’re worried or anxious, your perception of time becomes distorted.  The watch will help you keep accurate track of the mare’s progress during labor.
  • Wrap the mare’s tail with a clean wrap when you observe the first stage of labor.  Be sure that the wrap is not applied too tightly or left on too long, as it can cut off circulation and permanently damage the tail.
  • Wash the mare’s vulva and hindquarters with a mild soap and rinse thoroughly.
  • Clean and disinfect the stall area as thoroughly as possible and provide adequate bedding.
  • Consider using test strips that measure calcium in mammary secretions to help predict when the mare will foal.  Sudden increases in calcium are associated with imminent foaling.

If a mare is taking longer than 30 minutes to deliver the foal, call your veterinarian immediately.

For more information on labor and delivery and postpartum care for the mare and foal, ask your equine veterinarian for a copy of the “Foaling Mare and Newborn” client education brochure, provided by the AAEP in partnership with Educational Partner Bayer Animal Health.  Additional information can be found on, the AAEP’s Web site for all horse health topics.

*Reprinted with permission from the American Association of Equine Practitioners

Foaling Part 1

Foaling Part 1

Foaling season is an exciting time of year.  Complications can occur, but you will be better able to stay calm and make it through if you are prepared.  The following is aimed at making sure you have what you need for the big day…or night.

First off, talk to your veterinarian.  Ask them questions about what to expect, what is normal or abnormal, and most importantly when to call them if things aren’t progressing as planned.  Make sure to have everything prepared in advance for your mare’s big day.  If you are not sure of the due date then talk to your veterinarian about signs of impending delivery (mammary development, calcium levels in the milk, “waxing”).

Your mare will need a large stall where she can move around easily to get comfortable (12 x 24 if possible).  We usually suggest straw bedding as it will not stick to the wet foal and is less dusty than shavings or saw dust.  Make sure to bed the stall deeply so it’s soft.  Set up an area with a cot or comfortable chair for yourself or the foaling attendant – most foalings are uneventful but it is a good plan to have someone present in the unlikely event that something goes wrong.

The following is a list of items that you want to make sure you have on hand during foaling…the “foal kit”.  Your foal kit should contain:

• garbage bag or bucket (to keep the placenta)
• clean, absorbent towels
• iodine or chlorhexidine
• heavy duty scissors
• umbilical tape
• a pair of hemostats
• digital thermometer
• stethoscope
• baby bottle with a selection of nipples

Some people may also choose to have a mare milker in case the foal is not able to nurse on their own.  These items can all be purchased from a feed store or pharmacy.  If you are having trouble locating them, ask your veterinarian for suggestions.

Your veterinarian will go over all potential foaling complications with you (red bag, breech birth, retained limbs, etc).  But remember, if you are not sure if something is going wrong… CALL your veterinarian!  The earliest intervention will help to deliver the best outcome (no pun intended).

Good luck and happy foaling!

Emergency Preparedness

Emergency Preparedness

If you own horses long enough, sooner or later you are likely to confront a medical emergency.  From lacerations to colic to foaling difficulties, there are many emergencies that a horse owner may encounter.  You must know how to recognize serious problems and respond promptly, taking appropriate action while awaiting the arrival of your veterinarian.

Preparation is vital when confronted with a medical emergency.  No matter the situation you may face, mentally rehearse the steps you will take to avoid letting panic take control.  Follow these guidelines from the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) to help you prepare for an equine emergency:

  • Keep your veterinarian’s number by each phone, including how the practitioner can be reached after hours.
  • Consult with your regular veterinarian regarding a back-up or referring veterinarian’s number in case you cannot reach your regular veterinarian quickly enough.
  • Know in advance the most direct route to an equine surgery center in case you need to transport the horse.
  • Post the names and phone numbers of nearby friends and neighbors who can assist you in an emergency while you wait for the veterinarian.
  • Prepare a first aid kit and store it in a clean, dry, readily accessible place.  Make sure that family members and other barn users know where the kit is.  Also keep a first aid kit in your horse trailer or towing vehicle, and a pared-down version to carry on the trail.



First aid kits can be simple or elaborate. Here is a short list of essential items:

  • Cotton roll
  • Cling wrap
  • Gauze pads, in assorted sizes
  • Sharp scissors
  • Cup or container
  • Rectal thermometer with string and clip attached
  • Surgical scrub and antiseptic solution
  • Latex gloves
  • Saline solution
  • Stethoscope
  • Clippers

Many accidents can be prevented by taking the time to evaluate your horse’s environment and removing potential hazards.  Mentally rehearse your emergency action plan.  In an emergency, time is critical.  Don’t be concerned with overreacting or annoying your veterinarian.  By acting quickly and promptly, you can minimize the consequences of an injury or illness.  For more information about emergency care, ask your equine veterinarian for the “Emergency Care” brochure, provided by the AAEP in partnership with Educational Partner Bayer Animal Health.  More information can also be obtained by visiting the AAEP’s horse health web site,

*Reprinted with permission from the American Association of Equine Practitioners

Sweet Itch

Sweet Itch

What is Sweet Itch?


Summer Seasonal Recurrent Dermatitis (SSRD) or “Sweet Itch” in horses is an allergic response to biting flies/midges of the genus Culicoides.  Most horses are bitten by these insects but only some will have an allergic response.  Sweet itch is seasonal in colder climates, may be nonseasonal in warmer climates, and may affect horses of any age, sex, or breed.  Although it has not been verified, some believe that this condition may have a genetic component.

Clinical Signs and Symptoms of Sweet Itch


Lesions will vary depending on where the specific type of insect feeds.  Most often, however, lesions are noted on face/ears, mane and tail areas, abdomen (ventral midline), and chest.  The horse may be extremely pruritic (itchy) and will have areas of alopecia (hair loss), excoriations, and some severe lesions may even drain serum.  Many times a horses’ behavior is noted to change – they can become lethargic or very agitated (especially when insects are present).  Horses will scratch on fences or trees to the point that they rub out their mane and the hair at the top of their tail.  Some people notice that their horses will drag themselves along the ground to scratch their chest/belly or will sit like a dog and spin to scratch the top of their tail.  Eventually the skin becomes thickened and folded and the hair over affected areas is sparse and coarse.  Sometimes the lesions will completely heal over the winter but return with the return of the insects in the spring or summer.

How can I treat or prevent Sweet Itch?


Preventing or minimizing sweet itch in your horse is no small task.  The most important step is to decrease the exposure your horse has with the biting midges.  This can be done by killing the insects or by other horse/barn management steps.  The following are some management steps that you can take to make your horse more comfortable:

  • Have multiple fans in a horse’s stall (ceiling and wall mounted) as the breeze makes it harder for the flies to land on the horses.
  • Insect proof your stalls and stables with fine mesh screens.
  • Stable your horse at night or at least in the hours around dusk and dawn.
  • Use protective “fly wear” for your horse – this includes fly masks (with ears), leg wraps and fly sheets (make sure the sheets cover as much of the abdomen as possible).
  • Since Culicoides midges breed in wet areas, maximize drainage of pastures and be sure to keep water troughs clean.


The best insecticides are those containing pyrethrins or pyrethroids (DuraGard by Absorbine or Knock-out Spray by Virbac).  Anecdotal reports suggest that consistent use of Fipronil (Frontline spray, Merial) can be used for Culicoides sensitivity.  Avon Skin-so-soft mixed with equal parts water has also been used as insect repellent.  Use caution with Skin-so-soft as dermatitis has been reported in some horses.

Itch/Allergy Treatment

The first step in treating skin irritation is topical products that soothe itching and moisturize skin and coat.  One such product that has received rave reviews is Wahna Win, a skin and coat moisturizer that is applied directly to the horse’s coat.  There are anecdotal reports that DMSO can alleviate pain and itching as well.  Feed through fatty acid supplements have also been suggested.

Although there are multiple options to control pruritis, corticosteroids remain the most useful product to alleviate itching.  As steroids do have side effects, they should only be used under the supervision of a veterinarian.

Gastric Ulcers

Gastric Ulcers

Ulcers are a man-made disease, affecting up to 90 percent of racehorses and 60 percent of show horses.  Stall confinement alone can lead to the development of ulcers.  A horse’s feeding schedule also can be a factor.  When horses are fed just twice a day, the stomach is subjected to a prolonged period without feed to neutralize its naturally produced acid.  In addition, high-grain diets produce volatile fatty acids that can also contribute to the development of ulcers.


Stress, both environmental and physical, can increase the likelihood of ulcers, as can hauling, training and mixing groups of horses.  Strenuous exercise can decrease the emptying of the stomach and the blood flow to the stomach, thus contributing to the problem.

The treatment and prevention of gastric ulcers is directed at removing these predisposing factors, thus decreasing acid production within the horse’s stomach.  Follow these tips from the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) to properly treat your horse’s ulcers:


  • Allow free-choice access to grass or hay.  Horses are designed to be grazers with a regular intake of roughage.
  • If the horse must be stalled, arrange for the horse to see the horses he socializes with. Consider offering a ball or other object that the horse can enjoy in his stall.
  • Feed the horse more frequently to help buffer the acid in the stomach.
  • Decrease grains that form volatile fatty acids.

Medications that decrease acid production are available, but are only necessary in horses showing signs of clinical disease or when the predisposing factors, such as stress, cannot be removed.


The prevention of ulcers is the key.  Limiting stressful situations along with frequent feeding or free-choice access to grass or hay is imperative.  Neutralizing the production of stomach acid is nature’s best antacid.  For more information about gastric ulcers, ask your equine veterinarian for the “Equine Gastric Ulcers” brochure provided by the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) in association with Nutrena, an AAEP Educational Partner.  Additional information also can be found on the AAEP’s horse-health Web site,


*Permission for one-time use in printed media only is granted with attribution given to the AAEP and Nutrena

Equine Dental Care

Equine Dental Care

Horses with dental problems may show obvious signs, such as pain or irritation, or they may show no noticeable signs at all.  This is because some horses simply adapt to their discomfort.  For this reason, periodic dental examinations are essential to your horse’s health.

It is important to catch dental problems early.  If a horse starts behaving abnormally, dental problems should be considered as a potential cause.  Waiting too long may increase the difficulty of remedying certain conditions or may even make remedy impossible.  Look for the following indicators of dental problems from the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) to know when to seek veterinary attention for your horse:


  • Loss of feed from mouth while eating, difficulty with chewing, or excessive salivation.
  • Loss of body condition.
  • Large or undigested feed particles (long stems or whole grain) in manure.
  • Head tilting or tossing, bit chewing, tongue lolling, fighting the bit, or resisting bridling.
  • Poor performance, such as lugging on the bridle, failing to turn or stop, even bucking.
  • Foul odor from mouth or nostrils, or traces of blood from the mouth.
  • Nasal discharge or swelling of the face, jaw or mouth tissues.



Oral exams should be an essential part of an annual physical examination by a veterinarian.  Every dental exam provides the opportunity to perform routine preventative dental maintenance. Mature horses should get a thorough dental exam at least once a year, and horses 2 –5 years old should be examined twice yearly.

For more information about proper dental care, ask your equine veterinarian for “Dental Care: The Importance of Maintaining the Health of Your Horse’s Mouth,” a brochure provided by the AAEP in conjunction with Educational Partner Bayer Animal Health.  Additional information is available on the AAEP’s horse health Web site,

*Reprinted with permission from the American Association of Equine Practitioners