Signs of Foaling
I Am Ranch Miniature Horses is sharing with you what we do to maintain the health of our horses. This is not intended to direct you on how to care for your horse. The intent of this is only to share what we do, and raise questions for you. We advise you to consult your veterinarian before making any changes in your horse's health care. The information found on our website is not to supersede the advise of your veterinarian. I AM Ranch Miniature Horses cannot be held liable for the care of your horse(s).
Are you afflicted with Pre-Foaling Anxiety Disease?? Come Springtime, our family catches this disease full force. We call it PFSD!!! Pre Foaling Stress Disorder!! To help me cope, I started journaling and you can read the journals here on our site! Look on the articles page to find them.
Those of us with babies coming are obsessing about when. The foaling season takes over your mind during waking moments and even during sleep. Here, at our home, we start DREAMING miniature horse babies! We did have a fun thread on our AZminiatures yahoo group wherein one breeder told of a mare that went 384 days and another mare who waited 372 days. Those have got to be record long for gestation times. On the short end, one miniature breeder told of a baby born at 296 days with only peach fuzz, no hair and cartilage for legs. The vet told this lady she would die, but love and determination (along with lots of hours) has grown this baby up to be 4 years old now. They had to be there every 2 hours around the clock and support her while she nursed. After 2 weeks, she was getting up on her own! As you can see, there can be a great amount of variation in how long that foal is in the oven :) Thus, we start really watching our mares at day 300 of pregnancy. You can click here for a calculator to help figure out how far along your mare is.
As you read about each sign, remember to take each change in concert with the others. Also remember that "the mares do not read these notes, nor do they listen to the vets, or read "The Complete Book of Foaling". They have their babies when they are ready and one mare gives obvious clues while another surprises you and foals unexpectedly. It is wise to take copious notes on your mare so that you know her pattern for following years. Click here to print out a handy data collection chart for documenting each mare's progress through her pregnancy.
Your mare's milk will change in consistency, color and taste as the day of foaling approaches. The milk will go from clear to cloudy to yellowish to syrupy in texture to opaque white milk that is sticky and thick. At first, there may be flecks in the milk, but as the day nears, these dissolve and you see them no more. These are bits of calcium precipitants! As you see the milk progressively change, your examinations should be more frequent. The changes can happen very quickly. If you have a "cup bearer" in your home, have her taste the milk daily and it will get sweeter. It loses that salty flavor as the big day of foaling approaches. (If you don't' know what a cup bearer is, get out your Bible, and read Genesis :)
The Complete Book of Foaling mentions that the milk itself is the most reliable predictor of imminent foaling.
Of course we watch the size and shape of the udder. The mare's teats tend to point toward each other in the days before foaling is imminent, but as the day draws nearer, they begin pointing straight down. Typically, a mare starts to bag up a few weeks pre-foaling, but, there are some mares who don't develop a bag until the day of foaling. Again, the norm is for the bag to be fuller in the morning and shrink over the day, until the day of foaling. Then the bag will stay tight even in the evening. In some mares, you will see the milk veins filling up in front of her udder.
Watching a mare's bag is not 100% reliable by itself. We do recommend washing between the teats before the bag fills, so all of her "cleavage grime" does not irritate her as her bag fills up and the cleavage area becomes tight. More importantly than udder shape is the milk consistency.
Also, look for wax on the tips of the teats. Miniature mares do not wax up as predictably as big horse mares, but it is something to look for!
Minis have a way of clamping down their tails, but they do get a loose and flexible tail head as these changes occur.
We were surprised to read this predictor for not many talk about temperature changes. Often, we take the temperatures of our momma dogs to help us figure out their whelping date, but didn't know until recently that mares also exhibit a change. You must take their temperature at the same time daily and take it twice daily. Begin on day 300 of the pregnancy and chart your readings. Her temperature will drop somewhere between 18-24 hours of foaling time. This variation will only be .5 - 1.0 degree lower. We are recording this for the 2008 foaling season and will let you know the outcome.
We are getting into signs that are even more subtle, but most mares go off of feed right before foaling. Their poops look more like a cow was in the stall and can become more frequent. The mares poop may look more like a cow's poop on the day that she is going to foal.
Study your mares and know them. This will often be a big help to you in knowing when their moment has come. They become more irritated than usual. Our mares bite their sides, kick at their bellies, walk in circles, get up and lay down frequently, rub their bums on the barn walls....They may also separate themselves from their herd when they are ready to foal. They often will stand looking almost forlorn before foaling. Her behaviors will be different from the "normal."