Keep an eye on tell-tale labour and delivery signals
The process of labour in the mare is divided into three distinct phases:
- Stage one begins with the onset of contractions and generally lasts 1-2 hours. Even in a normal delivery, the mare may stand up, lie down, or roll several times in an effort to properly position the foal for delivery. During this phase, contractions move the foal through the cervix and into position in the birth canal. The foetal membranes (allantois) may become visible at the mares vulva. When the sac breaks, signalled by the rush of fluid, stage one ends.
- Stage two is the actual expulsion of the foal. This phase moves relatively quickly. If it takes more than 30 minutes for the mare to deliver, there could be a problem. If there is no significant progress within 10-15 minutes after the membrane ruptures, call your vet immediately. If labour seems to be progressing, wait and watch.
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, shoulders, and hindquarters. If you notice a foal's hooves with their soles up, the foal may be backwards or upside down, and you should call your vet immediately. If you suspect any deviation from a normal foaling delivery position, call your vet immediately.
- Stage three of labour begins after delivery and is the phase during which the afterbirth or placenta is expelled. Most mares pass the placenta within 1-3 hours after the foal is born. If the placenta has not passed within three hours call your vet, because a retained placenta can cause problems, including massive infection and laminitis.