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June 29, 2005

Foaling - The Good and the Bad

This time of year is usually quite exciting with all the new babies on their way. But sometimes things don't always work out so well. That is one reason why it is a good idea to keep a close eye on your expectant moms and be available if they need help.

As you may remember, I had a maiden jennet, Pansy, due to foal the middle of May. She decided to go overdue - by 4 weeks! I was very diligent in monitoring her. I checked her in person several times throughout the day and night as she got closer to foaling, and watched her from work all day long via my webcam. That process worked out very well for me.

I was able to see when her udder started filling rapidly, and watch her much more closely. June 10 I knew she was getting pretty close, and so I planned to spend the night camping out by her pen. I checked on her a few times through the evening, and went out again about 10:45pm to check on her and then see about parking my car out by her pen for the night.

When I walked out to Pansy's pen, I realized pretty quickly that she was in labor. She was lying down like normal, but when she got up she had her tail cocked around sideways. I must have caught her right near the beginning of the second stage, because I believe her water had just broke, or broke shortly after.

I was able to sit behind some weeds on the other side of the fence and watch Pansy without disturbing her. After about a half hour I still didn't see anything presenting, so I called to check in with my vet. He suggested I watch her for another 20-30 minutes or so, and if she still hadn't delivered by then, he'd check her. After an hour she still hadn't made any progress, so the vet came right over to check her out. Great vet to work with, by the way!

When the vet checked Pansy, he found that the foal was upside-down, but did have both front feet and nose coming forward. Pansy was getting tired, so we had to help her pull the baby out. Things went along pretty smoothly, and we thought we'd have a live foal, but once we got the foal out, it never took a breath or responded.

We discovered that somehow the front 1/2 of the foal’s ribs on its left side had gotten broken - probably the reason it didn't make it. That is really uncommon, and the vet said in 18 years of practice, he's never seen anything like that. The only thing he could guess is that maybe the foal's head was turned back at the beginning of labor, and somehow the pressure of Pansy pushing with the foal's head there was enough to crack the baby's ribs. But by the time the vet checked her, the foal's head was forward, although kind of twisted a little in relation to the foal's feet, so the vet just had to turn her head or feet a little bit to line them all up straight.

That's kind of a bummer. The baby was a beautiful little red donkey jennet. Before he left the vet did a quick autopsy on the baby for me, and everything looked just fine except for her broken ribs.

I am very happy that Pansy has been recovering well. Within a few days she was back to her normal perky self. She is eating well, drinking well, lively and sometimes a little pest! She loves to play follow the leader with me when I invite her to join, and will walk, trot, and canter along beside me. So I know she can't be feeling too bad! We're still working on getting her udder to dry up the rest of the way, but I'm sure that will come with time. I've put Elsie back in with Pansy so she has company and a playmate to do things with. You can watch them on my webcam during the day.

From all I have hear, most of the time foaling goes quite well, but it is always good to be prepared incase you do run into problems. To the best of my knowledge we did everything right that we could have for Pansy and her baby, but it just wasn't meant to be this time.

If you have jennets or mares due to foal, I highly recommend doing all you can to prepare ahead of time. Read up on what to expect in a normal foaling, and what problems you might potentially run into. Talk to your vet ahead of time, and ask him any questions you might have. Have a vet who will be available any time of the day or night to come out and help if you need him, and have his phone number in a handy place.

Prepare a foaling kit with the basic supplies you would like to have on hand. It doesn't have to be fancy. I just bought a Rubbermaid box, and put in a few towels, navel dip, foaling information papers, a halter, flashlights (several rechargeable ones work well), and a few handy things like that. It's also nice to have a cell phone incase you need it, and you might like to add a camera too.

As your jennet or mare gets close to foaling, check on her frequently throughout the day and night. The last few days before Pansy foaled, I was going out every hour or so during the night to check on her. It is also very helpful if you can set up a monitoring camera where you can watch your expectant momma from your house, and better yet if you can hook it up to the Internet so you can watch it while you are at work or have friends help you foal watch. I just started another article series with information about how to set up a barn camera and hook it up to Internet.

When your mare or jennet goes into labor watch her from a discreet place. It is better that she not know you are there and that you not disturb her so she doesn't stop labor. They say that foals should normally be delivered within 30 minutes from the time water breaks. The foal should stand within 1 hour of being born, should nurse within 2 hours after birth, and the mother should pass the placenta within 3 hours. If your mom and baby don't meet these timeframes you should call your vet so that he can assist where needed.

In my case even with the best of care, Pansy's foal didn't make it. Usually most foals are born healthy and strong, and while some may need a little assistance, most do well in the long run. But occasionally you will lose a few.

I am currently planning to breed Pansy back later on to the same jack for another baby. And hopefully that one will have better luck!

Take good care of your expectant moms, and enjoy your babies while they are little!

Kristie Jorgensen

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Posted by Kristie Jorgensen at June 29, 2005 10:52 PM


that is very sad , and it sure was not if you were not doing all you could to watch mom .
Good reminder to let people know to watch out . I am looking for a young Mammoth Jackstock , that I can breed and educate people around here with , about the breed . I like donkeys better than horses .

Posted by: Holly Wilson at July 20, 2005 12:49 PM