Once the foal is born, the placenta still must come. "It should come within six hours. We advise to call the vet if the placenta has not come after three hours. At that point it is still possible to use medication to stimulate the uterus to contract, and then the placenta often will come off naturally. If the placenta has not come out after six hours or more, it usually has to be removed manually. The mare will then have to be flushed for several days to prevent uterine infection. This is quite an intensive therapy and not conducive to fertility in the future.

"Shortly after delivery, you usually see that the placenta hangs out of the mare and comes out little by little. "At a certain moment it can hang completely on the ground. It is then advisable to make knots in the membranes or to tie the placenta with a rope to the tail so that the mare does not stand on it. This causes unwanted traction to it and makes checking the placenta for completeness harder. It is very important that this check is done, because if part of the placenta remains in the mare, it can cause the mare to become seriously ill. In some cases, this can even have a fatal outcome or cause permanent disability of the mare." It is also important to check if the mare has not ruptured. This can especially happen when a mare has a Caslick which wasn’t opened up in time. This can cause serious damage to the birth process and even result in a cloaca, which is a connection between anus and vagina.

After the birth, the mare may lie down for 10 minutes, but she should not become less alert, feel cold or develop pale mucous membranes. If this is the case, have her checked by a vet. These symptoms may indicate bleeding in the uterine wall or the suspension ligaments." Due to the shrinking of the uterus and the associated contractions, the mare may show some mild colic symptoms in the first hours after delivery. "By light colic we mean scratching, lying down and standing up again a few times, but not rolling around in the stable. Normally, these after-effects are not that severe. Within three hours after the placenta has come off, the mare should clearly become calmer.

Another point of aftercare concerns the foal's navel. "Preferably it should be disinfected immediately after birth. This may be repeated a few times on the first day. The navel is very vulnerable and is a perfect place for bacteria to enter the foal. It is therefore important to keep a close eye on the navel. It should not become inflamed or leak blood or urine. Small navel ruptures (one to two fingertips wide) occur regularly and are usually not very harmful. Occasionally, intestines become trapped in the rupture, which can be accompanied by colic. "If the fracture port does not close by itself, surgery will be necessary. This is usually done when the foal is weaned off.

Next week, we will tell you more about the last phase: the foal’s first day!

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The KWPN (Studbook of the Royal Dutch Sport Horse) is a Netherlands-based organization specializing in the breeding of jumpers, dressage horses, harness horses, and Gelder horses.

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