Breeders of beautiful Miniature Horses with Action!
Quality Breeding ~ Quality Transport
Maryann & Brianna Cerullo
5643 SW Minson Rd.
Powell Butte, OR 97753
preface this article with the comment that Maryann and
Larry are just
sharing their experience as breeders here. We have
helped in foaling out hundreds of mares. We are NOT
Things can and will go wrong during a foaling which we
don't cover in
this article. Be sure you are armed with KNOWLEDGE
and the phone
number(s) of your veterinarian before you attempt to
help a miniature
mare foal. Again, things can and do go wrong and
your time frame
to save the mare and the foal is very short. Most
foalings are "normal"
and nature has built our mares to do this right but
spaces are small
and the foal can get caught up in some tiny nook or
cranny inside the
MeeToo is an eighteen year old mare. She was the first miniature Maryann and I bought and has produced many incredible babies for us.
Meetoo was given a couple of years off from baby making by Maryann. Last year, she obviously was unhappy because she wanted a foal. Broodmares are like that and not complete without a baby. So, with our new breeding program in mind, we bred Meetoo to A Classic Touch Poco de Echo in June of 2007.
This is a chronicle of this year's foal, Miniv Pocos Senorita. A filly born around midnight on the 23rd of May, 2008. I did miss the first couple of minutes--when Meetoo went down and first started pushing but I can take it from there. When a horse goes down to foal, their legs go straight out, they groan and start heaving their muscles to push out the baby who is already in the birth canal. In a normal delivery, The amniotic sac breaks and fluid gushes out, then the feet come first, one after another and finally the head. This is a normal presentation.
In the image below, you can see that Maryann has a foot in her hand. She has already broken the amniotic sac (which encloses the foal while it is in the uterus). Both legs are out and the head. Once the head is out, the foaling is relatively easy for the mare.
We try to be present for every birth and we are very proactive. Things like breaking the amniotic sac just helps jump start the foal's life.
Once the feet are out, Maryann tends to pull out and down on them to help the mares along. She does this while the mare is pushing. In nature, this is done normally and by the tremendous pushing the mare can do with her muscles. Most of the foal is out of the mare in this photo. Maryann coincides her pulling with the mare's contractions.
Senorita is nearly totally born in this photo. Maryann is helping her hind legs out of the vulva.
You can see all the fluid and blood on the ground.and the sheet--which we use to give the foal a "cleanish place" to lie as it's being born.
We immediately towel off the new baby to help it dry...they can't regulate their temperature whatsoever when they are newborn. It's amazing more don't die of exposure--big horses or minis.
As soon as the foal starts to try to get up or the mother stands, the umbilical cord breaks. When it does, we douse the navel stump with mild iodine to help it dry out and prevent infection from entering the open conduit of the umbilical stump. Some advice tells us to use a shot glass or a film cannister. We find it easiest to use a squirt bottle.
We continue the drying process which is also the beginning of imprinting the baby--helping it know that humans are okay and we're going to ask it to do things and it is okay.
After the foal is just a few minutes old, it will try to stand. Usually this is a pretty frustrating process...those legs have been curled up for 11 months! Complicating this is a spongy covering over the hoof called the "milk toe". It is a protective covering for the hard hoof so the foal doesn't hurt the mother or its amniotic sac while it is still in the uterus. Don't bother trying to peel it off, as the foal starts to move around and as the milk toe begins to dry, it falls off by itself.
About this time, the dam (mother) will start licking some of the amniotic fluid off the foal. This is her way of beginning the imprinting process with her baby and also is a safety factor for the foal. In the wild, amniotic fluid, which is VERY pungent, will attract predators.
With the foal standing, we give it a shot to provide a necessary mineral which is missing from our soil; most of the hay and grain we feed doesn't have it. The mineral, selenium, helps strengthen the legs among other things. We also give the mother pain killer for contractions occuring in her body and some worming medicine which will make her manure worm free---the babies usually at least sample the manure and it wouldn't be good to introduce worms or worm eggs into the foal. They can't be wormed for several months.
The foal, after successfully standing, heads for the body where it instinctively knows it will get nutrition. We usually intervene here and milk some colostrum out of the mare and feed it to the foal. That way, we know it has two ounces of the pint it HAS to have. It also warms the foal and gives it strength...a sort of "jump-start" if you will.
Foals are one of the few of Nature's creatures who are born with NO defenses against anything--both predatorial and inside their bodies. They have NO antibodies whatsoever when they are first born and the colostrum provides antibodies the mother has for about the first 24 hours of life to the baby--enough to protect them and help them develop antibodies of their own.
By now the mare is standing. Hanging from her is the umbilical cord and the "afterbirth" containing the sack the foal was in as well as the placenta or at least a part of it. It is important to let the entire afterbirth come out of the mare naturally. If you pull on it, a piece may break off and remain inside the mare and will be a source of serious infection.
This is visible in the photo above (of an earlier mare--missed this one on MeeToo). It takes a while for this to fully come out of the mare. Generally, the mare will expel it with after birth contractions...but it can take a half hour or more. We often will tie a knot in the afterbirth with the afterbirth. This helps gravity some pull the placenta out and also keeps the mare from accidentally stepping on it and pulling it out prematurely.
When it falls, we look at the placenta to be sure all of it has come out, that there are no irregularities and then throw it away. Your vet can tell an awful lot about the in-utero health of the foal by looking at the placenta. Be sure to save it in a plastic bag and away from predators, dogs or cats until your vet can see it.
I laid Senorita's out. It is inside out---you can see the two horns and the one on the right was where the foal lived during its life inside its dam. The white is the amniotic sack that protected the foal while it was in utero. The red are blood vessels which are connected (sort of) to the umbillicus to provide nutrition for the foal while it was incubating in its mother.
Once the afterbirth is out of the mare and we've vaccinated, wormed, fed Mom and the baby--we step out of the stall and allow the mare and foal get to know each other.
We are waiting for the foal to find the nipples on its mother--a ponderous, tenuous process--they have to go through contortions to find the teats. After it has eaten, we wait for it to pass its first meconium--usually a build up of waste in the foal's body during the time it is in utero. Sometimes we need to help it along with an enema.
With some luck, we get to go to bed--after around three hours or so -- and wake up to something like this:
Even when we are in bed, the camera monitoring the stall is on and both Maryann and Larry will wake up and check the foal. Much can still go wrong but in this case, we had a successful, uneventful foaling.
Welcome to the world, Senorita