Miniature Ventures
Breeders of beautiful Miniature Horses with Action!
Quality Breeding  ~  Quality Transport

Larry, Maryann & Brianna Cerullo
5643 SW Minson Rd.
Powell Butte, OR 97753
Phone: 541-410-6222

E-mail: miniv@coinet.com


Simple Dystocias -difficult births


image from ScottCreek.com

Miniature horses are often compared to small dog breeds when it comes to birthing. Both go through the same process as their larger counterparts, but have smaller spaces to work with.  Because of this, both should have someone standing by to assist in case of a problem.

This page is only intending to cover some easily correctible "hook-ups", not serious dystocias. The complicated ones require a vet's intervention and often end up with the foal not surviving.  And, without a vet becoming involved, the mare's life is at risk. WE are NOT veterinarians and the situations described are only from our personal experiences. It is high recommended that you consult a veterinarian about the possibility of dystocia in your horse BEFORE she is ready to foal.

When the mare goes down in labor with hard contractions, paying attention to the time is important. Normally her water will gush out, then the white bubble will begin to emerge in a matter of minutes.  Once the mare's fluid is present, time is of the essence.  There is about a twenty minute period where a live birth can happen, much longer than that, the chance of the foal surviving diminishes and the life of the mare could be compormised.

If the mare is in hard labor and the water doesn't break, something is blocking the opening.  This will be discussed in another article (Red Bag or Placenta Previa).  This brief article is concerned with a mare who is in heavy labor and has broken and passed the amniotic fluid.  This is called a dystocia, or in other words, a problem giving birth.

If the white bubble (the birth sac) does NOT emerge within five minutes, we step in and put a hand up just inside the mare. If the feet and nose are not felt, we become proactive.  One of us will disinfect a hand and forearm, lubricate well (we use novalube, a gelled nolvansan solution)  to go up inside the mare for further investigation. Remember, if you need to do this, you are invading a space which is sterile and anything you bring inside the mare on your hand/glove could become a problem for the mare.

It is at this point, if there are two of us OR if the one person has time, we make a quick phone call to the veterinarian to let him know there may be a problem. There have been a couple of occasions in the past where he has actually been able to give us verbal instructions by phone.

The most common dystocias and corrections easily made are what we call "hook-ups".  In other words, either the foal's nose or a hoof is hung up on the mare's pelvic rim. The mare will continue pushing instinctively and the foal may or may not unhook from the shear force.  If the foal unhooks on its own, there is the risk of internal tearing to the mare, so it is vital to assist quickly.  With a bit of manipulation up inside, and sometimes this requires us to push the foal back up to make room to maneuver, the nose or hoof will "pop" free and the birth will continue normally. We find we have to do this type of correction once or twice a year during foaling season. 

Another slightly more complicated correction, but still relatively easily done is when the foal's legs are tucked under itself instead of extending straight out under its head. Fortunately, this is a more rare situation than the one described above.  It requires a bit more manipulation and also means pushing the foal back up from where it came from.  Once the foal is pushed back enough, it is easier to take hold of a leg, one at a time, and bring each of them forward so they are in the proper "diving" position.  What makes it difficult is trying to maneuver as much as possible BETWEEN the mare's contractions.  Once this is accomplished, the birth will proceed quickly.

Both these situations are relatively simple to fix and the result is a miraculous birth.  The malposition of the foal has more to do with its placement in the birth canal than anything else.  Study the diagram above and see how many places close to the vulva where a hoof or a nose can get "hooked-up". 

A mare's contraction are extremely strong and remember, if your hand or wrist are in the mare during one, it will be painful to you.  The mare will hardly notice you are there.

There are many other problem birthing positions or dystocias which are statistically rare, but we urge people to read up on and discuss them with their vet . They DO happen and by being proactive with an early check of the presentation of the foal's nose and feet as described above, a person can have their veterinarian on the way OR have their mare loaded on a trailer to the Clinic before serious damage has occurred to the mare.

While reading up on the more rare birthing problems, we at Miniature Ventures, highly recommend an article covering the subject of "Breech Birth". It can be found on the Scott Creek Farm website.