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Slaughterfoaling_graphic_norman.jpgs KY:  At Genesis TWH / CarMil Mares we have wonderful mares by World Champion or World Grand Champion Tennessee Walking Horse sires and in foal to the same caliber sires. We have a passion for our mares and a large investment as well so take the process seriously! First thing on our list is making sure our veterinarian is on hand, knows imminent foaling is in sight, and this checklist is followed. Then we plug in our foaling camera and place the Foal Alert halter on the mare and wait....wait...wait!

Foaling your horse is a labor of love and you never know if it will be a filly or stud colt let alone what color and markings will be evident in your new foal. It pays to be aware of the problems that may occur and to be ready as you do not have alot of time between stages of labor.

LABOUR is divided up into three stages.  Stage One your TWH Fetus Begins Positioning and Water Breaks. Stage Two: Foal Forefeet first to appear, Head appears soon after, Nearly there, Foal is born. Stage Three is Mare licking newborn foal. Do Not Interrupt!  Unless the mare has a problem foaling you should stay out of the way and allow the mare and foal to bond so that the foal suckles easily and is relaxed. Entering the stall also makes your mare nervous.

Stage One During this first stage the fetus begins active participation in positioning itself for delivery. The typical position of the fetus during the latter part of pregnancy is reclining on its back. The head and forelimbs are closer to the pelvic area in the great majority of cases, resulting in anterior presentation for delivery. Occasionally the hind limbs are closer, resulting in posterior presentation. In the anterior situation, as the uterus begins to contract, the fetus reaches up and back, with both head and forelegs pointing toward the pelvic canal. This is a very important function in aligning for delivery, and failure to do so can result in a difficult birth, often a problem with abnormal, weak, or dead fetuses.

Also during the first stage, the pressure of the uterus contracting against the fetus and the fluids start the cervix dilating. By now, the mare might be quite restless, maybe getting down and up and sweating a bit. If she's in an environment that doesn't really suit her, she might resist lying down until the very beginning of second stage labour.

Rupture of the outer membranes (allantochorion) occurs as the pressure from contractions forces the fluids out through the membrane. Normally this rupture occurs right at the spot where the membranes lie over the cervix (cervical star).

Stage Two The passing of these first fluids (allantoic fluids) to the outside, or "breaking water," marks the official start of the second stage of labour. At that point, the mare cannot turn back, and begins vigorous abdominal pressing to supplement the uterine contractions. In most cases she is lying on her side during this phase. The last of the allantoic fluid (usual total volume up to five gallons) is expelled during these abdominal presses.


As the fetus is moved back into the pelvic canal, it begins to rotate so that its head, then neck, and finally back are lined up with the top of the pelvis. This position ifoaling_baby_presents.JPGs ideal for delivery. Now the inner set of membranes (amnion) becomes visible at the vulva. These membranes are milky white to bluish white in color and look like a baloon. It is pushed to the outside by the forefeet, one slightly in front of the other.

With each successive push, the fetus is propelled farther through the birth canal. About the time the head begins to clear the mare, the intensity of abdominal pressing increases dramatically because the shoulders are passing through the birth canal. DO NOT Help the mare unless she presents a problem. Also DO NOT break the sack until the baby is free of the mare.  In her labor the head can withdraw back into the mare as she gathers energy to push and a broken sack at this time could mean your foal will smother.  This is also the most difficult stage of the birth process. The fact that one foreleg is advanced over the other results in the shoulders coming through in a staggered fashion as well. Finally with one or two heavy presses, the hips clear the pelvis and the foal moves out of the mare, usufoal_head_presents_sack_breaks.jpgally about to the level of its hocks. 

The second stage of labor is completed when the foal is clear of the mare. From the breaking of water to the completed delivery, elapsed time is about 15 minutes or less. If the waters break and after 15 minutes nothing happens or if the foal is not presented properly, a vet must be called. Occasionally the mare will need assistance if the foal is large or you think she appears to be struggling. To assist hold the front legs above the fetlock joints and as she pushes you pull gently but firmly towards the mare’s hocks. The amnion is sometimes still intact and over the foal's head when delivery is completed. Vigorous early head movements should cause the membrane to tear. Newborn healthy foals are strong and react quickly to external stimuli. They are urgently motivated to begin breathing. It is extremely rare, therefore, for the amnion to remain intact long enough to cause a problem, but if it does occur simply tear away the membrane from the nose and clear the nostrils and mouth.  Most mares, if undisturbed, will relax and rest at this point. The exertion has been telling. During this pause, the umbilical cord usually is still attached to the foal, which lies on his side, rolling up on his sternum to make the job of breathing easier. In totally unassisted foaling, the cord breaks either when the mare gets up, or when the foal begins vigorous movement and tries to stand. Once the cord has broken stage_two_d.jpgtreat the stump with either purple spray or iodine.

The mare and foal should then be left alone to bond, for the foal to stand, pass its meconium and finally drink (which can take up to three hours). It is important for the foal to drink as soon as possible so that it gets the mares first milk (colostrum) which contain antibodies which are vital to protect the foal against disease. A vigorous, healthy foal will struggle to his feet within an hour and will find his way to begin nursing soon thereafter. Cooperative and experienced mares are helpful during this period by moving to positions that are helpful to the foal, and maneuvering him into the correct position.

Stage Three Thestage_three.jpg mare then will experience the third stage of the labour process, delivery of the placenta or cleansing. This is accomplished by further uterine contractions to squeeze the placenta out through the birth canal. The time for this passage varies, with a normal upper limit at two to three hours. If the mare shows no signs of cleansing after about six hours it is advisable to call the vet. Once the mare has cleansed check the afterbirth is intact. Only one tear should be present, if another piece is torn or a bit missing call your vet the next morning. It is important no pieces are retained as this can lead to infection.


In the early stages of moving the placenta, there usually will be some degree of abdominal pain from the contracting uterus. This is manifested in colic symptoms, with the most severe being repeated lying down, getting up, and rolling. Some additional sweating is normal as well. In the typical normal case, passage of the membranes will coincide with the foal's nursing, receiving antibodies through colostrum, and gaining strength and coordination. In other words, from the perspective of non-domesticated horses, they are ready to travel or to escape predators.
 

FOALING CHECKLIST

Vaccinate your mare 4-6 weeks prior to foaling date to maximize protection for the foal (check with your vet to see what vaccinations are required in your area.

Supplies for foaling day:

  • Clean towels

  • Surgical gloves

  • Iodine or Nolvasan to disinfect the umbilical cord

  • Clean cotton shoelace or shoe string to tie off umbilical cord

  • Nursing bottle to collect colostrum in case mare won't let foal nurse

  • Supplies for giving an enema (either Fleet enema or soft rubber catheter and 60 ml syringe with warm soapy water)

  • Fully charged cell phone with vet's phone number stored

  • Syringe with proper dosage of Oxytocin (from your vet)

  • Two syringes with tetanus anti toxin

Within 30 - 40 seconds after the foal's front legs and chest leave the birth canal, the sac that surrounds him should break and he should begin breathing. If not, gently break the sac and clear it from his nostrils, but do NOT break the sac until his chest is out, because if he slips back in with a broken sac, he can drown.  Hold his head upright and rub vigorously, and if needed, breathe into one nostril while holding the other closed.

The mare will usually stand within 10 minutes of delivering, and at that time, the umbilical cord should break a few inches out from the foal's body. It will bleed, but the bleeding should not last more than a couple of minutes. If it won't stop bleeding, tie it off with the shoelace for a few hours.  After it coagulates, dip the stump into a Nolvasan disinfectant diluted to a sky blue color. You can use iodine if you don't have Nolvasan, but it can irritate the skin. Repeat the disinfection procedure two or three times daily for the first 72 hours.

The foal should get to his feet within an hour or so and be nursing soon. If the foal has not nursed within two hours, you may need to help him -- lift by the stifles, tail and chest instead of his belly. Make sure you see him swallowing. If he won't nurse within two hours, you may consider milking the mare yourself and feeding it to the foal with the bottle. This can be done with a basic breast pump and baby bottles which you can pick up at any baby section for less than $20.  I've used the baby bottles with the bag inserts so that I can force the milk easily into the mouth of the foal. The basic hand pump breast pump is not too intrusive or painful for the mare.  

Watch for the foal to have his first bowel movement -- he will pass a black, tar-like feces called meconium. If he strains and is unable to pass, you should give him an enema -- many foals have suffered life-threatening colic from constipation at birth. At Genesis TWH we use an over the counter saline enema on the foal just after birth to facilitate the passing of the meconium and spray the umbilical cord with iodine to cleanse and seal it. 

If the mare has not passed her placenta, try to tie it in a bundle that hangs and keeps her from stepping on it. It is critical that she passes it within 3 hours, because retained placenta will cause her to go septic and/or cause her to founder. You can pull gently downward with a soft tug IF the mare shows no signs of passing the placenta after 2 hours, but do not force it if it is not giving -- you could tear her uterus. Do not wait longer than 4 hours to initiate treatmeant -- give her an injection of oxytocin to cause contractions to help her expel the placenta. EXAMINE the placenta to see if all is there after she passes it. Especially if you have had to assist her. Give both mare and foal tetanus anti-toxin within 24 hours of foaling.

When do you need to intervene at foaling?   

  • After 10 min of strenuous labor and no sign of the fetus perform an examination. 
  • If the forefeet and muzzle are in the canal, allow the mare to continue. 
  • After strenuous contractions for another 10 min, assist delivery. 
  • The amnion, which is a white membrane, should protrude from the vulva within 5 min of rupture of the chorio-allantois. 
  • If a red velvety membrane (the chorio-allantois) is seen at the vulva, a true emergency exists.  This is termed 'red bag'.
  • Unfortunately, if intervention is needed, oftentimes the foal will be dead. 
  • Assistance must be given rapidly if the foal is to be saved. 
  • A weak or dead foal cannot assist in the process of parturition.

Your veterinarian is a phone call away. I make sure my vet is aware when imminent birth is within 3-5 days based on breeding dates. I also make sure he has examined all my mares before I do need him in an emergency situation so he is familiar with the farm, my mares, and my needs. 

These are simply foaling tips from our experience of having foals at Genesis Tennessee Walking Horse farm and information we have gathered over the years. We hope it helps you however, always consult a vet and have him on speed dial for any questions at the time of foaling. Keep your mares healthy and have the vet examine them about 60 days out when you take them off any pasture with fescue on it. Typically we know it is time for what I call immiment birth when the mare presents unusual behavior and keep a foaling camera on our mares for the last 30 days minimum at night. This year we have added a Foal Alert system that pages us if she lays down flat and I highly recommend both systems so that you can get some sleep. Having foals is a beautiful yet time consuming job and each one is special we want a live foal every time as a result which leaves only registering your Tennessee Walking Horse foal with the TWHBEA and if born in Kentucky with the Kentucky Walking Horse Breeders Incentive Fund (KWHBIF).

Marion M Miller, Genesis Tennessee Walking Horses located in Slaughters Kentucky. We would love to help you find the perfect world champion bred mare for your farm. 

Genesis Tennessee Walking Horse Farm in Slaughters Kentucky specializes in mares by world champion sires with common sense, wonderful temperaments, and athletic ability who are a true pleasure to work with. We have horses in 26 states now and 2 overseas with a reputation for excellence. We guarantee our horses to be sound and as described. I'd love the opportunity to talk to you about our ladies. - Marion Miller (270) 339-4176 | Marion@genesistwh.com | Contact Us

We do not trade horses as our mares nor do we accept more than the asking price for the horse and pay the buyers costs for transportation costs for them. We run a fair and reputable business and I invite you to look at our Sold Horses - Testimonials.

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