Despite having nearly 13 years of horse experience (riding, training, showing, caring for, etc.), I had never witnessed a foal being born.
Sure, I’d seen plenty of videos on it, and even been the first human contact for a few foals – thanks to some sneaky broodmares – but actually being present for a foaling or helping deliver a foal? Nope, never.
Until this year.
Armed with a plethora of advice from Dr. Lillard, our longtime trusted Countryside Veterinarian Services vet, I was determined to witness and assist the birth of our first foal this year, especially because it would be my foal. My first foal, and the first foal for this mare too. There was no way in heck I was missing it, so I spent nearly two weeks sleeping in the stall next door during the coldest snap of our East TN winter.
Thank goodness for heated blankets, electric kettles, online classes and internet at the barn.
The night of February 25-26, 2021, after 12 days of living in a stall, I pulled my first all-nighter to help bring our first foal of the year and my next forever partner into the world.
It was a glorious experience.
Everything went smoothly and according to everything I had read concerning a good, normal foaling. As some would put it, it was a textbook birth in every way.
The mare, April, hit all of her marks in record time: 1st stage labor (pre-water breaking) was less than four hours, 2nd stage labor (birth) took 10 minutes, 3rd stage labor (expelling placenta) took less than 15 minutes.
The foal, Arty, hit all of his milestones too: on his feet within an hour, nursing within 2 hours, and passing meconium (the first poo) by three hours.
Vet check the next day went fantastic, with both mare and foal getting a clean bill of health and most importantly discovering that Arty’s IgG levels were sitting at 1250 mg/dl, well above the required 800 mg/dl.
(IgG stands for immunoglobulin G, transferred from the mare’s milk during the first 24 hours of antibody-rich milk, known as colostrum, that helps act as/jump start foals’ immune systems until they develop their own. Without this passive transfer of important antibodies, foals are at risk of succumbing to various diseases, some of which are fatal. If levels are lower than 800 mg/dl at 24 hours, plasma transfusions are often required to provide those necessary antibodies as foals are unable to absorb them via their gastrointestinal tract.)
More details (and the birth itself) are discussed in the vlog above. Some details/explanation didn’t quite fit time-wise in the vlog, so they were further explained here. Don’t fret – it’s not graphic or bloody in the least!
*It is worth noting that it’s something real special when your usually stoic vet looks at you, smiles, and says,”He’s perfect.”