Foaling Season... "It's a Filly!"

Just before dawn, on this cold crisp January morning. The farm is peaceful, with heavy frost on the ground. As we enter the barn, the horses tart nickering for breakfast. We throw down the hay and fill the wheel barrow with grain. After feeding and mucking stalls, we fill the water buckets. As we stroll down the aisle, we come to the large double empty foaling stall. We bed the stall heavy with sweet smelling straw and hang water buckets, in anticipation of our long-awaited foal. 

Our mare, Carol Ann, was bred March 13, 2018 to a fine stallion and the expected due date is February 7, 2019 (gestation can run 331 to 346 days on average). We walk to the field to check the mares. Upon inspection of Carol Ann, it is decided to bring her to the barn as her milk bag is starting to form. She strolls along the frozen fields and walks with us to the big foaling stall. After shutting the stall door, the mare frets as she now misses her pasture girlfriends. When we return, several hours later, she has destroyed our hard work by moving the straw to one side of the stall. She has settled down and not as anxious as when we first brought her up. We clean her stall and place more straw to cushion her big bulging belly. After feeding it's time to wait and watch for more signs of imminent foaling as each day passes. 

February 7 comes and goes and no foal yet. Her milk bag is much larger by the 12th and it's now time for serious foal watching 24/7. By the third day, we are tired and grouchy from lack of sleep and shaky from an abundance of coffee. Donuts, cookies, and candy bars are our main nourishment. All supplies ready sitting next to the stall. Towels, fleet enemas, betadine, knife, scissors, and frozen colostrum in the nearby freezer in the event it is needed. Each morning and evening we clean her stall and place fresh straw. Her consumption of hay is enormous, and she appears bigger each passing hour. 

My mind wanders to all the unforeseen issues that can happen when a mare foals. A hard delivery requiring pulling the foal, a red bag requiring fast action and possibly dummy foal, an artery rupture in the mare, requiring a nurse mare for foal, as the foal's mother passes on. I shudder to think of the scenarios that have happened to all of us horse people at one time or another. The scenarios are endless, and I now pray for a normal delivery and healthy foal. 

It's now the 13th and our mare is waxing, and her teats are buttoned, resembling a baby bottle. We settle down on a bale of straw in the dimly lit stall next to the foaling stall and wait. At 3 am, in that quiet cover of darkness we heard Carol Ann slump to the straw laden floor. Then a rush of what sounded like a waterfall came suddenly and I knew it was time. I quietly entered her stall and saw the telltale white bubble signifying impending birth. First the two feet emerged and then the head appeared during a strong contraction. I removed the slippery bag from the foals face and nose and with just a couple more contractions a beautiful wet and slippery bay foal emerged unto the thick straw bed. We quietly and quickly rubbed the foal with towels and placed betadine in a cup and cleansed the navel. The mare lay still and was resting and then suddenly raised her head and licked her foal and nickered. The mare then sat upright, and we placed hay in front of her. She ate hay and licked her new foal, and then stood. The placenta was hanging, and I now tied it up to avoid her stepping on it. Within minutes the placenta dropped to the floor and we placed it outside the stall and examined it for any irregularities. None were found and it was now that the foal tried standing on its wobbly legs. It's a filly, we observed with great delight. She struggles and falls several times before finally making it up on all fours. Unsteady, she tries taking those first few steps to find and suckle her dam. She nudges the dam's sides, legs, tail, and then finally finding the milk. We watch carefully to make absolutely sure she is getting colostrum. We see her swallow, and when she's finished, we see the telltale white milk on her mouth. We now administer the fleet enema so the foal will pass meconium. We watch for another three hours to assure the foal is getting up and nursing approximately every 20 to 30 minutes. 

It's now nearly 7 am as we leave the barn, into the morning light, tired, and content with the miracle of this birth. Pleased that it was a normal delivery and mare and foal are doing well. The vet will arrive after the foal is over 12 hours old to check on the foal. But for now, we want real food, maybe bacon and eggs, and a good hot shower. Of course, we check on both mare and foal throughout the day and are pleased with our adorable little filly. 

Tonight, we sleep in our own bed (which are dearly missed), and dream of the next foal! 

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