Insanity: The price of a healthy foal?

Kiowa pictured heavy in foal. I'm not sure who is more anxious for her to delivery her foal — her or me.

By Kim Lemmon

Make sure you read the Horse Sense section in the May issue of Ohio’s Country Journal. It provides the details of what started my road to insanity — well at least the details about my most recent visit there.

The short version of the story is that one of my miniature mares foaled at a very early and unexpected time. The due dates the seller had given me for this mare were wildly miscalculated. I was still on high foal alert in case the mare needed help, but regardless she delivered a dead foal. Afterward, she suffered from a prolapsed horn in her uterus.

This particular mare has recovered, but the delivery of a dead foal, and the mare’s ill health after foaling, led me to develop a new course of action to protect my second bred miniature mare. Since I was already on a fairly high level of alert before the incident with the first mare, my need to ramp up my inspection and monitoring skills to ensure the health of my second mare and foal is slowly leading me down a path to insanity.

Raising livestock is a choice. I made the choice to buy some bred mares so I believe it is my duty to give them the best care possible. I really like livestock of almost all kinds so I have probably always been a little overzealous when it comes to caring for them.

I was already prepared for a short-term period of sleepless nights and more manual labor during the short period when the mares where due to ensure healthy mares and foals and clean stalls for foaling, but with only one chance left for a healthy foal this year, my determination to make sure it is a live and healthy foal has increased.  Some would say my efforts have increased to an unnecessary level, but I’m not taking any chances due to the lack of consistency in foaling dates in miniature mares.

Here are the facts. Apparently miniature mares are even more unpredictable when it comes to foaling than full-size horses. The normal gestation period of a horse is 320 to 362 days. Miniature mares are a different story.

A friend’s mare recently foaled at day 313. This mare traditionally foals at day 314. Many mini horse breeders report that many miniature mares foal much earlier than their full size counterparts. These breeders recommend inspection and monitoring of some sort for all miniature mares that are more then 300 days pregnant.

Last year, Kiowa, the mare still expecting a foal, foaled at day 338. Her former owner told me that she expects her to foal a little earlier now that she is an experienced mother and knows what to do.

As I write this blog, I’m staring down day 325. The foaling camera has been on at night for two weeks. I’ve been home with the mare constantly for the last five days, and I’m committed to being home with her until she foals. I could be house bound for a total of 15 or more days.

What does all this constant monitoring and hermit-like life lead to? Hopefully a healthy foal. I’m kind of a homebody anyway, but even I get tired of confinement after a few days. However, the sleep deprivation is far worse.

I’m one of those people that require at least a full eight horse of sleep every night. The day the first mare lost her foal, I wasn’t expecting a foal and the mare was left unmonitored for less than hour. Due to the devastating affects that one hour had on my plans for a healthy foal crop, I constantly check the barn camera at night to make sure the mare is fine. This constant checking makes for many restless nights of sleep.

Normally all of this monitoring and checking would be filled with joy and anticipation, but due to the death of my first foal this year, the lack of sleep is mostly filled with anxiety and intestinal distress.

Sometimes I think folks who don’t raise livestock think I’m losing my mind and over monitoring the entire situation. But for me, I made a choice to have the horses and the foals, and I am determined to finish the job this year. Next year, I plan to try to make sure the process goes more smoothly by having more exact breeding dates on all of my mares.

Hopefully, next foaling season will be filled with only hope, joy and anticipation. As for this year, I’m ready to have the birth over with so I can get some sleep and put the Pepto-Bismol back in the cabinet.

I’m sure all folks who raise livestock on some level can relate to the mixture of joy and stress. Who knew that raising livestock could lead to insanity?

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