Michael Byers

Managing Your Pregnant Mare and Her Foal

As the day approaches for your mare to give birth to her foal, preparations should be made to create a warm and healthy environment. About 30 days prior to foaling, introduce the mare to the stall where she will foal, this allows her to produce protective antibodies against the microorganisms in the environment. She will then be able to pass these antibodies on to her foal in the colostrum.

Contacting your veterinarian a few days before your mare is expected to foal is advisable. A few signs that your mare is ready to foal include the following:

  • Enlarging of udder with “waxed beads??? of colostrum.
  • Frequent urination.
  • Swelling and relaxing of the vulva.
  • Relaxed croup muscles, producing a sunken appearance over the hips.
  • Mare can become restless and start to sweat.

Foaling The Mare

In stage one, the mare is restless. This may continue for 12 to 24 hours. During this period, the foetus is positioned for delivery and the cervix is dilated. The water bag ruptures at this stage which lubricates the birth canal and aides in delivery of the foal.

Stage two, the actual birth or hard labour. It is usually rapid, with most foals born in 20 to 30 minutes. Normally the foal’s front feet appear first, with heels pointed down toward the mare’s hocks. The foal’s hind feet usually remain in the mare 5 to 15 minutes after foaling, while the foal and mare lie resting. In a normal delivery, the foal’s nose should be lying on or about the knees. One front leg usually is slightly forward of the other, speeding the foal’s movement through the birth canal. After the head exits the vulva, you may see a clear, transparent membrane, which covers the legs and head. If this membrane does not rupture and free the foal’s head, open it and free the head so the foal can breathe. It’s best not to disturb them while the umbilical cord is still connected.

Premature breaking of the umbilical cord by the mare, foal, or human intervention may result in a loss of very important fetal blood supply.

In stage three, the uterus shrinks and the placenta (afterbirth) is expelled normally without assistance. Never try to remove the placenta. If the placenta is still attached after 2 hours, call your veterinarian because it may result in a medical emergency.

After Foaling Care

It’s advised to monitor the mare and foal closely for the first 72 hours as it’s important that the dam and foal bond. It’s advisable to attend the foaling of all maiden mares to ensure safe delivery and bonding. If the mare does not accept the foal readily, you may need to restrain the mare and ensure that the foal nurses.

Mares are usually thirsty after foaling. Offer your mare slightly warm water; but do not let her drink too much at once. She also may be hungry, a wet mash is advised.

Allow the mare and foal outside for exercise in a small paddock or pasture the day after birth. Exercise may aid the mare in expelling uterine discharge and speeds the return of the uterus to normal condition. If there is a foul-smelling uterine discharge, this indicates a uterine infection, which requires veterinary attention.

A swollen, hot udder is an indication the foal has not nursed or the mare may have mastitis. If the foal has not nursed within the first 2 hours, there may be a problem and veterinary advice should be sought. It is essential the foal gets this first milk, called colostrum, as it contains the antibodies the foal will need to protect it from infectious disease.

It is always a good idea to have the vet check over the mare and foal shortly after foaling. At this time, an injection can be given to the foal to protect it from Tetanus as well as, if necessary, an enema can be given if it has not yet passed the meconium (first faeces).

Foaling is an incredible experience that is worth careful consideration. Allowing your mare to breed requires a strong dedication to the process. By ensuring that you are able to provide your mare with the necessary elements for a healthy pregnancy, you can aid your mare in the foaling process and reduce the risk of complications.

Providing your mare with an adequate supply of vitamins and minerals, exercise, good quality health care and a safe environment will make the process easier and more enjoyable for both you and your mare.

IRAP Treatment

IRAP Treatment

Degenerative joint disease or osteoarthritis is a very common disease in both young and old horses. It presents as lameness, joint swelling and inflammation caused by cartilage damage and inflammation of the joint synovium.  This damage results in the release of inflammatory mediators, notably Interlukin-1 (IL-1) which in turn leads to further cartilage damage.

IRAP or Interleukin-1 Receptor Antagonist Protein prevents  IL-1 from binding to its receptor, stopping it from causing further inflammation and joint damage.

IRAP is produced by your horse’s blood cells and this treatment allows us to harnesses its anti-inflammatory protein and directs it to where it is needed.  We take approximately 50mls of your horse’s blood and transfer it into a container designed to stimulate the production of IRAP. The container is incubated for 24 hours while this process takes place.  The blood is then centrifuged to remove the cells leaving behind the now IRAP rich plasma.

This plasma is injected into the diseased joint every 7-10days for 3-5 treatments.

IRAP treatment is ideal for horses with mild to moderate radiographic signs of joint disease. It is not recommended in those with joint fragments but can be a useful tool to speed up recovery following their surgical removal and is considered low risk with few complications have been noted.

IRAP can be a great maintenance therapy for competition horses. It can reduce the need for steroid joint medications and can be used in conjunction with routine joint injections throughout the competitive season.

Please get in touch to discuss this treatment with us.


Digital Radiography – X-RAYS

Digital Radiography

At Shotter & Byers we are proud to own five top of the line wireless Eklin digital x-ray machines.  These allow us to take exceptional quality images that can be viewed instantly beside your horse without the constraints of wires.

We also have a wired system that displays the images instantly and a number of x-ray generators to be used with more traditional digital x-ray plates that are developed at our office.

This array of x-ray equipment allows us to provide you and your horse with an exceptional and fast veterinary diagnostic service.

Diagnosing Lameness

Diagnosing Lameness

All cases of lames are different but this post gives a general breakdown of some of the steps that may go into a lameness workup.

  1. Review of Medical History

Your vet will ask you questions about your horse and gather any information they may feel is relevant to the current situation.

  1. Visual Examination at Rest

By visually examining your horse at rest your vet can note its conformation, balance, weight-bearing and look for any signs of injury.

  1. Examination in Motion

Your vet may wish to see your horse in motion.  It may be required to be seen moving in a straight line, in circles, in hand or on the lunge. Occasionally your vet may also request to see your horse under saddle to get a more compete view of the presenting lameness.

  1. Hands on Exam

Your vet will palpate your horse, checking joints, bones, muscles, tendons and ligaments for any signs of injury or abnormality.

  1. Application of Hoof Testers

This piece of equipment allows your vet to apply pressure to areas of the foot to look for abnormal sensitivity or pain.

  1. Flexion Tests

Your vet will hold a leg in a flexed position for a period of time before evaluating your horse in motion once more. Your horses’ response to flexion tests can help identify the cause of the lameness.

  1. Nerve and Joint Blocks

Local anaesthetic can be injected into joints or around nerves to numb certain areas.  Blocking is a very useful diagnostic technique for identifying the location of a lameness.

  1. Imaging

Imaging is a further step towards identifying the cause of lameness. There are two main imaging techniques that can be brought to your horse, x-ray for bony structures and ultrasound for soft tissues. Other methods such as MRI, CT and scintigraphy are available but often require sending your horse to a hospital facility.

We offer state of the art digital x-rays which can be viewed instantly on a computer beside your horse and diagnostic ultrasound.



Most horses will suffer from colic at some point in their lives. There are a huge number of possible causes for colic and they vary greatly in severity however they can all share similar symptoms.  It is very important that you are able to recognise the signs of colic so your horse can receive the appropriate medical care as soon as possible.

What is colic?

Colic itself is not a disease but is a term used to describe abdominal (belly) pain in horses.

Signs of mild colic

  • Pawing or scraping the ground.
  • Turning the head to look at the abdomen (‘flank watching’).
  • Kicking or biting at the abdomen.
  • Stretching out as if needing to urinate.
  • Restlessness – getting up and down frequently

Signs of severe colic

  • Rolling
  • Lying on its back.
  • Recumbencey (unable to stand)
  • Increased respiration rate
  • Increased heart rate
  • Red/purple colour of mucous membranes (gums and eyes)

What causes colic?

There are many causes of colic and it is often impossible to pinpoint the exact cause. However, there are a few risk factors:

  • Change in diet
  • Change in management
  • Change in exercise
  • Heavy worm burden

What should I do if I think my horse has colic?

  • Remove any feed from your horse and contact us for advice.
  • If you are able to, take your horses temperature, heart rate and respiration rate.
  • If your horse is rolling, keep your distance and stay away from harm. When possible remove any objects that may injure your horse while rolling.
  • If the colic is mild and your horse is calm it is acceptable for them to lay down quietly in their stable.
  • In some cases hand walking your horse may ease mild colic signs and reduce their urge to roll.
  • Your horse may become more violent and distressed, desperately wanting to go down and roll. In this case it may be safer for you and them to let them roll in a well bedded stable than it would be for them to go down while walking in the yard.
  • Do not give your horse any medication unless instructed to by your vet. Some drugs, particularly finadyne, can mask colic signs and prevent an accurate diagnosis.

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