Real time story: when foaling is not straightforward

Ondanks het vertraagde geboorteproces startte het veulen gelukkig vlot op. Foto: Marije de Jong

During one of veterinarian Ids de Boer’s weekend duties his phone rang in the middle of the night. It was a call about a Friesian mare who had started foaling. The owner was pretty worried. The mare had been in the active stages of pushing for ten minutes but the foal wasn’t emerging quickly enough, although one foot and the amniotic sac were by now visible. De Boer told them the best thing to do was to get the mare into a standing position. He would quickly get dressed and call them again as soon as he was on his way in his car.

Anomalous presentation

It appeared the owners had only seen the hoof and the amniotic sac, they had not yet dared to palpate. After a few instructions they were willing to try that. Following up on De Boer’s phone instructions the owners bandaged the mare’s tail and then washed the mare’s vulva and gave their own hands a good scrub. After that they could apply lubricating jelly to their hands and carefully try to palpate. Because the mare was in an upright position again the foal had slid a bit deeper back into the abdomen. The owner could fairly easily detect one leg and the head in the birth canal, he could however not feel the second leg, which should normally also be positioned alongside the head.

Birthing ropes

Fifteen minutes later De Boer arrived on site and immediately checked how the foal was positioned. One of the legs was indeed not in the right position. The second leg wasn’t stretched forward but had curled back at the knee (carpus). Ids de Boer: ‘For repositioning of the foal I first attached a birthing rope to the leg that was in the correct place, then I carefully pushed the foal a little further back into the uterus and tried to find the other leg again. I started feeling down from the knee in the direction of the hoof, which I could luckily localise fairly easily, and carefully eased it back towards the birth canal and put it in the right position. Then I could also attach a birthing rope to this leg.’

Happy with their colt

By gently pulling on the foal’s legs the mare’s urge to push was soon reactivated and she wanted to lie down again. Fortunately, in spite of the delayed birthing process the foal quickly got going; it was breathing and pretty soon started to move and raise its head. ‘By gleaning under the tail we could confirm it was a colt foal, which is exactly what the owners had hoped for.’ De Boer stated.

Read the full real-life story by veterinarian Ids de Boer in the March issue of Phryso