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24/ MAY 2011 THE RIDER

als supplements, but the last three months of pregnancy require dietary changes, notes Mays. The unborn foal doubles in size during the last 90 days. Consequently, there is a great need for more pro- tein, minerals and vitamins to support the foal’s growth. Additional- ly, the mare needs more nutrients to prepare for lactation. Quality roughage should be the major portion of your mare’s diet. “Grain should be reduced the week before foaling,” states

Regular worming will ensure that the mare will not contaminate the pasture and foaling stall with worm larvae which the foal can ingest, explains Mays.

Horse Foaling

Newborns evoke a smile and the birth of a foal is no different. Horse owners greatly anticipate the birth of a foal and are wise to prepare the mare for the birth.

“On average, a mare is pregnant 340 days before giving birth,” notes Dr. Glennon Mays, clinical associate professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences. “But, mare pregnancies can range from 315 to 387 days.” “Preparation for foaling should begin prior to the birth,”

explains Mays. “Daily exercise will help the mare in foal tone body muscles and maintain a healthy heart and lungs which can benefit the mare and foal during birthing.”

During the first eight months of pregnancy your mare can main- tain nutritional balance on good pasture, quality hay, feed and miner-

Mays. “Oats and bran are good feed choices at this time since they will help decrease the likelihood of constipation. After foaling, grain can be increased gradually to resume full ration.”

“Consult your veterinarian about recommended vaccinations for your pregnant mare. Generally, six weeks prior to the foaling date, the mare should receive a tetanus vaccination to boost the anti- bodies in her colotrum (first milk). A mare will only produce colostrum for the first 6-12 hours after birth, after that she will pro- duce milk. The colostrum helps protect the foal against disease and aids in eliminating fecal material which can build up in its intestinal tract, says Mays.

“The mare is in active labor for about 30 minutes and once the foal is born, both mare and foal may lie quiet for another 30 minutes,” notes Mays. “During this quiet time blood is being pumped through the umbilical cord from the mare to the foal. Normally, the umbilical cord breaks on its own below the foal’s abdomen; it should be treated with iodine to prevent infection. Some veterinarians recommend that the foal receive an enema to facilitate the initial evacua- tion of the rectum. A 30 cc volume of glycerin administered per rectum (use a conventional syringe without a needle) is often effective.”

“After giving birth, the mare will lick the foal and establish a bond with her offspring,” says Mays. “The lick- ing also helps to clean and dry the foal.”

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“Mares prefer privacy when they are foaling and the majority of mares foal at night,” notes Mays. This could be a survival trait that ensured the mare and foal would be less susceptible to predators dur- ing the birthing process when horses were in the wild.” Appropriate foaling facilities assure a safe and sanitary environ- ment for the mare and her foal. This may be a grassy paddock or pasture small enough with sufficient lighting to allow visualization of the mare for monitoring the birth process. If a birthing stable be available, it should be at least 12 feet by 14 feet and prepared in advance of the foal’s arrival. The stall as well as water/feed buckets and manger should be cleaned and disinfected. Your veterinarian can suggest the best disinfecting supplies, says Mays. He can also recommend bed- ding.

Mares having difficulty with the delivery process may need assistance. Foals are born two front feet first and then their nose follows. Any deviation from this warrants a call to your veterinarian.

If the foal requires assistance to stand, remember the young bones are soft. Aggressive handling can compromise bone structure, especially at the rib cage. Don’t rush in to “help”. Give the foal and mare some time alone unless foal distress is obvious, notes Mays. Mother Nature has done quite well for a long time without human intervention. The foal should stand without assistance within an hour, start nursing within three hours and nurse at least once every hour. Some veterinarians prefer to do complete blood count and chemistry on the foal after 12 hours to determine if it received enough colostrum (and therefore antibodies) to help keep it healthy. It is very important that the foal build immu- nity to fight exposure to bacteria in its new environment.

Keeping your mare healthy prior to and after foaling will greatly increase the chances of having a healthy foal that will grow to be a healthy horse.


Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University. Stories can be viewed on the Web at

Rare Poitou Donkey Foal Is Born In Ontario

By Kelly Bowers Hwy 7 Georgetown, Ontario (905) 877-2261 Toll Free 1-800-565-3545

The largest, hairiest and most endangered breed of donkey in the world is the Poitou (pronounced pwa-too) which originates in the Poitou region of France. The “friendly, affectionate and docile” Poitou Donkey is the least known but “the oldest breed approved in France”. Some historians believe, judging from ancient drawings, that the Poitou existed when the Romans occupied France in 54 BC. Poitous appear in historic writings from the 11th century on. The Poitou donkey is instantly rec- ognizable for a number of unusual character- istics, particularly it’s rastafarian coat, called a “cadanette” which hangs in long cords when not groomed. Hundreds of years ago, breeders prized the Poitou’s traditional coat so highly that a champion jack who had lost his cadenette was excluded from placement

French citizens took a survey and found that there were only 60 purebred Poitou donkeys left. Faced with the extinction of their beloved native breed, a number of breeders banded together to preserve the Poitou. Thank- fully, now there are devoted breeders and groups around the world preserving and increasing the numbers of these unusual donkeys and now there are about 600 found world wide.

While doing some research into donkeys, Pat Van Biesbrouck from Glen Allen, ON discovered and was intrigued by the rare Poitou donkeys. Immediately, she began looking for Poitou for sale. Finally a pair were located in Washington state two years ago which Pat purchased and brought home. Their names are Beau and Bridgette and the result of their pairing is a beautiful lit- tle Poitou jenny foal named Baby Bella. Her birth on Oct 19, 2010 was a real surprise considering that a July ultra- sound put her birth date in May 2011. Not to mention that Poitou can be difficult to get in foal and tend to miscarry up to half the time Pat has been told Bella is the first Poitou foal to be born in Canada, although Pat has been unable to confirm this. “I missed seeing her birth by minutes,found her up and nursing,still wet and a mass of black curls. From the start she has been super friendly, playful, easy to work with and healthy.

Poitou foal, Bella only a couple hours old.

in a class at later shows. The shaggy coat is such a dominant trait that even a 1/8 Poitou Donkey may resemble a pure-bred. T h e Poitou’s coat is dark brown or black. While lacking the stripes and cross-like markings of other breeds of donkey, the Poitou often have a white underbelly, nose and rings around its eyes. A purebred Poitou stands between 1.35 m and 1.5 m at the withers and has a more massive bone structure and larger foot than other donkeys. They have a large, long head with very large ears on a strong neck. They are considered to be the teddy bears of the donkey world, gentle, passive, calm and affectionate to humans.

And what is in the future for these three spe- cial donkeys. Biesbrouck explains “I originally bought these donkeys to protect an endangered species but have had several requests from the USA to either buy them or breed their standard donkeys or horse to Beau. He does have a couple select breedings lined up for May/June to regis- tered donkeys and possibly a Clydesdale. As it turns out, the breeder raises and shows mules.” For more information, contact Pat at Grey Mare Equine. See their ad in this issue of The Rider.

Suggestions for future topics may be directed to cvmto-

Poitou donkeys do not have the con- formation to be ridden. Originally, they were owned by the wealthy in France and used solely to produce exceptional mules when crossed with Mussalier horses but some have been trained to pull carts.

In the 1970s, a few concerned

Bella may be the first rare purebred Poitou donkey born in Canada.

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