The Birth of a Foal: What Horse Owners Should Expect

The Birth of a Foal_ What Horse Owners Should Expect by Deborah Y. Strauss D.V.M.

The birth of a newborn foal is an exciting time. Most times, the mares require little human interaction. This means you can put your mare in a safe place to foal, sit back and marvel at the miracle of life. However, you should know what to expect during a birth. If something isn’t going according to plan, you may need to step in.

Gestation Timeline

The gestation period for a horse is roughly 11-12 months. Soon before your mare gives birth, you will notice signs that the time is near. Two to four weeks before foaling, her udders will begin filling with milk. Four to six days prior, you’ll notice that the teats appear fully engorged. Approximately one to four days before the foal arrives, a yellow secretion called colostrum will appear around the teats. This is referred to as “waxing.” You may also notice that the tailhead is more prominent a few days before the birth because the vulva and croup muscles relax.

While some mares follow this timeline to the T, others show very few signs. This is a generally good idea of what to expect, but surprises are always a possibility. For most mares, they will become anxious and restless immediately before the birth. She may frequently urinate, pace, kick at her abdomen, or even lie down and get back up. While this is normal behavior, you should keep track of how long she is in distress. If your mare exhibits this behavior for more than an hour or two without showing progress toward birthing, you should contact your veterinarian.

The Birth

Birthing is broken down into three stages. The first stage generally lasts one to two hours. This is the onset of contractions and the foal is moved through the cervix to the birth canal. The end of stage one is marked by a rush of placental fluids.

During stage two is when the foal emerges. It is a quick process that rarely takes more than a half hour. If you see no significant progress within 10-15 minutes of the “water breaking,” you should contact your veterinarian immediately. You should also call if you notice that the foal is in an abnormal delivery position. You should see the front feet emerging first with hooves down, followed by the head.

Stage three labor begins after the foal is delivered. Within 1-3 hours, the mare should pass the placenta (afterbirth). A placenta that remains inside can cause major problems and infection.

You shouldn’t need to cut the umbilical cord, but many veterinarians will instruct you to disinfect the cord after it breaks.

After the birth, you should observe the mare and foal closely for 24 hours. Be sure both are in good health and that the foal has nursed within 2 hours of birth to receive vital antioxidants from the mare’s milk. Also look for the foal’s first stool.

For more specific information on foaling or your horse’s specific situation, call an experienced veterinarian. You can additionally consult reputable online resources, such as the American Association of Equine Practitioners.

Common Ailments that Could Affect Your Horse

Common Ailments that could affect your horse by Deborah Y Strauss DVM

Horses are beautiful animals that are a pleasure to own. You can spend many enjoyable hours riding a horse, or you might just be happy to watch them graze peacefully in the field. As with all animals, horses are subject to many types of ailments and illnesses. Certain problems tend to occur frequently among horses.


Colic is one of the most serious conditions that affect horses. Attacks of colic can range from mild discomfort for the horse to severe cases that can lead to the horse being euthanized due to intense pain.

There are two types of colic known as spasmodic and impact colic. Spasmodic colic occurs when there is a build up of gas within the horse’s colon. The gas causes stretching and pain. Impact oolic occurs when feed drys and blocks the intestinal tract.

Upper Respiratory Infections

Horses are often subject to upper respiratory infections similar to the common cold in human beings. These infections cause coughing and a yellow discharge the comes out of a horse’s nose. Most upper respiratory infections are viruses that will run their course in due time. Bacterial infections will require an antibiotic prescribed by a veterinarian.


Laminitis is common in horses, and it is one of the most serious conditions that horse owners have to deal with. Laminitis is caused when the laminae located in a horse’s hooves become inflamed. The condition can set up in a horse if the horse is ridden or walked on hard surfaces for a long period of time. Horses that are overweight can also develop a chronic form of laminitis.

If laminitis progresses, it can cause the horse great pain. Some horses develop an acute laminitis that rapidly progresses leading to euthanasia. This condition is also called founder, and it can be caused by a horse eating too many carbohydrates.

Degenerative Joint Disease

Degenerative joint disease is also referred to as osteoarthritis. This is a condition in older horses that is caused by wear and tear on the joints. Over time, the cartilage is worn away causing bone to rub on bone. The condition can be treated by providing non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to the horse.

These are just a few of the problems that horses might face. It is important for all horse owners to have a good veterinarian that they can call on in times of trouble. If you believe that your horse is having medical issues, call your vet sooner than later.

Benefits of Equine Therapy for Autism

Benefits of Equine Therapy for Autism by Deborah Y. Strauss D.V.M

People who regularly interact with horses have been shown to reap benefits, such as decreased blood pressure, lower stress levels, and reduced feelings of anger and anxiety. Studies also show that you gain feelings of self-esteem, trust, empathy and patience.

The benefits of equine therapy are especially helpful for children and adults with certain medical conditions. As a complementary therapy, it has been used in the treatment plan of physical, psychological, social and educational disorders. Autism is one example.

How Does It Work?

Skilled therapists who specialize in equine therapy — sometimes in conjunction with specialized physical therapists — help children and adults with autism to have fun while developing valuable skills. All therapy is altered to fit the specific needs of each child or adult, but therapy usually includes grooming, riding and developmental games.

Physical Benefits

Riding a horse helps to develop coordination, strength and muscle tone. As the horse changes speed, direction and incline, the rider is required to constantly adjust their body to compensate. Controlling the reins helps with coordination, as well.

Sensory Benefits

The sounds and smells of the horse, the feeling of its fur, and feeling the changes in direction and speed when riding can all be positively stimulating to those with autism.

Emotional Bonding

In patients with autism, it’s common for emotional bonding to be difficult. Parents and other family members often say their loved one has difficulty making eye contact and expressing feelings. Learning to care for the horses creates an emotional bridge between emotion and providing care for another living being.

Cognitive and Language Development

Communicating with horses is sometimes “easier” for them than communicating with humans because they can communicate physically by brushing, petting, hugging and riding, as opposed to verbally. Following directions from the therapist and giving direction to the horse provides more opportunity for communication.

The therapy will also naturally improve cognitive concepts, especially through games as the therapy progresses. In many cases, parents and other family members notice improved social and communication skills, even after therapy has ended.

Final Thoughts

Equine therapy is unfortunately one of the most expensive therapies available for those with autism. Some programs cost around $5,000 annually. However, there are charitable programs through organizations that provide financial assistance to those in need.

We all want our loved ones to reach their full potential, and equine therapy could be one way to help yours blossom.

Top 5 Hoof Problems For Horses

Top 5 Hoof Problems For Horses

It’s been said before that “no hoof, no horse” and as simple as that may sound, it holds a lot of truth to it. The hooves of the horse are the foundation for everything you do together, so it is important to keep them in the best shape possible. Granted, that may be easier said than done and even some of the healthiest horses tend to suffer from common hoof problems. It’s important, however, to be aware of these problems and know what steps to take to remedy the situation as best as possible. Here are the top 5 hoof problems that horses encounter and how you can fix these problems.


This is a common infection that can be found on the frog of the hoof. Most of the time it is due to wet and muddy conditions. Thrush causes lameness and tends to invade sensitive tissue. It can be spotted in two ways: sight and smell. It has a pretty noticeable foul smell as well as a black discharge that you will see around the frog. Making sure that your barn and stalls are clean and dry can help prevent thrush. There are also many products available to treat this infection. You also will want to work closely with your veterinarian to treat it and prevent it from returning.


White Line Disease

White Line Disease is another common problem with horse hooves, and it is typically caused by mud and rainy conditions. This is a fungal infection that typically occurs when the inner hoof wall separates. This then creates a hole or a crack in the sole allowing the bacteria to invade through the crevice and thus begin eating away at the foot. White Line Disease can lead to structural unsoundness as well as lameness. To treat White Line Disease, you will want to have a trained farrier or veterinarian trim the infected hoof to expose the bacteria to oxygen. Afterwards, be sure to clean the hoof thoroughly.


Hoof Abscesses

Hoof Abscess is another infection that occurs inside the hoof. This is another example of hoof problems that are caused by wet conditions as bacteria tends to thrive in these environments. Signs to look out for with abscess include limping as well signs of lameness. You might also notice swelling on the horse’s leg that has the infection. When it comes to heavier-footed horses, you will find they are more susceptible to abscesses because their hooves tend to be closer to the ground and are irritated more often. Every case of abscess is unique to every horse but typically to treat it, most vets will look to drain it through the sole of the roof. Once it has been drained, you should use a poultice-pad bandage to protect the foot until it has fully recovered.



Laminitis is the inflammation of sensitive lamina. With this, you will also notice something called Founder. This occurs when the coffin bone rotates downward inside the hoof capsule and/or when the coffin bone sinks downward. Typical signs of laminitis include lameness, reluctance to bear weight along with warm feet with a strong pulse. Some treatments that can be effective are regular shoeing or trimming, maintaining short toes, using heel wedges, and frog and sole support. Keep in mind, however, that acute laminitis is a medical emergency so you will want to work closely with your vet or farrier.


Navicular Syndrome

Navicular Syndrome is a term that is used to describe any kind of caudal/heel pain in the hoof. Some of the causes of navicular syndrome can be hereditary predisposition usually with Quarter Horses and Thoroughbreds, faulty conformation, hoof imbalance, and exercise on hard surfaces. If your house does have navicular syndrome, you can expect to notice lameness. This term is widely used so due to that, treatments tend to vary. It is important to work with your vet and farrier to understand the true root of the problem and map out next steps. Other forms of treatment include shoeing, elevating the heels and good break over, and pads.


Equine Ophthalmology

deborah y strauss, d.v.m.Equine recurrent uveitis (ERU), also known as “moon blindness” or periodic ophthalmia, is a common disease effecting the equine eye and is the most common cause of blindness in the horse.

Due to the recurrent nature of the disease, the term “moon blindness” dates back to the 1600s when Egyptians believed the ailment was associated with the phases of the moon. Today ERU is mainly recognized as an immune mediated disease, meaning that it is usually caused by an unspecified immune mediated reaction.

There are several causes that have been implicated such as bacteria (Leptospirosis), viruses, parasites (Onchocerciasis), and trauma. ERU, however, is most often considered to be an idiopathic disease, meaning that no specific cause can be identified. ERU is strongly over-represented in the Appaloosa horse breed, however it has been identified in other breeds. ERU is a disease that can be controlled with aggressive medical therapy to maintain partial vision to the horse which is suffering from it.

Due to the environmental exposures that horses experience on a daily basis, their eyes can be adversely effected. Any eye problem a horse is experiencing should be considered an equine emergency and medical treatment needs to be sought immediately.