Parturition Behaviour - Mare

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Stage 1

  • Mammary hypertrophy, waxing of the teats and possible escape of milk from the glands.
  • Patchy sweating behind the elbows and around the flanks.
    • Commences ~4 hours before the birth of the foal and increases as the stage progresses.
  • Yawns
  • No indication of pain.
  • Food is taken readily
  • Respirations are normal
  • Pulse is ~60
  • Body temperature may become slightly subnormal (36.5-37◦C).
  • Restlessness, wanders aimlessly.
  • Tail is frequently raised or held to one side.
  • May swish the tail or slap it against the anus.
  • Kicking of the abdomen
  • Towards the end of this stage:
    • Crouching
    • Straddling of hindlimbs
    • Going down on knees or sternum and rising again
    • Glancing at flank
  • This stage terminates with the rupture of the allantochorionic membrane and the escape of allantoic fluid from the vulva.
    • No visible straining during this period.

Stage 2

  • Abrupt onset, lasts~17 minutes
  • Appearance of the amnion or commencement of forceful straining
    • Not much delay between them, often coincide.
  • Soon after straining begins, the mare goes down.
  • Lies on her side with the limbs extended
    • Generally remains in this position until the foal is born.
  • Transperent blue/white 'water bag' (amnion) visible at the vulva
  • Quickly followed by the appearance in it of a digit.
  • Straining at regular intervals.
    • Each comprises 3/4 powerful expulsive efforts followed by a period of rest.
    • Generally 3 minutes long
  • One forelimb procedes the other by 7-8cm
    • One elbow passes through the pelvic inlet before the other preventing minimal obstruction.
  • Head is usually in the oblique position, but may be transverse with the cheek lying on the limbs.
  • Greates and longest effort is with birth of the head.
  • After expulsion of the foal, the mare may remain on her side exhausted for up to 30 minutes.
  • Umbillical cord is intact when the foal is born.
    • Subsequently ruptures 5-8cm below the belly due to movement of the mare or foal.
  • Foal is usually born within the amnion, which is ruptured by movements of the forelegs.
  • Lower portions of the hindlimbs often remain within the vagina for minutes after the rest of the foal is born.

Stage 3

  • Membranes expelled quickly after the birth of the foal.
  • Usually within 3 hours.
  • Duration of stage 3 is ~30 minutes.
  • Afterbirth is expelled by myometrial contractions with no straining.

Parturition Behaviour - Mare Learning Resources
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Equine Reproduction and Stud Medicine Q&A 17