April 2017: Foal Watch Begins

Lonza, looking very pregnant, is standing with her mother, Annie, while two magpies make themselves home on the back. Photo from the Dunrovin Nest Web Camera

It’s a good thing Kola needed his rabies booster shot. At Dunrovin, we have been trundling along with Lady Lonza’s pregnancy, not involving the veterinarian, as we did not think it necessary. However, because I had to take Kola in, I mentioned that Lonza was coming due and that I had not noticed any development, or bagging, of her teats in preparation for the foal. This prompted my vet to ask what we had been feeding her. When I told him we were giving her only grass hay along with her pregnant-mare supplements, he asked where we obtained the hay. When I replied it was local hay by a supplier just off of the Eastside Highway in the Bitterroot Valley, he told me the hay probably contained fescue, which is a highly drought- and grazing-resistant grass which was introduced into the United States in the 1940s. As first, fescue was seen as a wonder grass, but after spreading across the US by highway departments eager for grass along highways, it was discovered it can cause what is now known at fescue toxicosis in pregnant mares. It is very likely that not only does Dunrovin’s hay supplier have fescue in his fields, but that Dunrovin most likely has some of it in our pastures.

Fescue toxicosis manifests itself by preventing lactation in mares and can lead to serious birthing complications. Clearly, we want to protect Lonza from such a condition. Our vet told us to take Lonza off of our hay and pasture immediately. So, I called Kelli from his office and got her to take Lonza out of the small pasture she shared with her mother, Annie. Luckily, we still had a supply of packer pellets which Lonza would eat until we could get fescue-free hay from a supplier recommended by our vet. After a couple of phone calls, we made arrangements for our handyman, Dave, to drive about 40 miles to pick up a ton of alfalfa hay. By the end of the day, that issue had been resolved.

Lonza with her new alfalfa hay. Note that we have temporarily enclosed Lonza’s stall with plywood to give her privacy from other horses while giving birth. We will line her stall with a bed of straw as the birth approaches.

The vet asked us to wait until after about day 340 of gestation before we consider intervening with any treatment. He believes that simply getting rid of the hay should be sufficient. Since she was bred on May 17 and 18 of 2016, she will be 340 days on April 24 or 25. We are now much more anxious with Lonza’s pregnancy than we were just a few days ago. Poor Lonza now has to put up with one of us checking her teats every day to look for signs of bagging— nothing yet, and our fingers are crossed that we caught the issue in time.

Thank you, Kola, for taking me to the vet to find out this most important information in time to take preventative measures. It always shows me just how much there is to know about horses, that it is a lifelong adventure living with horses and learning about all the various aspects of them. One can never know everything, for sure, which speaks for having to involve many different people with many different skills and interests in horses. I have received so much good advice from my vet, from the many horse trainers I have worked with over the years, and from many, many friends and acquaintances who have had different, and therefore informative, experiences. I am grateful to them, as we at Dunrovin try our best to incorporate quality care into the lives of all the animals in our charge.

Beyond now worrying about fescue toxicosis, we are preparing Lonza’s stall and equipping it with a web camera so all our D@D members can share in the experience of welcoming a foal into the world. We will keep everyone up to date in our forum as to the expected day. Lonza will first develop a wax on her teats, which signals the birth is within a couple of days. We have prepared a foaling kit which consists of the following:

•   Terrycloth towels—bath towel or half-size bath towels
•   Stainless steel bucket
•   Liquid soap such as Ivory, Dawn, or Joy
•   Roll cotton
•   Baling twine or strong string
•   Scissors
•   Enemas (any enema safe for children is fine; a phosphate enema is best)
•   Tincture of iodine* or Nolvason solution for dipping navels
•   Small containers or 60 cc plastic syringe cases (for dipping foal’s navel)
•   Umbilical clamps or rubber bands (if foal’s navel bleeds more than normal)
•   Obstetrical sleeves or plastic rectal sleeves
•   Disposable tail wrap or gauze bandage for wrapping tail
•   Disposable latex gloves
•   Obstetric lubricant or K-Y jelly (not mineral oil)
•   Small blanket or old down vest (should you have to keep the foal warm on a cold night)
•   Flashlights & batteries (in case of power failure)
•   Cell phone or cordless phone
•   Phone numbers of vets, experienced foaling person (post near phone!)

We will wait to call the vet until after the foal arrives unless we suspect problems with Lonza’s birthing process. Once the foal has arrived, we will collect the placenta for the vet to examine, as well as examining both Lonza and the foal. I get excited just writing about it. We can’t wait!

There is sure to be an update on Lonza and her foal in next month’s magazine, so stay tuned!

Lonza with her last foal, Serena. As you can see, Lonza is a very protective mother.

Enjoy more articles from the Dunrovin Lifestyle Magazine!