Dr Vivienne Duggan of UCD’s veterinary college offers timely medical advice for all those expecting a foal this spring

The birth of a foal is like a carefully choreographed dance between the pregnant mare and her fetal foal. The mare nourishes the developing fetal foal, providing nutrients and oxygen. At full term the mature fetal foal takes over and drives the onset of the birth process through the release of hormones from its adrenal gland. Once born, the foal nurses, and this stimulates oxytoxin release from the mare’s pituitary gland. This helps the mare to expel the placenta and encourages the uterus to return to a normal size in preparation for the next pregnancy. If any one thing goes wrong everything gets out of step and this can affect the chances of the mare going back in foal in a timely manner.