View Full Version : Dystocia - will she be at greater risk in the future?

Jun. 8, 2011, 08:58 AM
I've read the dystocia thread from a few months back again, but can't seem to find this discussed.

It turns out my first live-birth experience was not meant to be, and ended up scaring me more than anything... Mare had had one other filly about 5 years ago, that was a normal birth I assume because she foaled almost 3 weeks early and the little one was standing up when I walked in the barn that morning (wasn't showing any signs, gotta love maidens, so I missed the birth completely). Fast forward to this spring, mare is getting ready, dripping milk, so I decide to stay overnight and not miss it this time! Well we quickly see this is not going right, mare is straining but nothing is coming out. Call the vet, he is there quickly, and tries to correct the dystocia. Mare was really pushing, no matter what drug we could give her, which was making the vet's job much harder. Finally he decided he could not get the baby's position right (head and neck were turned sideways, and front legs were folded under), and off to the clinic we went. I don't know if we would have saved the colt had we been closer to the clinic, that we will never know, but he had no other apparent defects.

All that to say, I am now terrified of breeding my mare again. Was this a freak thing, or will she be "predisposed" (if there is such a thing) to something like that again? Stallion owner is being super, so that's not an issue. I just worry I would lose the mare next time around. What are my chances of it happening again? Anything I can do prevention-wise? The mare stayed a week at the clinic then came home (she had retained a part of the placenta after all the tugging trying to get the colt out), she has been checked by a vet at home and still had a small infection which we treated. I would have done ET in a heartbeat but do not have the funds, especially after the last hospital bill (and they don't seem as prevalent here as in some parts of the States, very few vets specialize in ET so prices reflect that).

Sooo, am I putting my mare at unecessary risk by trying to breed her again (of course, assuming I get her cleared by the vet), should I give up, or are my chances of that happening again twice in two years like winning the loto?

Jun. 8, 2011, 09:08 AM
I don't know what to tell you except your experience was almost identical to mine. The exception being my mare was showing no signs of impending labor. I went out for an early morning check and she had stalled labor (broken water, etc but no feet). My filly was stillborn as well and the vets think she either died in utero and the mare was expelling it (hence the no signs and not really ready to give birth) or it was a dystocia and labor had stalled.

Either way, from what I gather it is a freak thing. None of my vets were concerned about breeding my mare again and in fact my mare is 30 days confirmed at this point.

So sorry to hear about your loss. We spent an hour pulling my dead filly out (my vet and I) so I feel your pain.

Jun. 8, 2011, 10:06 AM
Since the mare was not having an issue pushing, i.e. "uterine inertia" - chances are very good it was just a freak thing having more to do with the foal not doing his job by getting his head in the correct position. It has little to do with the mare and she is not any more likely to have another dystocia in the future.

A very similar thing happened to me in 2009. Foal's head was tucked to its chest and lodged against the pelvic rim. Ended up losing the foal. The mare had foaled 8 times prior to that without any issues.

Cut to this spring - last month to be exact - same mare foaled a beautiful filly for me. Textbook foaling. Baby was out in less than 20 minutes. Not bad for a 20-year old mare. Filly is obviously doing very well too:


Jun. 8, 2011, 01:25 PM
Probably just a freak thing since it was a positioning issue. I would be more concerned if is was an issue related to large foals/narrow pelvis.

Jun. 8, 2011, 01:49 PM
This is not a scientific response and is only my personal, one horse, experience.

I had a mare with a severe dystocia. Luckily, she was at a Lexington vet clinic when her water broke and they puller her and her foal through. No one advised against breeding her again, although I asked a lot of sources because I had a bad feeling. My local vet pushed me to rebred her and get with the economics etc. and I did. She took easily. She had a minor league difficult foaling and the vet had the local foaling barn start walking her when she showed some signs of anxiety post-foaling, presumabley to keep her from colicking. I was gone and made a half dozen calls to get the vet out to check on her but he put her low on the list. When he drove up, she dropped dead. She'd hemorrhaged to death.

I have no idea if this really was related to damage from the dystocia (she had likely been carrying her dystocia foal sideways through a lot of the later stages of her pregnancy - I couldn't get much of an answer as to what they might have done to her internally).

Absolutely mine could have been a freak thing, but I have to share it with you anyway, even as only a fwiw.

Jun. 8, 2011, 05:05 PM
In my some 30 years of experience plus the experience of 2 previous generations of breeders in my family, a mare who has large foals tends to continue to have large foals, especially if a refining stallion is not chosen for her.

It is a fallacy to state the mare naturally determines the size of the foal because of the space she has available. It's just not always true. Most times yes, but not 100% of the time. Some mares just produce too-big foals no matter their personal size because it's in their own genetics to do so.

If you have a breed-back from this stallion to fulfill a LFG, can you flush the embryo and put into a larger mare? That might be the safest option. This is what I will be doing with my mare who just lost a very large foal, next year after she's had time to heal. Her delivery birthed a colt who would have better fit a 17 hand mare, not a little 15.3-3/4 hand mare and the stallion I chose is not known for producing huge at-birth foals, but still the foal was enormous. The genetics of my mare definitely played a factor. She's produced large before and will continue to produce large in the future. She also produces offspring who grow bigger/taller than she, herself, grew.

In future breedings, I would be searching for refining stallions who are proven and known to not contribute to large birth size. These are questions you can discuss with the stallion owner. Most should know and hopefully be honest enough to tell you whether their stallion's babes are big or average sized.

Altamont Sport Horses
Jun. 8, 2011, 08:06 PM
I suspect more trouble with dystocias when the legs are very long and hard to get turned around. I have had some dystocias and the mares went on to have additional foals without issue.

I'm so sorry about your foal. Glad the stallion owner is working with you so you can get the foal you've been wanting.

It is most important regardless if a mare has had trouble or not is that you get involved in the delivery ASAP. This includes putting a gloved and well lubricated arm inside the vagina to ascertain if there are two front feet and a nose. The more the mare tries to push the harder it is to correct because the foal gets shoved harder up into the pelvis. With some studying beforehand and the right supplies you can correct many dystocias if you jump on it immediately. I reread my foaling book's section on dystocias every season. The Complete Book of Foaling by Karen Hayes, DVM. With a lot of sterile lube you can push the foal back inwards to a certain degree. I've pushed them back in, pulled legs out, head/neck turned, rotated one that presented upside down (one of those very long legged babies...tallest at birth that I have ever had). I think you'll feel more confident if you can prepare yourself for early intervention. Vets can rarely arrive in time...it can go bad way too quickly.

In my experience WB and large breed foals need an active birth attendant. Between large shoulders and longer legs than the light breeds there is more opportunity for even minor dystocias or just delayed delivery. I tried to let a mare do more by herself this year and it turns out her foal was much larger than with a previous stallion. Ultimately he had some oxygen deprivation and was slow to rise and nurse. He ended up at the University for septicemia.

Jun. 8, 2011, 08:12 PM
I had a breeding client with a large Warmblood mare who had had a previous dystocia. Her babies tended to be very large. This mare owner chose to breed her to my pony stallion because of the previous year's dystocia scare, and the mare had no trouble foaling the next year.

That is my only "almost personal" dystocia experience.

Jun. 9, 2011, 12:27 AM
I have a mare that had a wry nosed foal in 2009 - the head and neck were turned as if the foal was looking back behind itself and the foal had a cervical fusion preventing it from straightening its neck. The mare had a c-section that she healed well from. She was not bred immediately after foaling, but was bred in 2010 and had a healthy, large filly in April.

Jun. 9, 2011, 02:35 AM
I've really only had one dystocia (*knock on wood!*).

It was a maiden mare, smaller (15.2ish), bred to a large Warmblood stallion (16.3, somewhat substantial). Mare foaled at 320 days. Foal was upside down with one foot back. Thankfully, vet was present. Got her up, and got it corrected without too much trouble, just took a little time. Foal was delivered, and looked a little "early", very lax tendons, little bit of a domed head, floppy ears, etc. Had some trouble getting up, but it ended up okay eventually. I think it's that this foal had such long legs and such substantial bones and joints for being out of a really refined mare, Mare retained part of the placenta.

I did not breed her back that year, but did the following year (to a pony stallion). Foaled absolutely textbook, did take a little bit longer than I'd like to pass the placenta, but she passed it all intact. She foaled again last year with no issues, and just checked back in foal with her fourth. I'll only breed her to ponies from now on though. I have a feeling would would have definitely lost the foal had we not been present and proactive with it, and likely would have lost the mare too.

Jun. 9, 2011, 08:19 AM
Just to clarify, this year's colt was not abnormaly large (vets at the clinic commented on the fact that his size was quite average), mare is 16.2 and so is the stud. Her first filly was quite small at birth and ended finishing at around 16.2 as well. So, I don't think size was an issue in this case, rather bad placement.

thanks for the replies so far, i'm still trying to make up my mind...

Jun. 9, 2011, 09:52 AM
We have one mare that had a dystocia with her first foal - the foal was HUGE and it took 2 vets and my husband to help pull the foal out. The mare stayed standing during the entire labor and then would not push. We were shocked we didn't lose her.

We bred her twice after that and there was no real problem except for the fact that the 2nd foal she delivered standing. The 3rd she did lie down.

When we bred her the 4th time she showed issues of foundering prior to delivery and we were watching her closely. The foal's front legs were bent at the knee and even with 2 Vets here we could NOT reposition the foal and it died in utero. It was horrible but to save the mare they had to dismember the foal to remove it.

We will never breed the mare again. She recovered though she does have some rotation from the founder situation. It is unfortunate because she is very well bred and the 2 foals she had that survived are super performance horses.

I wouldn't wish a dystocia on anyone - especially when you lose the foals and almost lost the mare.

Jun. 9, 2011, 09:55 AM
After I lost the 2009 colt I did a lot of research on the topic. I found out that there are times when something is not quite right with the development of the foal and as a result the foal has a tendency to tuck its head rather than stretch out across the top of the legs.

If you were dealing with something like shoulder or hip lock I'd be more likely to point towards the size of the foal being an issue - but the fact that the foal's head was turned points to something else. The foal just didn't do its job for one reason or another.

If you were dealing with uterine inertia, or the mare failing to push, that's another story entirely too.

I certainly can't blame you for being nervous - god knows I was too - but chances are quite good your mare will not have any problems in the future based off of the scenario you described. I spoke with several different vets after I had my experience and they all assured me of the same thing - and they were right.

Altamont Sport Horses
Jun. 9, 2011, 08:09 PM
If the foal was in the proper position and the mare couldn't get it out because it got stuck in the birth canal then I would think the foal might be too large and I should consider a smaller or refining stallion. But improper positioning, like this birth, does not make me think that the mare needs to be bred to a small stallion. I wouldn't hesitate to try this combination again. If you are worried you could always foal her out at a well equipped facility or University so if there was similar trouble proper intervention could be undertaken immediately.