It is recommended that after foaling, aged mares with large pendulous bellies should be relieved by supporting this part with an evenly adjusted wide bandage, passed several times round the body.
Rarely does the straining continue after the birth of the foal and the expulsion of the membranes; should it, however, do so for some time, even when the latter have not come away, they may be acting as an irritant, or something else may be wrong which requires the intervention of the veterinary surgeon.
Interference between the mare and the foal is not often needed, the former instinctively attending to her progeny, if undisturbed and good-tempered, cleansing it and allowing it to approach the teat. Sometimes, however, through fear or temper, the mare will not tolerate the foal, and gentle persuasion is necessary to induce her to do so. They ought to be left together quietly for a short time, the mare meanwhile becoming accustomed to the novel situation in which she finds herself, and being tranquillised by gruel and hay. When she allows the foal to suck, and begins to lick it, she will not require further inducement. It has been the practice to sprinkle a little flour over the back of the foal in such cases, in order to tempt the mare to begin licking it.
In cases where the foal appears to be born dead, and does not breathe, it may be yet living, but will promptly perish unless respiration is at once established. The mouth should be opened and sponged out with cold water, the nostrils and face also sponged and blown upon, the body being in the meantime well rubbed, and flicked smartly on the sides of the chest with a cloth - sometimes dashing cold water on the chest will cause inspiration, and set the function of breathing into play. In these cases, when the foal survives, as well as when the mare will not allow it to come near her, the young creature should be made comfortable by drying its body with a soft cloth and rubbing its ears and legs.
Though the mare and foal will thrive under cover, or in a box or stable, for two or three weeks, yet exercise is necessary for both, and in eight or ten days after foaling it should be allowed regularly. This is best secured by turning them both out to pasture if the weather be fine, in the daytime, and if the weather be warm and dry they may even remain out during the night; but the mare should, in the latter circumstance, receive hay and whatever food may be necessary, and especially if she has not much milk for her offspring.
If the mare is in good milking condition and strong, and if the pasturage is good, little, if any, additional food than this supplies will be required after a short time. Some mares have an excessive secretion of rich milk, either from their natural development or from the highly-nutritious character of their food, and if the foals are allowed to indulge too freely in it at first, they are liable to suffer from indigestion or some other serious disorder. To avoid this, only a portion of the milk should be allowed the foal, a quantity of it being withdrawn from the udder several times a day, for a few days after birth, until the young creature can safely digest it ail.
Should the supply of milk be scanty and grass not abundant, scalded oats mixed with good bran, or perhaps better, mashes of boiled barley, are useful - such mashes may have added to them some salt and treacle, to render them more palatable and milk-producing. Oatmeal or flour gruel is also good. The udder should be frequently and gently rubbed, and the foal often allowed to try the teat. When it cannot obtain sufficient milk after a short time, it must be reared artificially, or, which is in every way preferable, put to another mare, or fed with another mare's milk.
When brood mares are suckling, and they cannot be depastured, then they should either receive cut grass or good hay, boiled barley or scalded oat mashes, and if procurable, pulped roots, with an abundant supply of good water.
Attention should be paid to the udder of suckling mares, as it is liable to become hot, hard, and painful - inflamed, in fact. If this condition is serious veterinary advice should be obtained; but if slight, fomentation of warm bran-water, gentle friction with the same, and frequent milking, will probably quickly relieve it. A changed or reduced diet will, in some cases, be necessary; but unless the foal can be taken off, physic or other medicine must not be given.
Draught and harness mares are sometimes put to work while suckling, but it is not judicious to do this until a month has elapsed since foaling, and then food must be given in proportion to the amount of work, which should neither be heavy nor fast, nor should the mare be kept many hours from the foal.
The foal is usually weaned at from four to six months, and this should be gradually effected - the intervals between the times being extended until the foal can entirely subsist on the food it is able to masticate; the food of the mare is somewhat reduced at the same time, and if the flow of milk is undiminished, harder work may be enforced, with dry food and a smaller allowance of water. It may even be necessary to give physic to check or abolish the secretion. Natural weaning is often a longer process with mares kept for breeding only.
Should the foal die while being suckled, the same care of the udder is necessary as in weaning, but purgative and other medicine may then be administered to suppress the milk secretion.