Looking at the connection between mare and foal can give you advance warning of health risks. The placenta is the connection between the developing fetus and the mare and provides the means for obtaining nutrition and gas exchange. It can offer valuable insight into the health of the newborn foal. As soon as the mare passes the placenta, you should evaluate it.
The placenta is normally passed within three hours after foaling. Once passed, the placenta should be immediately removed from the foaling area and rinsed. Disposable plastic or latex gloves should be worn during handling and examination. A bathroom scale works to determine the weight of the placenta. Under normal circumstances, the weight of the placenta will be approximately 11 percent of the body weight of the foal. An increased weight may be the result of edema.
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The placenta consists of three primary components: the outer placental membrane or chorioallantois; the inner placental membrane or amnion; and the umbilical cord. In a normal foaling, the thicker outer placental membrane is almost always turned inside-out.
For examination, the outer placental membrane should be turned right-side out and then spread out on a clean flat surface. The allantoic (side toward the foal) surface is smooth and pink and blood vessels are visible coursing along its surface. The chorionic (side toward the uterus) surface has a brick- red velvety appearance due to microcotyledons. Microcotyledons are the microscopic villi or finger-like projections that attach the placenta to the uterine lining.
The membranes might be laid out with the chorioallantois in an “F” or “Y” shape, with the two horns of the placenta forming the arms of the “F” or “Y” and the body of the placenta forming the base.
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One of the first things that may be noted is that the tips of the placental horns differ significantly in size and thickness. The larger horn housed the fetus and is referred to as the pregnant horn. The tip of the pregnant horn is always thicker than the tip of the smaller horn.
Examine the placenta to determine whether it was passed intact or if a piece is missing and potentially still inside the mare. By far the most likely portion of the placenta that may be retained is the thin tip of the nonpregnant horn. Even a small piece of placenta in the uterus poses a health threat.
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Photo: Take extra measures and precautions to make sure you have a healthy foal. Journal photo.