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Timely intervention ensured the successful arrival of Dexter, one of 27 foals born at Mount St John stud in North Yorkshire this spring.

The mare, Aperta, had passed the bag (the whitish sac, or amnion, the first part of the placenta) and was
straining when resident vet Kara Johnston MRCVS realised that something wasn’t right.

“No feet or head were visible, so I inserted my arm and found that the foal was upside down,” says
Kara. “His legs were above his head, so Aperta was pushing his feet into her rectal wall.

“A foal stuck like this won’t be able to get out alone and can die through lack of oxygen,” Kara explains. “Without help, it’s bad news — and dangerous for the mare, too, as she can suffer a rectal or vagina perforation.

“Between her contractions, I pushed the foal further inside. I then grabbed his head and an ear and rotated him clockwise 180˚ into the correct position. This brings a small risk of uterus damage, but the foal needed turning.”

After a trouble-free delivery, the Dimaggio colt was on his feet within an hour and drinking within two.

Kara explains that a number of different foal presentations can occur and while it’s possible to have foal position scanned or checked manually three to four weeks before the due date, few people go to this trouble.

“The most difficult is breech [rump-first, with legs tucked underneath], which sometimes needs a caesarean section,” says Kara. “New mums can sometimes stop pushing sooner or panic if the presentation is wrong.

“What’s important is to be vigilant at the foaling. If the mare seems to be pushing but nothing is happening, call the vet.”

Go to page 22 of Horse & Hound, 7 July issue for three other examples of challenging foaling situations