Foaling Down

Foaling Down

Have your mare foal down at Rouse House Horse Hospital.

The safest and best option for the health and safety of both mare and foal is to have a vet present during foaling. Rouse House Horse Hospital offers a foaling down service, to ensure the best possible outcome for your mare and foal. You’ve invested a lot of time and money in the care of your mare – stud fees, ultrasounds, worming, feeding and your emotional investment. Don’t leave the foaling to chance!

  • Mares are monitored with electronic foaling alarms.
  • Large, roomy foaling boxes are video monitored 24/7
  • Vet on site
  • Resuscitation equipment

All mares and foals at Rouse House Horse Hospital are monitored carefully before, during and post foaling. All foaling is assisted – with the vet on site to ensure things are progressing as they should. Many issues can arise if your mare is left to foal unassisted.

Some of these problems can include:

  • Dystocia (malpresentation of foal)
  • Feto-pelvic disproportion (very large foals) Common in warmblood and embryo transfer foals
  • Problems with maiden mares (not letting foals nurse/aggressive behaviour)
  • Oxygen deprivation (foal not breathing)
  • Red bag delivery (premature separation of placenta – before the foal has been delivered)
  • Retained placenta/uterine infection
  • Early separation of the umbilical cord
  • Overcontracting – which can cause problems including patent urachus (ruptured bladder)/hernias.
  • Premature delivery – requiring extra care for the foal

Many of these problems require immediate veterinary intervention. If problems present during foaling they need to be addressed immediately. Even if you are present during foaling, a vet may not be able to attend in time to assist the mare and foal.


Maiden mares can be unpredictable new mothers. Some mares are so fascinated with their newborn babies that they don’t allow them to nurse. Others can be aggressive towards their foals, so supervision and intervention if required is essential to ensure the health of both mare and foal.


When your mare foals down at Rouse House Horse Hospital, the service does not just cover the actual foaling. It also includes:

  • The care of your mare prior to foaling
  • Every mare is given an individually tailored diet
  • Every mare is given calcium supplement
  • Vaccination 2-4 weeks prior to foaling
  • Assisted foaling down
  • Placenta examination
  • Post-foaling health check of mare and foal
  • Post-foaling worming for the mare
  • Immunoglobulin (igG) level check (if required)

It is preferable for your mare to arrive between two and four weeks before her expected due date. This is so she can become familiar with her surroundings and the daily routine. Mares are stabled at night, and turned out in day yards or private paddocks during the day.

Our foaling down service provides a controlled environment for foaling – with assisted delivery and full surgical facilities on site.

After birth, it is important to ensure that the foal is standing and drinking within the correct time frames. Some foals have problems nursing – the foal must nurse within the first four hours of birth. If the foal does not receive colostrum it can result in failure of passive transfer (not receiving vital nutrients and antibodies). At Rouse House Horse Hospital, mare and foals are closely monitored.Conformation problems are common in newborn foals, and can be rectified if they are treated early, and can include:

  • Lax or contracted tendons (must be corrected within 72 hours of birth)
  • Windswept hocks
  • Carpal malformations
  • Club foot
  • Varus/Valgus deviation – at knee, fetlock, hocks (must be treated within first 6 weeks)
  • Carpal malformations
  • Carpal malformations

All of these problems can be easily corrected (usually without surgery) if they are addressed in the first 72 hours.


Some post-foaling problems in mares include:

  • Laminitis post-foaling
  • Uterine infection
  • Colic

Post foaling, mares and foals are closely monitored. Any problems that may be present are able to be treated immediately.


Post foaling, mare and foal must be monitored to ensure no abnormalities are present. When your mare foals at Rouse House Horse Hospital, both mare and foal are stabled and monitored after foaling. This is done to ensure the foal is in good health and free of any neurologic or central nervous system irregularities.Foals also receive basic handling and are used to human contact.


Dental care is an important part of horse management
Dental problems are best prevented by dental examination once or twice a year by a Veterinary surgeon with advanced dental proficiency. Whilst many lay practitioners (‘Equine Dentists’) may be able to adequately float a horses teeth, they are usually unable to detect disease or pathology in the mouth even when quite advanced; nor are they able to medicate or prescribe. The teeth of horses continually grow throughout their life. The teeth can be used to estimate a horse’s age. However, certain dental problems, such as malocclusion (upper and lower teeth do not meet), broken teeth and abnormal wear (as from cribbing), can make it difficult to estimate a horse’s age.
Dental problems can lead to eating difficulties, unwillingness to accept the bit, mouth injuries or sinus infections. Signs of dental disease include weight loss, difficulty chewing, dropping hay or grass while chewing, head tossing during riding, nasal discharge, facial swelling, and many whole pieces of grain or chaff in the manure. Problems are usually well advanced when these symptoms are encountered.In diagnosing oral pathology in the horse first requires a clean flushed mouth, a visual examination of the arcades is performed with a speculum and light. Then we can see irregularities of the arcade, gum disease, displaced teeth, gaps in the dentition, diastemas and periodontal pockets. Feeling carefully around the teeth we may find foreign bodies, sore gums, loose teeth and foul odour representing infection. In some cases we recommend further diagnostic tests to evaluate your horse’s problem, such as Radiographs or fluid collection from the sinus. Loose and diseased teeth that are easily extracted from the mouth have taken several years of infection and pain to occur. Seen early in the course of the disease these can mostly be fixed and the tooth saved. This would have a significant impact on the continuing life of the horse as it would do better, be less narcky, it would not quid (ball up & drop food), it would wear its teeth evenly and be pain free.


A horse’s teeth periodically need to be filed down or floated to remove sharp points on the outside edges of the upper molars and inside edges of the lower molars. The average horse requires floating at least once a year to prevent injury to the cheeks and tongue. “Hooks” on mismatched teeth may need to be cut and smoothed. The arcades should to be level to allow the jaw to move and grind in each axis [up & down, forward & back, side to side].

Wolf teeth are the rudimentary first upper premolars located near the large upper second premolars. These first appear in late yearlings. Bitting problems are more likely if the wolf teeth are small and loose. Wolf tooth removal is relatively simple and routinely performed at the dental.

Accumulations of yellow-brown tartar or calculus around the base of the teeth should be periodically removed to prevent gum disease and tooth loss. Tartar usually accumulates around the canine teeth and occasionally the incisors.

As the horse grows older the tooth roots curve more pushing the cheek teeth forward. This pressure can force a tooth sideways out of alignment with the others, or may crush the tooth causing it to crack. This may result in the need for extraction, if conservative treatment fails.

Infection of an upper tooth can spread to the bony compartment between the roof of the mouth and the eye (maxillary sinus), causing sinus infection and pain, and a discharge from one nostril. Infection of a lower tooth can cause swelling and a discharge along the jawbone . Horses with tooth infection may have an unpleasant “rotten” odour about the mouth or emanating from the nostril on the same side as the sinus infection.

When a tooth is missing, the tooth in the opposite arcade continues to grow and may require periodic cutting to prevent mouth injury and to allow normal chewing. Waves, ramps and hooks form from pathology or conformation changes in the opposite arcade. Shear Mouth: The grinding surface of the molars becomes bevelled or angulated rather than flat in the horizontal axis. Causes large excursions of the mouth during chewing. May be difficult to correct.

Occasionally a horse retains feed in its mouth between the teeth and cheek. This packed accumulation of feed can stretch the cheek, forming a pouch. Floating off the points and daily removal of accumulated feed from this area may help resolve the problem. Gum Disorders e.g. Epulis: Exuberant overgrowth of the gums due to irritation or infection.

Grass seeds caught under the tongue, lip or in the soft palate. Twigs in between the arcades. Brambles caught in the throat or windpipe. Ulceration: From sharp points, grass seeds or kidney disease.

From infected teeth or kidney disease.

From liver disease or anaemia.

Cuts to the tongue, gums, chapped /ulcerated commisures of the mouth.

Pre-Purchase Examinations

A medical examination of a horse that you wish to buy.

The data we accumulate can help you decide whether or not to buy this horse for your intended purpose. We strongly recommend this procedure prior to bring a horse home, even if it is “free to a good home”. We are very proud of our expertise and reputation in this process. The following explains our philosophy of pre-purchase examinationing:
* A pre-purchase examination is not a soundness examination, as no horse is perfectly sound. No warranty is implied or given. By doing the examination and the other supplemental tests you request, we can help to reduce your risk but we cannot eliminate your risk in purchasing the horse.* Have a professional trainer advise you on the suitability of this horse for your intended uses and to help you evaluate the purchase price.

* Obtain a written, signed history from the owner and/or agent selling the horse. The history should describe the horse, detail any previous medical and surgical problems, indicate the dates of any past radiographs (x-rays), if these dates can be obtained, list any medication given in the past 2 weeks, list dates of dewormings and vaccination in the past year, and, finally, the pregnancy status of the horse, if a mare.

* Obtain a copy of the registration papers to be included with the examination report.

* The horse should have been on an exercise program. Preferably for at least 6 months, ideally doing the type of work for which you intend to use the horse.

It is difficult to assess potential problems if the horse has been in minimal work. To provide a satisfactory examination the following facilities are very desirable:

* A stable that can be darkened for the examination of the eyes.

* A straight driveway at least 25m long either bitumen or concrete in construction.

* A safe level area that the horse can be ridden or lunged ie. a menage.

Without these the examination may be compromised. If these facilities are not available then consider transporting the horse to another facility for all or part of the examination. Our hospital has these facilities and we welcome horses brought here for that purpose. 

The examination is done in 3 main parts:

1. In a stall or safe area, we examine the horse to assess the general medical condition of the organ systems readily accessible to examination. This starts with a distant examination to observed demeanor, stance and conformation. A particular examination includes the function of the cranial nerves and neurologic examination, a detailed examination of the mouth, teeth, cardiovascular and respiratory systems and musculature, and perform an ophthalmologic (eye) examination. We also identify the horse as the same as its documents. By law in Victoria we must also check for microchips.
2. In the orthopedic portion of the examination, we palpate, passively flex the tendons, ligaments and joints of each leg and apply hoof testers to a11 4 feet. On a hard surface such a a bitumen or concrete drive we trot the horse in a straight line then apply flexion tests to each joint of the horses lower leg We then walk, trot and canter the horse on a lunge on a firm surface.
3. In the last part of the examination, we may ask you to ride the horse for us. For performance horses we will usually require the horse to perform this function for us. E.g. eventer: seen over obstacles; racehorse: a gallop at the track. We will give you a verbal report on our findings at the time of the examination, followed by a written report.

Other examinations you can consider, for additional fees, include:

A 5 stage examination:
This is where the horse is then allowed cooled down and stand quietly in a box. 30 minutes to an hour later part 2 of the exam is repeated: the horse is trotted up, lunged and flexion tests are performed again. This can be useful with subtle lameness that were not evident if the horse had warmed up prior to examination, but may return once the horse has cooled down.Radiographs:
X-rays of important joints (feet, hocks, fetlocks and stifles); or suspect joints and blemished areas. X-rays may reveal bony defects, sub-luxations, ligamental damage or other problems. They may indicate current or potential problems and establish a baseline record should problems develop in the future.

Blood Tests:
These may include a complete blood count to evaluate for infection and anemia, a serum chemistry panel to survey liver and kidney function and electrolyte values. A drug screen can detect any drugs in the horse’s system: typical panels are for pain killers; sedatives; cortisone/ anabolics. A urine sample may be collected; furosemide (Lasix) can be given to make the horse urinate. Other tests, such as a thyroid function test and antibody levels, can be done on request.

Upper airway endoscopic examination:
We pass a flexible endoscope into the horse’s nose to view the throat and detect any mechanical breathing problems. Examples are roarers pre & post surgery, entrapped epiglottis, ethmoidal haematomas etc.


Examination of suspect tendons, ligaments or other areas. Reproductive exam in brood mares. If you wish us to perform any of these tests or any other test, please ask us about them.

Any invasive procedures, such as rectal examinations, tranquilization for radiographic examination or drug testing, should be discussed with the owner/agent before we perform them. We will be happy to discuss these tests and their applications with you. We want this prepurchase exam to go as smoothly as possible, and we hope that all others involved give you and us the proper time to complete all of the necessary examinations. Ideally, it is best to have yourself, the intended rider (if not you) and the seller present during the examination so that we can immediately resolve any questions.


Field Surgery

Emergency and routine surgery can be performed in the paddock; either under sedation or short term general anaesthetic.


Horses can be transported for surgery at the Horse Hospital for more complex cases. The hospital is equipped with full surgical facilities. Surgery at the hospital can be performed efficiently in a sterile environment with full post-op care provided. This often works out as a more economical option due to less time taken in surgery.


Rouse House Horse Hospital has facilities for rehabilitation and post operative care.

  • Large video monitored foaling boxes
  • 24 hour care, vet on site
  • Post operative administration medication
  • Medical management of colic, laminitis and other illnesses or injuries
  • Intensive care
  • Corrective shoeing management

Rehabilitation is offered for horses requiring intensive medical supervision or on-going medication. Clients may choose to have their horse stay at the hospital if they are unable to provide the level of care necessary, either due to time restrictions or inexperience.


Freeze Branding

Freeze branding is the most effective and efficient method of permanently identifying your horse. It is almost painless in comparison to iron or ‘hot’ branding, which is often not a permanent marking. We sedate the horses to perform this so that we don’t get any discomfort or movement, and without having to resort to twitching or forceful restraint.
Custom brands can be arranged. Brands don’t have to be registered in Victoria unless you are branding a thoroughbred racehorse. This allows the majority of horse owners to use their own initials or stud logo without additional cost. We have several registered brands available for racehorses. The brands used are a small brass branding iron so as the horse grows, the numbers appear proportionate. Branding is ideally performed at weaning.

In Victoria, the stud brand goes on the left shoulder and the numbers go on the right shoulder. The top number denotes the foal drop number and the lower number is the ‘year’ number.

Freeze branding your horse is economical, and your horse will be able to resume work the following day.

In thoroughbreds, branding must be performed prior to microchipping, as the white hairs must be visible prior to identification.

Freeze branding has been the only acceptable method of branding Thoroughbreds since 1987. Hopefully many of the other breed societies will follow suit. Hot branding of horses is a barbaric practice.

It is still the most effective method in identifying your horse if it is lost or stolen.



Only in Victoria, all horses microchipped must be registered with an approved database.

Horses competing at EA level now must be microchipped. All Thoroughbreds since 2001 must be microchipped.

When horses are sold, they should be scanned for their microchip and checked against the record for ownership. Legislation requires that horses at point of sale be scanned for a microchip. Microchipping is also required is the horse is to be vaccinated for Hendra Virus.

The microchip is a small pellet that is a passive transponder, when an electrical force form a readers is placed over it, it returns information, which is currently what the type of chip is an it’s unique number. Newer microchips will also read the horse’s body temperature. The microchip sits in the nuchal ligament and is inert.

An aseptic technique is vital for placement of the microchip in the horse. The applicator must be a vet specifically registered for microchipping horses.