Mares can make the entire birthing process look easy; some mares produce a healthy foal in as few as two hours, and most have a foal by their side within five to six hours. But Ahmed Tibary, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ACT, from Washington State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, warns that even though mare and foal might seem fine initially, complications in the mare can arise anytime during the immediate postpartum period, which lasts up to two weeks after foaling.

“All mares should be examined by a veterinarian within 12-18 hours of foaling, even when everything seems to be normal,” advised Tibary, who described post-foaling complications veterinarians should look out for during his presentation at the 2012 American Association of Equine Practitioners’ Convention, held Dec. 1-5 in Anaheim, Calif.

On stud farms resident veterinarians have a specific protocol for examining postpartum mares, so catching problems in this period isn’t generally an issue. But in the case of small breeding operations or private farms with just a few broodmares, owners might overlook examination of an apparently healthy mare in the face of a seemingly thriving foal.

“Examination of the mare that had an apparently normal foaling and no apparent problems afterward should begin by simply observing the foal," explained Tibary. "Many postpartum conditions will result in poor foal-mare bonding.”

Tibary also recommended all owners keep the placenta in a cooler until a practitioner can examine it and hold off on administering oxytocin (which can help the uterus expel the fetal membranes) until he or she specifically dire