“Kenneth, she’s fine,” I said for what felt like
the hundredth time. “Really, you’re worrying
unnecessarily. Full-term mares can look
Due Dates and Other Suggestions
Since I’d artificially inseminated the mare, I
knew her conception date. I always tell the
client that the due date is merely a suggestion
routinely ignored by mares, but many owners
get hung up on the numbers and expect a foal
right on the circled date on the calendar.
Kenneth was going to be one of those
owners, despite my attempts to educate him.
We’d gone over signs of impending labor,
gestation lengths that don’t always obey the
345-day mark, and signs of maternal and fetal
distress, but it just wasn’t sinking in.
“I think you should give her something,” he
fretted. “Look at how she’s standing! My poor
baby is so uncomfortable.”
Eileen hadn’t lifted her head from the
hay feeder. I wasn’t about to give drugs to a
perfectly healthy pregnant mare, so I suggested
a sugar- and starch-free mineral and protein
block that would buffer stomach acids.
Kenneth fussed, but agreed to order the block,
and was on the phone as I drove away.
That night, the phone rang.
“Do you think acupuncture might stimulate
“Kenneth, Eileen will go into labor when
she’s ready. You need to stop worrying!”
I put the phone down. A few minutes later, it
“What about massage? There’s a masseuse
in town who works on horses!”
Wearily, I told Kenneth to go ahead and
book the massage, and snickered at the thought
of asking him to book me one too. I didn’t hear
from him for a few days. Then he called again.
“I think yesterday’s massage upset Eileen.
You better come look at her, because she …
now who’s this pulling into my driveway? Oh it
must be the mailman with her mineral block!”
I agreed to come look at Eileen again, and
when I arrived, she was licking at the new block
happily. I checked her over, and found nothing
out of the ordinary but her udder was a little
bigger, and when I gently squeezed one of her
teats, a bead of thick yellow fluid appeared. Her
tailhead was soft and her belly had dropped
several inches. I figured we had no more than
48 hours left.
The Final Countdown
Kenneth’s cot was in the breezeway, and there
was a small table with an essential oil diffuser
puffing aromatic mist into the air. Several
books and a flashlight were on the cot.
“I check her every hour,” Kenneth explained.
The circles under his eyes were an alarming
purple color. “Can’t you do something, Doc? I
can’t take much more of this.”
“Then don’t.” I said unsympathetically. “Get
some sleep, Kenneth.”
He stared at me in horror. “Oh I could never
do that! My baby needs me!”
I shook my head and packed up my things.
As I drove away, I could see Kenneth sagging
at the stall door, and I had a feeling that I knew
what was coming.
Sure enough, the next morning the phone
rang and Kenneth was in tears.
“I slept right through it! The foal was
dry and nursing when I checked Eileen this
morning. How could I have let her down like
I drove out to the barn and consoled
Kenneth. Mares are secretive about foaling,
and many an owner who’d stayed up too many
nights staring at their pregnant horse had
missed the big event on the one night they’d
fallen asleep. Eileen and her foal were happy
and healthy, and I could have sworn that she
winked at me as I was examining the baby.
Of course, Kenneth had some final thoughts.
“I don’t know how to thank you, Doctor!
That mineral block that you prescribed sure did
the trick! Does it always work so quickly?” HI
COURTNEY S. DIEHL, DVM, has been an equine
veterinarian since 2000. She resides in Steamboat
Springs, Colo., where she is in private practice.
Her first book, Horse Vet, Chronicles of a Mobile
Veterinarian, was published in 2014, and she is
currently at work on her second book.
“I always tell the client that the due date is merely a suggestion routinely ignored by mares, but many owners get hung up on the numbers
and expect a foal right on the
circled date on the calendar. “