Homoeopathy for Mares and Foals
When spring is in the air, the mating and foaling season is too. It is a time that all horse owners generally look forward to and become very excited about. However, considerations should be made to assist your prospective breeding mare to ensure that she is kept in optimum health in order to produce a sound and healthy offspring!
With the world becoming so scientific and mechanised, the tempo of life can be held in a state of high tension. It is preferred that this environment is not one that is transferred onto our beloved equine companions at any time, but in particular whilst they are pregnant. It is desirable to seek a field in a natural environment for your expectant mare that is quiet and restful with plenty of room for adequate exercise. It should be well pastured, fresh watered, have good shelter with safe and secure fencing, be not isolated without company, easily accessed daily for observation and care along with any required feeding, but away from the hustle and bustle of any activities that may place any added stress during her time of gestation.
When first contemplating breeding, have the mare looked at by a professional homoeopath, or homoeopathic veterinarian, for a constitutional appraisal. The constitutional remedy that fits the mare's current state of health will afford her to be in the best health that she can be before becoming pregnant. This in turn will provide her offspring every chance of the best nutritional atmosphere and also help to deter complications whilst still in the womb. If the mare has difficulty in actually conceiving then again a constitutional remedy can help to rectify the imbalance, whether the result of a hormonal dysfunction, infection, toxicity, behavioural problem, vaccinosis, injury, or otherwise, to allow her to become more receptive and able to conceive.
While we endeavour to keep the mare in as natural a situation as possible, there are times when the carer may be called upon to intervene. The most natural approach that can be made towards the mare, and any events where she needs help, is with the aid of homoeopathic remedies, which are natural, safe, effective, have no side effects and 'do no harm'.
Approaching foaling time one should never hesitate to seek assistance from a professional veterinarian. Always discuss any concerns with your veterinarian, in advance of and during birth. It only takes a phone call to decide on what action is needed and in the meantime homoeopathics can assist to regulate a situation. When in ANY DOUBT, a veterinarian should be summoned to attend the birthing. It is better to have the vet arrive to an already delivered foal as a wasted trip than to know that it could have been a more favourable outcome if you had enlisted his or her help.
JUST A FEW TIPS:
There is much more to learn about care of the mare and foal than what is presented here, so the following are just a few tips to get you started.
Study a reliable and comprehensive foaling manual to become better acquainted with what to expect in both good and bad situations. Have a list of important phone numbers handy that include more than one vet, a friend that might be free to offer an extra pair of hands, and colostrum suppliers (if you haven't any saved). Prepare a foaling kit of items such as a flashlight, tail wrap, soap, bucket, towels, scissors, disinfectant etc. and a homoeopathic mare and foal kit.
Please call the vet immediately if the mare has not foaled within 20 minutes of full stage labour, or if the foal is presenting in the wrong position. Never pull on a retained placenta as it could tear and leave a part of it behind in the uterus or lead to complications such as haemorrhage of the uterine lining from tearing, resultant scarring, or even uterine prolapse. The foetal membranes may be tied up on themselves, out of reach of the mare stepping on them, to avoid her accidentally tearing them out herself. The weight of the exposed membrane encourages the placenta to naturally peel away from the uterus. There are homoeopathic remedies that help to assist this process. However, the entire placenta should be expelled by the end of 3 hours after foaling but can take up to another 8 hours to fully part company. If this doesn't occur within 8 hours, call the vet.
The umbilical cord should not be cut or broken manually. Usually, several minutes after foaling, the cord will stop pulsing, lose colour, and then collapse to form a seal. This seal serves to stop the foal's umbilical stump from bleeding when it breaks naturally once the foal kicks away from the mare or when the mare stands up. Certain circumstances may cause the umbilical stump on the foal to bleed. If this happens, use your fingers to pinch the stump and apply pressure for a few minutes until the bleeding subsides and have your helper give the foal a homoeopathic remedy suitable for stemming bleeding. Once bleeding is under control, strong iodine or Calendula lotion should be applied to the stump to prevent infection.
Also note that the foal should ideally be nursing within 3 hours after birth to keep its energy up before blood sugar levels drop. Within the first 3-12 hours it must ingest an adequate supply of the mare's first milk, which contains all-important colostrum. The foal has no protection of its own against viral or bacterial infection prior to and immediately after birth. Colostrum holds the maternal antibodies that the foal must receive to gain this protection. If the foal does not receive colostrum or colostrum replacement within 18 hours of birth, it can die.
There are numerous conditions that can be encountered during the various stages of gestation, parturition, and post-partum for which there are as many remedies to choose from. Consult with your homoeopathic practitioner for more advice. The following are just some of the homoeopathic remedies that are recommended to have in your mare and foal first aid kit:
ACONITE - for the expression of sudden ailments and acute inflammatory complaints, violent and painful, with fearfulness, restlessness, tossing, flushing and/or palpitation; intense fear of contractions or delivery, labour fails to progress from fear, much anxiety; suppressed urine after birth. The foal itself could be given one dose if a traumatic delivery. It is helpful to the mare who doesn't want the newborn foal near her and appears afraid of the foal, and is most often needed in the early stages of any quickly developing problem with violent or severe symptoms such as early fever and beginning signs of an inflammation or infection. Symptoms may subside as rapidly as they set in. Problems that follow becoming chilled, being exposed to dry, cold winds, or severe emotional trauma are helped by this remedy. It is frequently used alternately with Belladonna for acutes or flare-ups of chronic complaints.
ARISTOLOCHIA - a profoundly female remedy that promotes easy birth and eases shock and trauma, regulates mood swings, assists in stimulating oestrus, and can address incontinence and frequent urination. It is useful for brown discharges that smell rotten like garbage, and when fatigued and worn out, sore and aching all over; for after pains with laryngitis where the mare finds it difficult to nicker or neigh. It is indicated for mares after abortion or with a dead foetus, expelled or retained (also Secale).
ARNICA - for bruising, shock, accident or trauma of any kind to mare or foal; it aids in reducing blood loss, encourages reabsorption of blood from bruised tissues, and encourages healing of wounds. It is for muscle over-use, cramps, bruises, aches, sore pains, extreme restlessness and discomfort, and sensitivity to touch. It is useful when pains and discomfort are worse at night and from exposure to cold, damp conditions. It relieves pain from membrane rupturing, and can be used after expulsion of placenta and for heavy post-partum haemorrhage. It is a preventative against septicaemia. A few doses as needed after a difficult or traumatic labour helps speed recovery for both mare and foal. The mare may be intolerant of people who try to help her; she prefers to be left alone and fears being touched, examined or approached.
ARSENICUM (album) - for mare or foal with watery, offensive smelling faeces and showing signs of strain and dehydration; excoriation from bowel movements or diarrhoea; increased thirst but in small amounts; dry skin and coat. Mare or foal is restless, can't stay in one place. Mare is overdue and labour is blocked from fear and anxiety, mare won't 'let go', is anxious and desires company. Patient is seen to be worse around midnight to 2 am, is chilly and better from warmth. Arsenicum is useful for the effects of toxic food intake or bacterial conditions leading to diarrhoea or colic. Older foals or weanlings who don't gain weight, are restless, have a dry coat, a frequent thirst and diarrhoea benefit from Arsenicum.
BELLADONNA - for any symptoms of sudden and violent onset, throbbing and pulsating pains and sensations, dilated, shining pupils, redness, burning and heat, no thirst, fever, and violent mental symptoms - striking, biting, kicking. There is extreme sensitiveness to touch, jarring, light and noise. It is useful for violent, abrupt, explosive contractions, violent forcing down or throbbing pains as if there's a lot of heat and congestion, especially of the lower abdomen and pelvis. It is helpful with magnesium deficiency and the onset of eclampsia or lactation tetany in mares (calcium metabolism disturbance). It helps to control convulsions and prevent brain damage particularly when there is presence of dilated pupils, glazed eyes and the pulse is full and bounding. Eclampsia cases generally require a vet to administer a calcium shot either subcutaneously or intravenously. Do not rely solely on homoeopathics!
BELLIS PERENNIS - a similar remedy to Arnica but deeper acting; when Arnica fails try Bellis p. It is for injury like Arnica but deeper trauma with more swelling and bruising, blunt trauma eye injuries, sprains and strains, deep tissue injuries, dislocations, venous stasis, injured coccyx, post surgery, haematomas, mastitis as a result of an injury or blow, etc. It has a large focus on the pelvic girdle and is of most use after foaling for bruised tissues and to hasten pelvic region tonicity. It can be used in old injuries that have never healed completely and is best administered in the early part of the day. Bathing or hosing, hot or cold, does not benefit the patient.
CALC CARB - for heavy, robust, calm, inactive foals who lack assimilation and may be calcium deficient. It helps increase milk production in a mare that is a poor provider due to low calcium. It helps mares with eclampsia that are overweight and sweating. It is useful as a preventative against milk fever and may be alternated with Mag phos during the last weeks of pregnancy. It helps with lack of muscle tone and muscular weakness, muscle spasms affecting both voluntary and involuntary muscle, and weakness or lameness of joints. It assists in correcting defective bone metabolism where foals are born with leg or tendon deviations and helps with developmental disorders in general such as delayed sucking reflex. Patients tend to be affected by cold, damp weather, and changes of weather.
CALC PHOS - for wiry, lean, active foals with poor assimilation of calcium and phosphorus. It rectifies growing disorders like Calc carb does and may help to increase milk production in the mare when the milk is low in nutrition and quantity. It is helpful in cases of anoestrus (no ovarian or oestrus cycle) accompanied by vaginitis and a profuse leucorrhoea (vaginal discharge) that is seen to be worse in the mornings. It is useful for young mares with leucorrhoea who frequently return to service or fail to hold, due to an endocrine dysfunction, though oestrus appears normal. Calc phos acts as a preventative to eclampsia when used a few weeks prior to parturition.
CALENDULA - one of the best homoeopathic disinfectants that can be used both orally in low to medium potency, for more profound results, and topically as a lotion made from the mother tincture or very low potency homoeopathic. Helps prevent pus, assists defective closure of surgical wounds, relieves exhaustion from loss of blood and excessive pain, helps heal bed sores, and stimulates healthy granulation tissue. Calendula is wonderful for any wounds that are not a puncture or too deep, as it can heal the skin over the wound too quickly trapping infection or foreign debris (Hypericum and/or Ledum, one or the other, or both alternately in separate doses, would be a better choice for a deep or puncture wound). It provides pain relief for wounds and lacerations and can be quite specific for healing torn muscles, ruptures or tears of uterus or vulva. A lotion can be applied to tears, stitches, umbilical stumps, or cracked and sore teats while giving an oral dose in low potency as well. A favourite wound lotion for dressing is a combination of Calendula and Hypericum, commonly known as 'Hypercal'. This can be made at home by adding 1 part Hypericum mother tincture and 1 part Calendula mother tincture to 10 parts of pure spring water, or distilled water. Alternatively, a low potency such as a 1x to 6x or 1c to 3c can be used to make this lotion but only 3-6 drops of each will be required to be mixed into a bowl of pure water prior to external application.
CANTHARIS - for cystitis with frequent urination and straining but low output, often encountered post-partum, with signs of blood in the urine. The mare may develop a vesicular inflammation, swelling or itching around the genital area or in the urinary tract. The Cantharis patient can be irritable with a desire to run away from the burning pain. It is also good for sunburn, rope burns, scalds and burns up to second degree. The patient is worse from movement and touch, better from warmth, rest and cold applications.
CARBO VEG - an important reviving remedy! It is useful in states of collapse, blood loss, exhaustion, and post-partum haemorrhage with signs of shock; when the patient is fading, needs oxygen, shows extreme faintness and weakness, is very pale with bluish tinge to the skin/gums, has clammy skin and 'air hunger' (craving for fresh air), has frequent yawning, stretching and tiredness as a result of poor circulation and inability to make effective use of oxygen. Patient reacts badly to extreme changes in temperature. Carbo veg can also relieve abdominal colic and flatulence.
CAULOPHYLLUM - often given to the mare 3-4 weeks prior to foaling to help tonify the uterus. It helps to coordinate and strengthen contractions, is useful when labour is feeble, mare is exhausted, labour does not progress; when there's a lot of shaking and internal trembling, in transition and after birth (also Gelsemium). It helps to initiate labour and may be alternated with Cimicifuga or Pulsatilla. It is useful for retained placenta when the uterus is too exhausted to expel.
CHAMOMILLA - for mares who can't handle the pains and are in a frenzy, sweating from pain; young foals who are colicky and distressed. Do not give if constipated, only if there is diarrhoea. Teething pains may also have accompanying diarrhoea. Diarrhoea that is very green, like spinach is helped with Chamomilla. It is useful especially in foals that suffer from being reprimanded. Use when labour pains cause the mare to be cross and irritable, if there is cramping pain in uterus, if she is hot and thirsty, doesn't want people near, has fear of wind, is averse to touch of rugs or blankets.
CHINA - very useful for ailments after loss
of fluids or not acquiring fluids; exhausting discharges like haemorrhages,
suppurations, excessive urination, excessive lactation, diarrhoea, and
perspiration. It restores strength after fluid loss and rebalances dehydration,
helps with anaemia and gastrointestinal disturbances, acts directly on
the intestines and helps control diarrhoea, gas or colic pains. Abdomen
may feel cold; there may be shock, coldness and much sweat. It is of great
help in times of intermittent fever, high debilitating fevers and diarrhoea.
The patient can have up and down periods, good days alternating with bad
days, may appear indifferent to the situation, depressed and taciturn,
super sensitive to the slightest touch, or being caught in a draft.
CIMICIFUGA - has a wide action on the cerebrospinal and muscular system, as well as upon the uterus and ovaries, and is a predominantly female remedy. It is useful in rheumatism accompanied by ovarian irritation, uterine cramps and heavy limbs. Spine is sensitive, especially of cervical and upper dorsal region, with difficulty in turning the neck. There can be pain over lumbar and sacral regions. It helps to allay fear and anxiety and is useful when labour pains start then entirely stop. It is for nervous shivers in early stages, spasms in large muscle groups with or instead of contractions, clonic spasms alternating with tonic spasms. The patient is not so weakened by the pains as in Caulophyllum or Gelsemium, but more emotional with deep gloom and depression; helps post-partum depression. It is used in the last term of pregnancy (2-3 months before foaling) in low potency for 2-3 repeats to reduce the risk of loss of the foal, especially in mares with a prior history of slipping foals.
CUPRUM-MET - for foals born with copper deficiency leading to unthriftiness, stunted growth and tendency to infections. It helps control rigid muscular cramps of eclampsia in the mare. Muscles may feel rubbery and hard; there may be an enlargement of joints and shortening of tendons in foals producing knuckling (also Causticum for contracted tendons).
GELSEMIUM - for sensitivity, much anticipation, dread and performance anxiety causing weakness, trembling, dullness, droopy eyelids, and drowsiness; for false labour pains that run upwards or backwards, into the back; rigid os cervix, will not dilate from anticipation and inability to relax, mare may lose her dilation during pelvic exam. Used for weakness and trembling from extensive labour and delivery. It is also useful for low grade paralysis, bladder paralysis, other twitchings or tremblings with muscle weakness. It is like Caulophyllum but patient is thirstless, and is better from profuse urination and perspiration.
MILLEFOLIUM - for haemorrhage after injury or overexertion; the blood is bright red, more so than in Arnica. It is useful for any profuse bright bleeding from nostrils, respiratory tract, bowels, urinary tract, or umbilical stump, and post-partum haemorrhages. It is good for haematomas (also Phosphorus), incarcerated hernia, painless haemorrhage without fever. It is useful after surgery when the patient hasn't rested and has overdone it causing bleeding to recur, and when the umbilical stump begins to bleed after struggling to stand up. The patient is worse from suppressed milk or uterine discharge following foaling.
NUX VOMICA - for colic from ingestion of bad food or water, from over-eating, or from drug overdosing. Digestive problems of all kinds, bowel blockage, strong urge with ineffectual passing of stools, foal straining to pass meconium. It also helps back pain and severe spasmodic contractions during pregnancy that impede dilation of the os cervix.There are periods of time where the pains almost entirely cease, a desire to move bowels and bladder with every contraction, and weakness from the pains, which retards the labour (also Pulsatilla and Cimicifuga). Patient is impatient and irritable, wants to walk around, is intolerant of odours and noise, depressed, and prefers to be left alone. Patient is worse at 3-4am.
PHOSPHORUS - for profuse bleeding (there a number of remedies for bleeding but one key to Phosphorus is that the nature of the bleeding is 'more than what would be expected' for a given situation - a small nick or tear is bleeding to an unexpected level for the degree of the injury), bleeding from umbilical stump, nosebleeds, haemorrhaging post surgery, reaction to anaesthesia and slow to come out of it, and loss of stamina due to underlying anaemia. Energy levels are extremely erratic, with short bursts of energy alternating with exhaustion and introversion. Phosphorus can alleviate anxiety, fear of storms, thunder and the dark, and sensitivity to external stimuli. The patient craves physical affection and assurance, and has a strong desire for company but is averse to being crowded. Patient is better from steady rubbing or massage.
PHYTOLACCA - has an affinity to glands, especially mammary glands. It is valuable in mastitis where the glands become hard and painful to touch, with a purplish hue. Abscesses may form and milk flow may be increased. The milk is often thick, coagulated and stringy. It helps swollen testicles, parotid gland swelling that is firm and tender, pharyngitis, rheumatism of fibrous tissues. There can be increased lachrymal discharge (tearing), one-sided nasal discharge and a dry cough. When the throat is sore, tonsillar tissue may be dark red and swollen making swallowing difficult. The patient may be indifferent to life and have a low appetite or refuse food despite not appearing ill, and is worse for exposure to cold, damp weather or changes of weather.
PODOPHYLLUM - for enteritis conditions, especially in young animals. Diarrhoea is preceded by gurgling bowels, is painless, profuse, gushing and offensive, watery and with jelly-like mucous, with a relaxed sphincter. Diarrhoea may alternate with other symptoms such as constipation. It helps pendulous abdomen, engorged, sluggish liver, jaundice and colicky pains. Most conditions are worse in hot weather and early in the morning. They also arise during teething. These patients may grind their teeth at night, especially early in the morning. Symptoms can be aggravated from drinking milk.
PULSATILLA - for when labour is slow, inactive and feeble with an absence of marked contractions even though the cervix is relaxed and the os dilated; the mare appears stuck and needs help to proceed. Pulsatilla is useful when the foal is in the wrong position, a breech presentation, especially in the last week. It is useful when pains move about and are changeable in intensity, and for mares with a history of retaining placenta who then follow with a silent heat or anoestrus, and mares who frequently return to service or fail to hold, where there is also a semi-purulent vaginal discharge. These patients need re-assurance and have no thirst. The mare wants the attention herself and thus places her young in second place, so Pulsatilla is helpful to switch her interest back to the foal.
PYROGEN - has great value as a homoeopathic dynamic antiseptic for extremely septic states, blood poisoning, pyaemia etc. It is useful for foul, offensive, purulent discharges or secretions accompanied by high or low temperature with rapid pulse, sweating without relief, prostrate yet restless, trying to find a comfortable position. It is useful for dissecting wounds (wounds that should be healing but are pulling apart), after effects of miscarriage, discharges from vulva and post-partum infections, metritis, peritonitis, painful burning abscesses, recurrent abscesses, and abscessed teeth. Pyrogen may be helpful in some vaccination reactions when red streaks are evident. The Pyrogen patient can have the appearance of being in semi-sleep; needs warmth but is not improved by external covers.
SABINA - for threatened abortion with discharge of bright blood, especially in the 3rd-4th month due to atony of uterus, for post-partum haemorrhage when there is no septic involvement (Pyrogen if septic), retained placenta and loss of dark blood with clots immediately after delivery. Sabina promotes expulsion and is a major remedy for bleeding fibroids, pelvic infections after foaling or surgery, urethral or bladder inflammation leading to blood in the urine, A feeling of deep-seated trouble which makes the patient melancholy, reserved and sad. Patient may show an interest in lemons or sour food. Symptoms are worse at night.
SECALE - severe haemorrhage with shock and convulsions or unconsciousness. It is often useful for post-partum haemorrhages of dark blood, with large, black clots and putrid discharges, or a retained placenta that has gone septic (Pyrogen feels chilly but Secale wants NO covers). It is useful when there is no expulsive action even though everything is relaxed, open or flabby; when worn out or debilitated by frequent foal bearing; when there is metritis due to prolapse of the uterus with dark and blood stained discharges and the mare takes on a lean appearance. It helps cold feet and legs due to impaired circulation. Patient may have unquenchable thirst and a desire for sour things like lemons (also Sabina). Patient may show aggression towards her offspring; Secale can help smooth this over. Patient is better from being fanned.
SEPIA - has an affinity to the entire female reproductive system and genital regions. It helps with exhaustion after contraction and helps to regulate the oestrous cycle, has a tonic effect on the ovaries and uterus, which helps avoid problems with frequent return to service or failure to hold, guards against early embryonic abortion. Sepia is useful for post-partum discharges or pyometra. The patient is irritable, moody, sad and morose, 'leave me alone I've had enough', shows a lack of maternal instinct or desire towards the newborn, desires warmth. Sepia generates increased interest in mating for mares that display an aversion to the stallion or being served.
URTICA-URENS - for agalactia (diminished or non existent milk flow). Urtica helps to boost milk flow but for this it must be used in high potency - a low potency WILL INHIBIT milk flow. Use low when weaning the foal to assist the mare to dry up. Urtica is also useful for mastitis where there is oedema of the udder and teats (also Apis mel) with a red, blotchy rash and possibly diminished urination. It helps nephritis (kidney inflammation) encourages elimination of uric acid deposits. Use Urtica for itchy eruptions such as hives, nettle rash, insect bites with oedematous lesions that are not quite as puffy as Apis mel, for blotchy, burning heat, and stinging. It is suitable for first degree burns. Patient is better from rubbing parts.
This list is not intended to replace veterinary advice! It is an adequate but not necessarily complete guide that presents various symptom pictures, which can help you tune up your powers of observation and become familiar with the kinds of information your homoeopathic practitioner will find useful when selecting a remedy to suit your horse. With a homoeopathic consultation and constitutional treatment, many breeding, gestational, and foaling problems can be avoided or eliminated. Having a foaling kit with remedies such as these on hand can help take the worry out of foaling season, allowing you to enjoy this delightful time period.
Tanya Nolte lives in NSW, Australia where she keeps a number of horses and also an interesting array of other furry animal companions. Tan is a veterinary nurse of 7 years and a classical homoeopath of 6, conducting consultations at the veterinary clinic, a human clinic, and privately. She has completed a full 3-year Diploma in Homoeopathy and 2 years in the Medical Sciences of Anatomy and Physiology, Biochemistry, Pathophysiology, Symptomatology and Differential Diagnoses. She is a professional member of the Australian Homoeopathic Association, the official Australian Registrar of Homoeopaths, and the Holistic Animal Therapy Association of Australia. Tan is available for distance consultations via phone or email.
For more information, and to find a homoeopath near you:
Tanya Nolte, Classical EquiHomoeopath.
Whispering Horse Therapies
PO Box 22, Nimbin
NSW 2480, Australia
Phone 02 66897296
Australian Homoeopathic Association
P.O. Box 396 Drummoyne
NSW 1470, Australia
Phone 02 97192763
Holistic Animal Therapy Association of Australia
P.O. Box 202, Ormond, Melbourne
Vic 3204, Australia
Phone 03 59688100
The Academy of Veterinary Homeopathy
751 N.E. 168th Street
North Miami Beach, FL 33162-2427
National Center for Homeopathy
801 North Fairfax St., Suite 306
Alexandria, VA 22314
American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association
2214 Old Emmorton Road
Bel Air, MD 21015