Researchers at Saskatchewan’s Western College of Veterinary Medicine are investigating whether excessively long umbilical cords, or cords with more twists than normal, affect the health of a live foal.
Equine umbilical cords are typically between 20 and 24 inches long and have four or five twists. Cords that are excessively long or twisted can restrict fetal blood supply and cause health issues for the foal – or death.
The scientists are seeking participants via social media and providing information is easy: horse owners need only fill out a few surveys and provide images they’ve taken with their phone. Owners of pregnant mares can enroll in the study here.
After the mare foals, the owner takes a picture of the umbilical cord and measures its length. They then provide info about the mare, how the foaling went and the foal’s health at birth online.
Two more surveys are requested to be completed at days seven and 30 of the foal’s life. The researchers are looking for anything unusual regarding the foal’s health. Responses will be categorized into infectious and non-infectious conditions and bacterial or viral infections versus congenital conditions.
The scientists hope to identify common patterns and create an “umbilical cord index” that takes the number of twists in the cord and divides it by the cord’s length. These numbers will be compared to established reference values to determine whether there are any connections between umbilical cord data and foal health.
Learn more about the study and how to enroll, here.