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Over the past five years, vet Stephen Ashdown has written many articles, spoken on equine matters and contributed widely to horse magazines.

Here he reproduces in the form of questions and answers about 100 topics, all of them common problems which afflict horses.

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Mare is mourning her foal
Q: I am writing to ask your advice regarding my five-year-old Welsh section D mare, whose foal died at 11 days old.

Naturally I am devastated at losing the beautiful foal that had fought so bravely to live, but my main concern is his dam. She was an excellent first time mum, standing quietly to be milked, guiding Charlie to the right place to suck and standing still when we had to inject him to give him confidence-not bad for an unbroken horse.

We have moved her back into the field with her old companion but she looks so sad. Do I need to give her anything to dry up her milk or will it dry up naturally? Is there anything I can do to help her get over this loss?

I would like to have her broken to ride but considering that she has given birth and she will she will be sent away to unfamiliar surroundings, how long do you suggest that she needs to recover.

A: I am so sorry to hear of the death of your horse's foal. As far as helping the mother's milk to dry up there are some natural plants that can help. Sage is said to help in such situations by gently easing hormone balance, and plants that promote water, like nettles, can also be used to dampen down milk production.

Nettles are also a very good general tonic. Clean plants unaffected by pollution can be cut down left to dry in the sun for a few hours until the 'sting' has gone and offered like hay. As for alleviation your horses sense of bereavement there are many calming formulae on the market that can help greatly.

These can be in the form of herbal supplements containing plants like Valerian or Withatnia somnifera or even in the form of essential oils that can have a very quick and useful action. If one of these types of formulae work well you should be able to prepare her for riding quite soon.

If your question has not been covered adequately in the Vet Advice Topic Section, please feel free to start a thread in the Forum, and - time permitting - Stephen will endeavor to answer your question.