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After all your efforts to get your mare bred, after waiting 11months, finally the time has come for you to meet your new foal. But what are some of the things you need to remember when your mare starts to foal on a warm spring night?

The first preparation you need to make is having a clean safe environment. A box stall, preferably 14 feet x 14 feet or larger, which has been washed down is a good start. It should be free of obstacles that a foal can get cut or caught in. Ideally this stall would be away from noise and barn traffic, mares like to have their privacy during foaling. Because most foals are born in the middle of the night, decent lights are usually helpful. Bedding the stall in straw gives a clean surface for foaling. It is also a good idea to start putting the mother to be in the stall about a month before her due date so that her immune system can develop antibodies to the environment. Having a clock and a piece of paper that you can write times on, as well as, your veterinarian’s phone number is also important. It’s also good to remember that mares have foaled for tens of thousands of years out in the open, so a safe clean summer pasture can also work well.

So what are some signs that your mare is getting close to foaling? Normal gestation for a mare is 330-345 days. Usually in the last month you will see swelling on the mare’s chest and belly. In the last 2-4 weeks, the mammary glands or udder will begin to develop. At 24-48 hours before foaling, a waxy substance may develop on the ends of the teats. At 24 hours, milk may be present at the end of the teats. It is important to remember that very few mares will read this article, so these signs are not always present. If there is any doubt, you should watch the mare closely. Even if it means that you have to stay up for a few nights.

So what are the signs of labor? The first stage of labor is brought on by contractions of the uterus. It is exhibited by the mare being restless, lying down and getting up repeatedly, sweating, and showing mild colic symptoms. This stage of labor typically lasts 2-3 hours, but can last longer (especially if the mare is interrupted). The second stage of labor begins with the mare’s water breaking. It is at this point you want to record the time. This stage of labor should only last for 1 hour. It ends when the foal is delivered completely. The normal progression of the birthing process after the water breaks is the appearance of the front feet, followed by the nose, head, shoulders, ribs, hips, and hind feet. Any change in this order, or the appearance of a red colored bag protruding from the birth canal is the sign of a possible life-threatening emergency. Call your veterinarian immediately. If this stage of labor has taken longer than 1 hour call your veterinarian immediately. The next stage in the foaling process is the foal standing and nursing. This phase should take 2 hours. Newborns have very little energy reserves. So it is very important that if the foal has not nursed in 2 hours, you should call your veterinarian immediately. The foals ability to get the first milk or colostrum is vital for its survival beyond the first few hours of life, because the colostrum provides the antibodies the foal will need until its own immune system develops over the next 6 months. The last stage of labor is the delivery of the placenta. If this stage is not finished in 3 hours you should call your veterinarian. Also at this point you will want to apply Nolvasan solution to the navel. Your veterinarian can advise you how to do this at your mare’s last pre foaling exam.

Once the placenta is delivered and the foal is nursing well, the last thing to do is call the veterinarian’s office and set up a post partum exam for 12-24 hours after foaling. At this time your veterinarian will examine the mare, foal, and placenta. He or she will also draw blood to make sure the foal has received and absorbed enough colostrum.

Finally, after all of the wait, the watching, and the sleepless nights, your mare and new foal are safely settled in together. Sit back and watch the priceless moment of your filly or colt’s first morning. But, remember these tips are merely meant to help you, and are no substitute for experience. If this is your first foal, find a knowledgeable friend or breeding farm to go through the foaling with. This way your first foaling experience will be as perfect as your new foal.  


Dr. John Marion

Castlewood Canyon Equine - Quality Horse veterinarian Services for Franktown CO, Elizabeth, Parker and the surrounding areas.

1115 Castlewood Canyon Road
Franktown, CO 80116
(303) 660-1492

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