OWNER’S GUIDE TO FOALING AND CARE OF THE NEWBORN FOAL
Most mares will foal without problems. However, you must be there to watch just in case. Most mares foal between 10pm and 6am – so be prepared for some sleepless nights! Observe your mare quietly, without disturbing her.
When is your mare due to foal?
The normal pregnancy ranges are:
Ponies: 315 - 340 days (use 330 days as a guide)
Thoroughbreds: 320 - 360 days (use 340 days as a guide)
Donkeys: 360 – 380 days (use 370 days as a guide)
- inform us of your mare’s expected foaling date
- the “foaling box” should ideally be 4m x 4m for a 500kg mare
- the box should be bedded down deeply with clean, dust free straw
- clean fresh water should be available at all times
- good quality hay available to the mare ad lib
- it is best to acclimatise the mare to the box ideally for at least 4 weeks prior to the foaling
- the mare should be vaccinated against tetanus and equine influenza 4 weeks prior to foaling
- if your mare has a “Caslick” suture in her vulva speak to your vet about this
Ensure you have to hand:
- Tail bandage
- Disinfectant for navel – we will be happy to advise on this
- Access to warm water
- Clean towels – to dry the foal if necessary
Your mare is preparing for foaling – when? In the next three weeks:
- increased size of the udder
- possible “running” of milk – if excessive collect and freeze. Call the surgery for information or to discuss further
- mild relaxation of the tail - base
In the next 24 – 48 hours:
- obvious relaxation of the tail – base and vulva
- a waxy secretion may appear on the teat ends
STAGES OF FOALING
The actual process of foaling, or parturition, can be divided into three stages:
- restlessness (may show colic like symptoms), looking at flanks, getting up and down
- increased heart and respiration rate
- sweaty patches
- lasts 2-6 hours (this is variable)
- apply a tail bandage so you can watch quietly without disturbing the mare
CALL YOUR VET IF
These signs become constant and more exaggerated and yet nothing appears to be happening
- the “waters” will break (straw/brown coloured fluid)
- abdominal contractions
- the mare will get up and down and strain at this point
- within around five minutes of the waters breaking the foal’s hoof, covered in a whitish membrane, will appear
- the foal will appear with one forefoot first, with the other forefoot just behind, followed by the nose resting on top of the forelegs (the diving position).
- as the foal is expelled the white membrane will burst and uncover the foal
- from the “waters” breaking to the foal being on the ground the time should not be more than 20-30 minutes.
CALL US IF:
1. Any of the above doesn’t occur within the expected time frames.
2. If a thick red membrane appears at the vulva, contact the vet IMMEDIATELY.
- Once the foal is out the mare will often lie down for up to 20 minutes – do not disturb her
at this point. However, there are two things that are important to check:
1. That the foal’s nose is clear of the white membrane
2. That the foal has lifted its head and moved off its side
- Expulsion of the placenta – in most mares this will occur within 30 minutes of foaling (no longer than 2 hours).
- The placenta should be checked to ensure it is complete (keep in bag in cold area and ask your vet to examine it).
PLEASE CONTACT US IMMEDIATELY IF YOUR MARE HAS NOT EXPELLED HER PLACENTA WITHIN 6 HOURS AFTER FOALING.
CARE OF THE NEWBORN FOAL
- the foal should be kept warm and dry
- as soon as the umbilicus has broken the stump should be dipped with an antiseptic solution – we recommend using a dilute solution of hibiscrub.
- the foal should have a strong suck reflex within 5-10 minutes
- the foal should be attempting to stand within 20 minutes and be up within an hour
- the foal should have suckled from the mare within 2 hours of birth
- once the foal has sucked the following should be checked:
1. Nose, mouth, eyes
3. Smooth rib cage
5. Anus, genitals
- within 12 hours of birth the foal should have passed urine and faeces
- it is routine to give the foal a tetanus antitoxin injection after birth. Please contact the hospital to discuss and arrange this.
- contact the surgery and arrange for a “routine foal check”. This will ensure the health of the foal and can include a blood test essential to determine the foals immunity against disease (basically determines if the foal has received enough colostrum). We will also check the mare for any vulval tears or damage or damage due to foaling. The expelled placenta will also be examined.
CALL US IMMEDIATELY IF:
- 1. The mare has run milk before foaling
- 2. The foal has not performed in the expected time frames
- 3. You notice any abnormalities