How to Prepare for Parturition

A pregnant mare exercising in pasture
A pregnant mare exercising in pasture

Careful attention to the health of the mare should be a priority before breeding takes place, during the pregnancy, and following parturition. Good nutrition,including necessary feed supplements, adequate exercise, and attention to physical condition are all important. Making sure the mare is parasite-free and up-to-date on vaccinations is also important for the ongoing health of the mare and the well-being of the newborn foal.

According to statistics from veterinarians, over 90% of births occur without problems, so don't let stress or anxiety enter the picture.

Choosing the foaling area

A good foaling stall setup

A good foaling stall setup

Moving the mare to a well-lit,clean,dry,and warm foaling stall weeks in advance of delivery will allow the mare to become comfortable with her surroundings.

The mare should be taken to the foaling location two to three weeks before foaling is expected to occur so that she will be comfortable in her surroundings. Research indicates that the mare produces antibodies against the pathogens in this new environment, which are then passed on to the foal in the colostrum,giving the foal passive immunity for a number of weeks after delivery.

  1. The foaling area should be clean, draft-free, warm, and dry. If foaling is to take place in a pasture, an area that other horses cannot get into should be chosen. A small, grassy paddock usually works well. Some breeders prefer having the mare in a confined area such as a box stall.
  2. If a box stall is chosen, it should be large enough for the mare to lie down and for any attendants to move about as necessary. The stall should be sturdily constructed, free of any sharp edges, and have good ventilation.
  3. The stall floor should be covered with several inches of clean straw, and bedding should be changed on a daily basis to maintain a clean, sanitary, dry surface.
  4. A good source of light is important, and the mare should be situated to help facilitate easy observation and prompt medical attention in case of an emergency.

Equipment and supplies

  1. Phone numbers of veterinarian
  2. Bucket for warm, soapy water -with soap and water readily available
  3. Tail wrappings
  4. Cotton towels
  5. Strips of cloth for tying up placenta
  6. Tincture of Iodine - 2% for disinfecting navel stump
  7. Flashlight

Signs that foaling is imminent

  1. Mare's teats and udder begin to swell and enlarge approximately 3 to 6 weeks before parturition
  2. Croup muscles around the tail dock and vulva of mare begin to relax
  3. Mare'ss udder begins to fill with milk
  4. Waxing (leaking or streaming of colostrum) forms on teats usually 2to 3 days prior to parturition
  5. Mare becomes agitated and restless and may have colic symptoms; may bite or kick at sides and lay down, then get up repeatedly may be sweating
  6. Thick, white milk containing colostrum usually appears 8 to 12 hours prior to foaling (colostrum should be collected and frozen to be given to foal later)

According to veterinarians, 80% of mares deliver between the hours of 10 pm and 4 am, so make sure you have a good source of light.

With careful preparation, foaling usually proceeds without problems.  Having the necessary supplies on hand, a clean, quiet area for foaling, and contact information for the veterinarian readily available will lead to a non-stressful parturition experience.

Everyone can sit back, relax, and enjoy the antics of the newest addition to the family!

About the Author

EquiMed Staff

EquiMed staff writers team up to provide articles that require periodic updates based on evolving methods of equine healthcare. Compendia articles, core healthcare topics and more are written and updated as a group effort. Our review process includes an important veterinarian review, helping to assure the content is consistent with the latest understanding from a medical professional.