When foaling time arrives
Participating in the parturition of your foal can be both exciting and nerve-racking. Being fully prepared both physically and mentally can help both you and your mare stay calm and focused on the process at hand.
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
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.
- 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.
- If a box stall is chosen, it should be large enough for the mare to lie down and for any attendants to move safely about as necessary. The stall should be sturdily constructed, free of any sharp edges, and have good ventilation.
- 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.
- 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
- Phone numbers of veterinarian
- Bucket for warm, soapy water - with soap and water readily available
- Tail wrappings
- Cotton towels
- Strips of cloth for tying up placenta
- Tincture of Iodine - 2% for disinfecting navel stump
Signs that foaling is imminent
- Mare's teats and udder begin to swell and enlarge approximately 3 to 6 weeks before parturition
- Croup muscles around the tail dock and vulva of mare begin to relax
- Mare's udder begins to fill with milk
- Waxing (leaking or streaming of colostrum) forms on teats usually 2 to 3 days prior to parturition
- 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
- 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)
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 situation for all involved in the new foal's life.
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.