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Preparing for Foaling

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Preparing for Foaling

Being involved in planning for a new foal can be very exciting! Hopefully your vet and regular checkups for your mare have helped you have peace of mind about the upcoming birth. If your mare has made it through 11 months of pregnancy, you’re almost home free!

Labor and delivery, while momentous, are generally uncomplicated. Every effort should be made to be present during foaling. In most cases, you will simply need to be a quiet observer. Mares seem to prefer to foal at night in privacy, and apparently have some control over their delivery. Hiring a foaling attendant,  installing a video monitor in the stable,  or using a birth alarm system can save the life of the foal if a problem should arise. It is advisable to have your veterinarian’s telephone number nearby in case of an emergency.

Make Sure Your Mare has a Safe Place to Foal

What your mare will need is a clean, safe, quiet place to foal. Horses have been giving birth on the open range for eons, and this is still an acceptable choice. Allowing the mare to foal in the pasture even has some advantages. An open grassy area is likely to be cleaner than a stall and provides a healthy environment with adequate room to foal. You won’t have to worry about the mare crowding into a corner or foaling too close to a wall. However, many owners prefer to confine the mare in order to observe her progress.

Should you choose to foal your mare in a stall, provide one that is a minimum of 14 feet x 14 feet. If possible, the stall should have adequate bedding and a floor that can be readily cleaned and disinfected. Dirt or clay floors make sanitation more difficult. Straw (particularly wheat straw) is preferable to shavings, as it won’t cling to the wet newborn or mare the way small wood particles can. Remove manure and soiled bedding promptly and disinfect the stall between deliveries.

The Countdown to the Birth

Mares provide clues that they will soon give birth. However, the timetable is far from absolute. Some mares may show all the signs like clockwork, while others show practically none. The following is a general guideline, but be prepared for surprises:

  • The mare’s udder begins filling with milk two to four weeks prior to foaling.
  • The muscles of the vulva and croup relax. The tailhead may become more prominent a few days prior to foaling.
  • The teats become engorged four to six days prior to foaling.
  • “Waxing” of  the teats occurs. This is a yellowish, honey-like secretion (colostrum) that appears one to four days prior to foaling.
  • The mare becomes anxious and restless. She may appear to be colicky. She may kick at her belly, pace, lie down and get up, look or bite at her flanks and sweat. She may frequently raise her tail and urinate. Generally, this is the first stage of labor; however, be aware that colic remains a possibility. If such behavior is prolonged for more than an hour or two without progress towards foaling, contact your veterinarian.

Foaling Care from Carolina Equine

If your mare is high-risk, if you’re going to be out of town during foaling, or just want some extra peace of mind, you can also consider having your mare stay at Carolina Equine Hospital during foaling. Read more on our reproduction page or contact us to learn more about this service.Carolina Equine Hospital provides a full range of reproductive services, including care for mares throughout pregnancy, care for newborn foals, and emergency care during any complications of labor or foaling. If your mare is showing any signs of having foaling or labor issues, do not hesitate to call us at 336-349-4080 .