What could be more delightful than a mare and her foal in the pasture? The parturition is
approaching, which is an exciting moment! But how do you know the foal is coming? And
what is important during and right after the parturition?
Not all pregnant mares with foal will show identical signs that the foaling is imminent. Typically, when the udder becomes really full, the muscles on either side of the base of the tail will begin to relax, showing as hollow areas on either side of the top of the tail , and wax-like beads appear on the end of each teat, the birth of the foal may only be a few hours away. Make sure that you are optimally
prepared for the parturition by having the following items ready or arranged:
- Towards the end of the gestation, have a birth alarm system ready for use
- Install a webcam, so you can also check on your mare from home
- Make sure to have a big box clean and ready for foaling, with a thick straw bedding, so that the mare can lay down comfortably. When you do not have a big box available, a safe paddock may be an alternative
- Ensure there is enough light in the stable (leave a light on also during the night)
- Write down useful phone numbers, such as your vet’s phone number, or from someone who can possibly transport the mare and/or foal to a clinic, if necessary
- Make sure you have some frozen colostrum, or a Pavo SOS-kit, just in case something goes wrong with the mare, or if the foal refuses to drink
- Put a bandage on your mare’s tail, so you have a clear vision of the entire process
- You also need to prepare: towels, a clean bucket, Povidone iodine and iodopovidone shampoo, an umbilical cord clamp and a pair of scissors.
During the parturition
When the mare starts to give birth and the amniotic sac is visible, check if the foal’s position is correct. Check if you can feel the two front legs and the head. If this is not the case, then the foal might be in a wrong position. Make your mare stand up and call the vet immediately.
The first 24 hours after parturition
The first 24 hours in the life of a foal are crucial. It is important that you check a number of issues (see table 1 below). Right after birth, the foal is completely dependent on the antibodies in the first mare’s milk, also called colostrum, for protection against diseases. Only during the first 24 hours, the
antibodies from the colostrum can pass through the foal’s intestinal wall and be absorbed in the
bloodstream. When the foal refuses to drink when the mare suffers from mastitis or has passed away,
then frozen colostrum or the Pavo SOS-kit containing artificial colostrum can provide a solution.
Table 1: What happens with a healthy foal?
|A healthy foal:||Within|
|Stands||< 1 – 2 hours|
|Nurses||< 2 – 4 hours|
|Urinates||< 8 hours|
|Intake of moisture||< 12 hours|
|Pass the meconium||< 12 – 24 hours|
An orphan foal
It is the nightmare of every breeder: problems during the birth process. It is important that you know
what to do and who to contact when problems occur.
Check beforehand if there are any Facebook groups or pages for foster mares and orphan foals.
Should the mare or the foal not survive the birthing, than check these pages. Through this page, you
can try to arrange an adoption. In case you need a surrogate mare that has lost her foal, check what
the cause was. If a disease is suspected, it is better not to place the foal at this mare. Make good
arrangements with the other arty prior to the placement and put these on paper. There are
accommodations where several orphaned foals are placed together.
Another solution could be a foster mare that did not give birth to a foal, but will lactate after a special
treatment. Usually, in this situation, the orphan foal is accepted more easily. During the foal
season, some vet clinics, have foster mares available that can be taken home with the foal from the
moment of adoption to the moment of weaning, allowing the foal to be raised in its own environment.
Weaning the foal
Most foals are being weaned between five and six months of age, when it eats roughage and a foal
balancer/concentrates independently. To gradually reduce the milk production in the mare, it is
recommended to reduce the quantity of her concentrates by half. Three days before the planned
weaning, the concentrate feed can be stopped completely . Ensure the mare gets sufficient natural
Deworming the foal
It is advisable to deworm the foal between day four and day eight. This should then be repeated after
four to six weeks. After that, in consultation with your vet, a normal deworming program can be
maintained. Note: the deworming paste should be appropriate for foals.