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  • Do not rush the mare: her uterus is not a feed sack - open the top and the foal falls out!
  • No hurried or panicky movements,
  • No raised voices,
  • No unnecessary interference
  • No hesitation in calling assistance if you sense a problem.

FOALING OUTSIDE (under lights) - the better option in a mild climate
or FOALING IN A STABLE - the better option if there are complications

  • A conveniently close telephone
  • A list of emergency numbers (vet, assistant(s), etc.)
  • Clean hands and arms, short finger nails and no jewellery!
  • Bucket - with cover - for afterbirth + source of hot water
  • Soap + clean tail bandage + clean towel + roll of cotton wool
  • Iodine + Thread/string soaked in iodine + Surgical scissors (with rounded ends)
  • Syringes + needles + vaccines
  • A colic remedy + an enema bag with soft rubber hose + a twitch
  • In driving rain mares foaling outside will hold on, but likely to foal immediately rain stops.
  • Mare ready to foal will be taken to a clean adjoining paddock with perhaps a companion to keep her settled.
  • Mares will often roll to right the foal’s delivery position.
  • A little bag of amniotic fluid appearing out of the vulva is the sign that foaling has started.
  • The membranes rupture under pressure.
  • Foaling attendant makes a manual check on foal’s presentation:
  • a muzzle between two front legs, one more forward than the other
  • A clean tail bandage may be applied to the mare
  • Should be correctible provided problem picked up before foal has reached the pelvic arch
  • foal upside down and needing 180 degree rotation
  • Head and/or front leg turned back
  • Head under chest and/or knees bent
  • Normal breech presentation
  • foal jammed in pelvic arch, dorsal and abnormal breech presentations
  • Two forelegs appearing, one slightly in advance of the other
  • Position yourself behind the mare, grasp the leg that is slightly behind and gently pull it level with the other leg in a downward direction towards the mare’s hocks
  • Remember that you are guiding as well as pulling - the mare is doing the real work.
  • The foal’s muzzle comes into view lying across its forearm just above the knee
  • The shoulders are the widest part and require the greatest effort for expulsion
  • Once shoulders are through, the hips and hindlegs usually slip out easily and quickly.
  • Try to ensure that umbilical cord does not break immediately as a result of the foal’s position and…
  • That the mare stays down - though you cannot stop her if she wants to jump up.
  • make sure the membranes around the foal (the caul or placenta) are clear of the head (or the foal could suffocate or drown in amniotic fluid).
  • Ensure that foal has started breathing
BREATHING (first minute)
  • With foal sitting up on its haunches, gently squeeze out fluid from nose and mouth
  • Normally, breathing (respiration) begins promptly and continues smoothly without assistance
  • IF NOT, give a brisk massage with a towel or handful of hay/ straw
  • IF RESPONSE STILL POOR, mouth to nostril inflation of lungs (OR give oxygen through canister with care so as not to over-inflate foal’s lungs)
NAVEL (up to 5 minutes)
  • Blood transfers from mare to foal for up to five minutes after delivery
  • Optimum period for rupture of chord is probably around 2 minutes after delivery
  • There is a natural weak point about 4 cms. from foal’s abdomen.
  • On rupture there will be some bleeding: no worries from mare’s end but if from foal’s end, use strong cotton or narrow gauze soaked in iodine to tie tightly around stump
  • Soak stump of umbilical chord in a strong iodine solution. This disinfection of an open highway for bacteria to enter foal’s body is vital.
  • A good idea to grasp foal round front legs and bring it round to mother’s head
  • Take care not to get foal too close to mare’s legs in case she accidentally stands on it if she jumps up.
  • Mare will nuzzle and lick foal; foal may give a few high-pitched whinnies of recognition or appreciation
FOAL STANDS (15 - 65 minutes)
  • A few will stand in 15 minutes but the majority take some 50 minutes or more.
  • If, after over one hour there have been unsuccessful attempts. ASSIST by
  • stretching its front legs out before it
  • encourage it to put weight on these and push its forequarters up
  • assist by lifting outside of haunches (NEVER handle round rib-cage as fractures can occur during foaling and a broken rib can puncture a lung or the heart - but ribs heal quickly on their own)
  • steady the foal from behind - it will probably incline to tip over sideways otherwise
  • Colostrum is the mare’s first milk - yellowish coloured and carrying antibodies. It is usually gone after 48 - 72 hours so a mare running milk before foaling may have little or no colostrum for foal.
  • Colostrum reading of 24 -30 is good.
  • IF colostrum is poor quality or absent, thaw a pint of good frozen colostrum to blood-heat and bottle-feed foal.
  • IF foal having difficulty finding mare’s udder and/or mare is being uncooperative, steer foal from the haunches towards mare’s udder
  • foal has better chance of success if it is steered at an angle of about 30 degrees to mare’s body
  • foal needs to learn to drop its head and raise its muzzle
  • foal must, of course, have a sucking reflex; using a finger as a substitute teat can help foal get the idea, but some foals can be frustratingly slow.
AFTERBIRTH (30-40 minutes after foaling)
  • Will be hanging down. Often best tied back up to itself above the level of the hocks with the piece of baler twine, trapping fluid for increased weight. Two reasons:
  • mare may be irritated by afterbirth and kick out, with risk to her foal
  • mare may stand on afterbirth and give it a violent jerk causing injury and haemorrhage to mare’s uterus
  • afterbirth should come away with gravity in its own good time partially as a consequence of the foal’s suckling
  • BUT if placenta is retained for more than 3 hours after foaling, it may be necessary for the vet to give an injection of oxytocin
  • If placenta is unduly heavy (perhaps over 6.5 kgs.) it may be better to miss the foal heat when breeding mare.
INOCULATIONS (after an hour)
  • Injections can be given to the foal after an hour and should include Tetanus antitoxin
  • Injections are best given in the gluteal muscle, noting which side
  • Any subsequent injections should be given on the opposite side.
© Dr John Simpson. Dr Simpson heads the Equine Diploma and Certificate courses at the Waikato Institute of Technology (WINTEC). For more details phone 834 8806 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


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