Foaling Tips

Obstetrical Kit

  • Give Rhino vaccination (R/X) at 5th, 7th and 9th months of gestation.
  • Give 4-way vaccination (Influenza, Eastern and Western sleeping sickness, and Tetanus, R/X) one month prior to foaling.
  • Maintain a regular deworming schedule and deworm one month prior to foaling with an ivermectin product.
  • Increase quality of feed during last 3 months by giving more grain or adding alfalfa, rice bran or another supplement.
  • If the mare will foal indoors, bed a large stall (min. 14' x 20') with straw, and clean the stall regularly. Better stall hygiene reduces risk of foal disease.
  • Clean the mare's mammary glands.

Signs of Impending Labor

These are general guidelines as to the signs of impending labor. You may wish to see your veterinarian for a foaling predictor kit.

  • Filling of the udder with milk (2-4 weeks prior to foaling)
  • Relaxation of the tail and croup region (3-5 days prior to foaling)
  • Waxing of the teats (1-4 days prior to foaling)
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Labor

  • Stage 1: This stage may last for several weeks and is characterized by a somewhat anxious mare showing inconsistent signs of mild colic. This is a result of the uterine contractions which position the foal. When the fetus enters the birth canal and the sac ruptures (water breaks), the second stage of labor begins.
  • Stage 2: This stage should not last more than 30 minutes and is characterized by strong contractions visible as abdominal pressing. Since this phase is hard and fast, it is critical that the foal be positioned correctly. Normal position is front feet first, hooves down, followed by the nose and head, and then the rest of the body. Any deviation from this is an emergency. Call your veterinarian immediately. If the mare is having strong contractions and the foal is not presented in 20 minutes, call your veterinarian.
  • Stage 3: Typically, the placenta will be expelled less than 2 hours after delivery. Save it for your veterinarian to examine. If the mare has not passed the placenta within 6 hours, call your veterinarian as a retained placenta may cause a severe uterine infection or laminitis. Never attempt to help the mare by pulling on the placenta.

Foals at Birth

  • Treat umbilical cord with 0.5% Chlorhexidine solution (R/X) once daily for 5-7 days.
  • The foal will usually stand within an hour and nurse within two. Colostrum must be nursed within the first 12 hours or the foal will not be able to absorb the antibodies. Call your veterinarian if the foal has not stood within 2 hours or nursed within 3 hours.
  • Between 12-24 hours after birth, administer a Vitamin E/Selenium injection (R/X) in the muscle down the backside of the large muscle of the hind leg. Never give neck injections to a foal.
  • Carefully administer an enema after several hours of life to prevent meconium retention, which can be a cause of colic. A human phosphate enema works well.
  • Foals should be bright and alert. Early detection and aggressive therapy are key to the long-term well-being of a sick foal. Follow your instincts; if something doesn't look right to you, it probably isn't. Call for assistance immediately.
  • Have your veterinarian perform a blood test for the IgG antibody between 18-24 hours after birth. Between 10-20% of foals have low IgG concentration and are at a higher risk for disease.

Note: These procedures may not be right for all situations. Always consult your veterinarian with questions or if you feel you need assistance for any reason. Drugs marked (R/X) are prescription drugs that require an established doctor/patient/client relationship for dispensing and use.

Published: March 23, 2009;    Updated:

Filed Under: Equine

Author: Oregon Veterinary Medical Association

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