Is your mare having a foal this spring?

Mare and foal

Foaling season is here and it can be a very nervous time, especially for first-time breeders. There are a few simple things that can be done to optimize your broodmare’s health, foal’s health and your own health!  Having the correct information and a plan in place goes a long way toward easing any stresses and worries you may have about your broodmare and foaling.

 A pre-foaling examination of your mare provides the information you need to make a plan for foaling and allows you to discuss with one of our equine veterinarians any concerns you may have. It also provides the best care for your mare to optimize her health as well as the foals. A pre-foaling examination includes; an examination of your mare, discussions about nutrition, giving any vaccinations or deworming that is required, checking for a caslick that will need to be opened and answering any of your questions about foaling properties or what to expect if foaling your mare at home.

Foaling at a Stud:  A stud situation is good for several reasons. Reputable studs have well-trained employees that are used to foaling mares and dealing with common problems that can occur. They always have someone available when your mare is close to foaling. If you are a first-time breeder without any experience in foaling or you work away from home, a stud situation may be ideal for you.

Foaling at Home: Foaling your mare at home can be a very rewarding and exciting thing to do. It is nice for your mare to be in her own environment and it often helps her to settle better. If you are equipped with the right information, then foaling at home is very manageable. We recommend the use of a foaling alarm which gives a warning when your mare lies down and is getting ready to foal. We also encourage owners to contact us when the mare is close to foaling (in a few days) so that we can be prepared to get a trained equine veterinarian to you as quickly as possible. Usually, mares will ‘wax up’ (collection of wax at the end of the teats on a full udder) when they are close to foaling. Once the mare starts contractions, the foal needs to be out in 20-30 minutes. We usually tell owners to call the veterinary clinic when the mare starts foaling. We would rather be on the way and be able to fix a problem than be too late. If we arrive and the mare has foaled we can then check that everything is OK with the foal. 

There is a simple rule for foaling.  It is the 1, 2, 3, 4 rule. This rule is as follows:

  • The foal should be standing within 1 hour
  • The foal should be looking to suckle within 2 hours
  • The foal should be drinking within 3 hours
  • The foal should have passed the first manure (meconium) within 4 hours. Also, the mare should have passed the placenta within 4 hours. (3 hours for draft breeds)

If any of these things have not happened within the allotted time, a veterinary visit is required. 

A post-foaling check, within 24 hours of birth, can be helpful to ensure that the foal is in good health. We do a thorough exam to check for any problems that can be easily corrected soon after birth (inverted eyelids, meconium impaction, broken ribs etc.), conformational problems that are best treated early and we can perform an IgG blood test to ensure that adequate colostrum has been consumed for good immunity. In some cases, this is required for insurance purposes.

Dr Kara Watson DVM


Franklin Vets

Franklin Vets - excellence in veterinary care for dairy, farming, lifestyle, equine and household pets. BESTPRACTICE ACCREDITED NZ.