My mare is due to foal…. What to expect? What to do?
Preparing your mare:
When preparing your mare to foal, there are many things to consider. Is she up to date with vaccinations? Do I need to feed her more? When should I move her to a quiet environment?
The most important thing when dealing with a mare in her last trimester is to minimize all stresses: no sudden changes in routine, feeding, environment.
We strongly advice all horses to be routinely vaccinated against influenza and tetanus. Pregnant mares should receive a booster vaccine 4-8 weeks prior to foaling to boost the antibody levels in the mares colostrum which will provide protection for the foal.
Broodmares should have faecal worm egg counts performed every 3months (like all adult horses) through the spring and summer to establish if worming is required.
A saliva test should be performed in November to determine if they require a tapeworm treatment. Subject to these results and their risk factors, the vet may advised the mare receives an ivermectin wormer approx. one month before due date.
Aim is for a “fit, not fat” mare at parturition: a body condition score of between 5-7/9.
Her nutritional demands do not increase until the last trimester so a slow gradual increase in feed can begin at this time (dependent on the mares’ body condition). An ideal diet would consist of good quality forage and a quality commercial concentrate designed for brood mares as this will contain correct levels of calcium, phosphorus and trace minerals to ensure optimal development of the foal and health of the mare.
Towards the end of her gestation, the foal will take up a large amount of space in the mares’ abdomen. She will not be able to eat large meals in one feed; ideally give her small feeds regularly throughout the day.
The mare should be in the environment where she will foal for at least the last month of gestation. This allows her to settle into the area and ensures her colostrum contains antibodies specific to the newborn foals’ environment.
If the mare has a caslick in place, it should be opened around 1 week before due date. (a minor surgical procedure sometimes required to improve the confirmation of the vulvar region).
Many mares will manage to foal without any assistance. They are very sensitive to disturbances and unrequired intervention, so it is best to keep a quiet eye on the foaling process from a distance if possible.
Lead up to foaling:
2-3 weeks before foaling date: abdomen will change shape, belly will ‘drop’.
1-2 weeks before foaling: udder begins to increase in size
24-48 hours before foaling: mares teats become ‘waxed-up’.
Keep a close eye on the udder – if you see any milk dripping out please advise the vet: she may lose some colostrum meaning the foal may require supplementation after birth.
- Stage 1: lasts 2-6 hours. Do not disturb the mare in this time. She will be restless, may seem mildly colicy and have patchy sweating as the uterine contractions start.
- Stage 2: the waters break, abdominal contractions occur and the foal should appear within 20mins. If no progress after 20mins call the vet. Once the foal is born, ensure its head is clear of the placenta – if not, quietly and gently clear it off the face. Then leave mare and foal to bond.
- Stage 3: the placenta should be passed within 6 hours of birth. If not, call the vet.
Please keep the placenta in a bucket or bag for the vet to examine.
Congratulations! You have a newborn foal!
Caring for the newborn foal:
A new born foal should:
stand within 1-2 hours
suckle within 2 hours
void meconium within 24 hours (hard dark coloured faeces)
urinate within 6 hours
If the foal is struggling they may show mild colicy signs +/- swish tail a lot: call the vet
The foals naval should be dipped twice a day for 3-4 days with a dilute iodine or chlorohexidine solution.
Ashbrook Equine vets perform a mare and foal check on all new born foals approx. 24 hours after foaling. The foal receives a full clinical examination, a tetanus antitoxin injection and a blood test to check their IgG levels to determine if they have absorbed sufficient antibodies from the mare to protect them against infection. If their IgG level is low, we strongly advise the foal receives a plasma transfusion. The mare is also examined to ensure no foaling injuries have occurred and the placenta is examined.
Depending on the weather and ensuring the foal has no limb issues, the mare and foal can be turned out for short periods of time from around 2 days of age.
Mare after foaling:
After the foal has arrived, the mare will produce up to 3% of her body weight in milk each day and reach her peak lactation approx. 6-8weeks post foaling. She should continue to be fed a good quality forage with a commercial concentrate for broodmares, to ensure she receives the correct levels of calcium, phosphorus and minerals and has sufficient nutrition to support this increased demand.
Foals can receive their first vaccination from 6months of age (influenza and tetanus).
The foal should be wormed once at around 3 months of age with fenbendazole (Panacur) at 10mg/kg. Two months later (5mths old), they should receive a dose of ivermectin. Around weaning (6mths old) they should receive an Equest wormer.
Please contact one of our vets to discuss a suitable worming program for your foal.