Foaling Information

Preparing for your newborn foal

Estelle’s Foal Information (PPT)

Foaling Chart (PDF)

1. Bedding

  • Preferably the mare should foal in a clean well lit paddock if the weather allows or in a stall with straw as a back up. The foal should be bedded on straw for the first week of life.
  • Straw reduces the amount of dirt and dust inhaled or ingested by the new foal and reduces exposure to potentially harmful bacteria present in shavings.

2. Navel Dip

  • Once the umbilical cord has broken, the foal’s umbilical stump should be dipped to help prevent infection. There are many reagents that are acceptable; the most common is tincture of iodine, dilute betadine is also an appropriate navel dip.
  • Recent studies have shown that one part chlorhexdine (Nolvasan) to four parts water is an effective solution. You can get this solution from your veterinarian.
  • A good method for applying this is to fill a clean shot glass or syringe case with the solution, dip the stump in the case, and then hold it tightly against the foal’s abdomen.
  • This process needs to be repeated 2-3 times a day for 2 days if using dilute nolvasan or betadine.

3. Placenta

  • Be prepared with a bag or bucket to store the placenta in for veterinary examination. The placenta should be kept in a cool shaded place until the veterinarian arrives.

4. Digital thermometer

  • Have a digital thermometer on hand to monitor the foal’s temperature if necessary. A normal foal temperature is 99.0 – 102.0 degrees.

5. Enema

  • Shortly after the foal is born it will pass the meconium, the foal’s first feces. It will be dark in color and have a tarry appearance.
  • We recommend administering a single Fleet enema to help the foal pass the meconium. Do not administer more than one enema without consulting your veterinarian.

Parturition (Foaling)

1. Normal gestation for a mare is ranges from 320 – 370 days, with the average being
340 days. See Foal Chart for estimated due date.
2. Mares are normally very efficient with delivery and equally as secretive. If you are present at the foaling the sequence of events should be as follows:

a) Prior to the mare’s water breaking she may circle, get up and down several times and appear anxious. These are all normal events and are the mare’s way of repositioning the foal for delivery.
b) The mare’s water breaks.
c) As the mare begins to push, one front foot should appear out of the vaginal opening.
d) Shortly thereafter the second front foot should appear.
e) The nose should appear next.
f) The shoulders should appear.
g) Finally the hips should appear.

Causes for Concern During Foaling (or just prior to)

Call Your Veterinarian If:

1. No progression from one stage (when the water breaks) of the foaling process to the next within a 15 minute interval. Call your veterinarian immediately.
2. Red Bag

  • Owners need to intervene immediately if premature placental separation occurs, otherwise known as a “red bag”.
  • In this case the placenta is delivered intact around the foal and the first thing seen is a red velvet-like sack. A blunt tool can be used to tear the placenta while someone calls the vet to get further instructions.
  • Red bag is an emergency. The placenta has detached from the uterus and the foal is no longer getting oxygen. Every effort must be made to deliver the foal as rapidly as possible.

3. Any deviation from the normal foaling position.
4. Severe bleeding from the mare at any stage of labor.
5. Mare exhibits any vaginal discharge prior to foaling.
6. Placenta is retained for more than 6-8 hours in cool weather or less if it is extremely warm.
After the Birth

1. The umbilical cord should break as the mare or foal begin to rise. The foal’s umbilical stump should be treated after this occurs.
2. The foal should rise and nurse within 2 to 4 hours, most stand and nurse within one hour.
3. The enema should be administered after the foal is up and nursing.
Neonatal Exam

1. The mare and foal should be examined by a veterinarian with in 12-18 hours of birth.
2. At the time of the exam the veterinarian will administer antibiotics, tetanus antitoxin and pull blood to test the IgG levels. This blood test will confirm that the foal has received an adequate amount of antibodies from the mare’s first milk or colostrum. This “passive transfer” of antibodies will help protect the foal while its own immune system develops.

Causes for Concern with New Foals

Call your veterinarian if your foal exhibits:

1. Depression or lack of appetite

  • A foal’s lack of appetite and energy are usually the first signs of a problem.
  • Examine the mare’s udder if you question whether or not the foal has nursed.
  • If you suspect the foal has not nursed call your veterinarian immediately.

2. Straining to defecate

  • Some foals will suffer from a meconium impaction. Meconium is the foal’s first feces. It will be dark in color and have a tarry appearance.
  • If the foal strains to defecate and is not productive, a single enema frequently alleviates the condition. Do not administer a second enema. Consult your veterinarian.

3. Lameness

  • When lameness occurs in a new foal, infection must always be ruled out as the cause. If infection is the cause of the lameness (“joint ill”), it can cause long term damage to the joint and in severe cases can be life threatening.
  • Being successful in clearing the infection is dependent upon early detection and treatment.

4. Swollen umbilicus

  • Excessive swelling or drainage around the umbilical area is abnormal and a cause for concern.


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