Volume 1, Issue 2



Speaking Equine is brought to you by:

Dr. John Canning, DVM
(970) 963-4573


In this Issue:


New Foals

Be Observant

Honey, It's Time: Delivery

Now What: New Foal Care



Spring an exciting time for horse owners. This issue of Speaking Equine® provides helpful tips on the care of new foals. For additional information, on foal care, as well as a wealth of information regarding the care of your horse, check out www.DrCanning.com.

New Foals - the Miracle of Spring

The expecting mare must be kept healthy throughout her pregnancy, otherwise her ailments and deficiencies can be transferred on to the foal. Expecting mares require some special attention to keep them healthy during their pregnancies. Talk with your veterinarian regarding vaccinations, nutritional requirements and the care of your mare.

Horse owners frequently overfeed mares during pregnancy and underfeed mares during lactation. During the first 8 months of pregnancy, mares should be fed like a mature horse on a maintenance diet. Horses have an 11-month gestation period. 
The average gestation length for horses is 335 - 342 days. Mares that conceive early in the breeding season generally have longer gestation lengths. Some mares will produce normal foals and while carrying them a year or longer. Talk with your veterinarian, if you have concerns.

A pregnant mare’s nutritional needs do not significantly increase until the last 3 months of pregnancy. 67% of fetal growth and 90% of fetal bone development occurs during this time period. A mare’s energy needs increase up to 20% during this time. It is important the mare gets sufficient vitamins and minerals the last few months of her pregnancy. Ask your veterinarian to recommend a diet that meets your mares nutritional needs.

If your mare was vaccinated within the month proceeding delivery, and the foal receives adequate colostrum, your foal will not require vaccination at birth. Otherwise your vet may recommend a tetanus antitoxin vaccination.

Be Observant—React Accordingly!

The first milk, called colostrum, is vital to the foal. Examine the mare’s udder and monitor it’s performance. If your mare drips milk before foaling, the colostrum may be lost on the ground. Foals are born without the antibodies required to protect them from infection. The colostrum contains the antibodies your foal needs. As implied in the term “first milk”, colostrum is only produced once.

If this is your first foal, talk with your veterinarian and develop a “delivery plan”. The plan should identify key delivery stages, what to watch for, and how long these stages typically take. The birthing plan should also specify when you should call your veterinarian if one of the stages is taking too long.

There are a variety of commercial kits that help to estimate foaling time. Most mares show a significant rise in the calcium and magnesium in their milk just prior to going into labor. If the test shows that there is not a rise in the calcium and magnesium levels in the mare, she probably will not deliver within the next 12 to 24 hours.

Your vet will help you find the kit that best fits your situation.

The new foal must be able to start breathing on its own immediately at birth. It is important the foal establishes good nursing habits soon after birth. See that the foal is sitting up, developing the suckle reflex, standing and then nursing in those first hours.

Honey, It’s Time!

Typically it takes a mare less than 20 minutes to deliver the foal once the contractions start, if it is taking longer CALL YOUR VET!

The moment the foal leaves the uterus, its source of oxygen shifts from the placenta to its own lungs. Immediately remove any placenta that is covering the foal’s nostrils. Breathing efforts should begin within 30 seconds, and regular respiration within one minute. While the placenta is normally broken by the foal’s front feet, if this does not occur, break the placenta making sure it is cleaned away from the nose. Check the nasal passage and make sure it is clear of mucus. After 11 months of work and investment, more than one foal has been lost because of suffocation.

At birth, up to 25 percent of the foal’s blood supply may still be circulating through the placenta. The cord should be left intact long enough to allow the passage of the blood into the foal. One indicator that the blood flow through the placenta has stopped is when the pulsing of blood in the vessels slows and finally stops. Encourage the mare to lie quietly while this takes place.

When the mare first stands up, the cord will usually break at the proper location about 1 to 3 inches from the foal’s navel. If the cord does not break, it can be broken by twisting and tearing the tissue at the appropriate place. Be careful not to pull on the attachment to the foal’s navel. The cord should not be cut or tied; these procedures can lead to infection and complications.

If hemorrhaging should occur, clamp or tie off the end of the cord and call your vet.

If you choose to medicate the umbilical stump, dip it in a mild 1 to 2 percent iodine solution. Be careful to keep the solution away from the surrounding skin, it may cause burns. Visit with your veterinarian as to the advisability of this treatment.

Now What?

After your new foal is born, make sure that the mare has completely expelled the entire placenta. If the mare has not expelled the placenta, it can cause a build-up of toxins that can cause inflammation and infection. Even a little piece left inside can cost your mare her life! Your veterinarian will probably want to examine the placenta to make sure it is complete, so save it.

Normally your new foal will attempt to stand and nurse shortly after birth. Usually within 20 – 30 minutes you will see the development of the sucking reflex and within 30 – 60 minutes the new foal will be standing and nursing. Wash the mare’s udder and hind limbs before allowing the foal to nurse.

The foal should have a bowel movement within eight to ten hours after birth to pass the waste material/fetal excrement that is within its digestive system. Watch for excessive ringing of the tail and straining, it may indicate constipation. If this is the case, the foal should be treated to allow the passage of the waste material that has built up in its digestive system.

Foals are vulnerable to temperature changes immediately after birth. Be prepared to provide added heat. Heat lamps or radiant heaters work well. In an emergency, another solution is to fashion a horse blanket out of a zip-up coat or sweatshirt. Put the foal’s front legs through the arms, pull the “new horse blanket” up around the body and zip it closed over the foal’s back.



You will find more information on Equine Emergencies in the next issue of Speaking Equine. Sign up for your free email copy today. The Team at www.SpeakingEquine.com.