Caring for your pregnant mare

Most mares foal at 330-336 days of gestation.  

Before foaling

  • Six weeks before please ensure your mare receives a booster vaccination for tetanus and influenza
  • If the mare is due to foal in a different stable than normal, she should be moved to the stable six weeks before foaling.
  • Ideally she should be bedded on straw, and have a good supply of fresh water, hay and balanced feed.

Signs that foaling is close

  • Increase in mammary gland size
  • Secretion of milk
  • Relaxation of abdominal, perineal and pelvic area

When you start to see these signs it is very important that you monitor your mare around the clock, especially between the hours of 10pm and 5am as most mares will foal at night.  Ideally you should watch from a distance so that your mare does not feel unsettled.  To help monitor your mare you can use foaling alarms*, baby monitors or webcams/ CCTV.  By watching carefully you can call for help at the first sign of trouble, which is crucial in saving the foal and mares life.

The first stage of labour

Signs of the first stage of labour:

  • Restlessness
  • Continuously getting up and lying down
  • Sweating profusely and appearing unsettled
  • Looking at her flanks
  • Digging up bedding
  • Stretching as though to urinate
  • Passing small amounts of faeces

When to call for help:

  • If this stage has lasted for more than one hour
  • If the mare seems  to have prolonged discomfort
  • Considerable agitation and profuse sweating

The second stage of labour

This starts when the waters are seen to have broken and most mares will lie down.   A white membrane should be seen covering the foal’s front feet.  If the foal is presented normally the mare should be allowed to foal naturally and the white membrane should also be allowed to break naturally.  

When to call for help:

  • If the membrane covering the foal is not white in colour
  • If the fluid released during foaling is not clear/ pale yellow
  • If the foal is not delivered within 15 minutes of the second stage of labour starting.

Immediately after foaling

The mare and foal may continue to lie down for twenty minutes or more, this is normal and they should not be rushed to stand up.

If the foal appears distressed at delivery, or is not breathing normally, the white membrane should be broken and the head lifted in the air to allow breathing.

The umbilical cord should be allowed to break naturally, and covered in 0.5% chlorhexidine or iodine.

The placenta should be expelled within one hour after foal delivery, if this does not occur please call for assistance.  If you are unsure, please keep the placenta that has been passed and call for a vet to check whether it is intact.

The foal should be standing and receiving the first colostrum from the mare within two hours.  If this is not the case the foal will not receive vital antibodies required for the immune system during the first few months of life.  If you are unsure if the foal has drank enough colostrum please contact us for advice.

The day after foaling

We recommend that, even if all has gone well, a vet is called the day after foaling to check your mare and foal are healthy and to administer tetanus anti-toxin to the foal


* There are various foaling alarms to alert you that the mare might be foaling.  This halter system phones the owner when it detects the movement of the mare in the first stage of labour.


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