With foaling season in full swing, many are expecting, or have already received, new foals at the barn. Preparing for your mare to foal is an exciting, anxiety-inducing and exhausting time, and many of us worry about giving the baby the best start. These 10 tips are a starting point for ensuring you’re prepared to manage the foaling and give your new foal the very best start in life.
1. A healthy foal begins with a healthy mare. Pay close attention to her as the time draws near. Be prepared to monitor her behavior and subtle indicators she may give that she is ready to foal.
2. Work with a veterinarian. Hopefully your mare has been getting her pregnancy vaccinations, and the foal has been ultrasounded in utero. Develop a good relationship with your vet and keep him in the loop regarding development of the pregnancy. He can advise you in which cases you need veterinary help and may also be able to offer support over the phone during late stages and delivery.
3. Talk to more experienced breeders and friends, watch videos online, and research some complications you may encounter. Prepare a foaling kit and make sure you are confident to use it if the need arises, or have someone on call who is.
4. Learn the 1,2,3 rule of foaling. Foals should stand within one hour of birth. Foals should nurse successfully within two hours of birth. The mare should pass the fetal membranes by three hours of birth. If any of these milestones are not met, call your vet for advice.
5. Have a “new foal” examination within 24 hours of birth. This allows your vet to check the health of the mare and baby and run some routine tests to ensure your foal is getting the optimum start.
6. Allow mare and foal bonding time. In our excitement, it can be tempting to want to be very hands on with the foal and invite everyone to visit in these early hours. Be sure to allow ample time for the mare to bond with her baby and recover from the birth. You can monitor the pair from an adjacent stall or via camera, especially important for maiden mares, to make sure everything is progressing well, but allow them space to get accustomed to each other and for the foal to hit his critical early milestones of standing and nursing.
7. Maintain good hygiene. Keep the stall and surrounding areas clean for the mare and foal’s comfort and health.
8. Start handling the foal. Teaching him to accept and enjoy human touch is important to his development. Keep sessions short and always pleasant, never forced. Work in a quiet, calm environment close to the mare.
9. First turnout. Talk to your vet about an appropriate timeline for this based on your individual foal. Start mare and foal out in a smaller paddock alone and gradually build up to longer time periods and a larger space.
10. Enjoy your new foal. Countless dollars and hours undoubtedly went into his creation - enjoy the fruits of your labor and get excited for the big future that’s ahead for you both.
To read more about the process of foaling itself, check out this previous article on the Arabian Horse Life blog.