Foaling and Afterbirth

Learn to spot the early stages of foal birth and any complications that could potentially arise.

| August 2018

  • Newborn foal
    Photo by Nicole Faires
  • The foal should stand up within a couple of hours.
    Photo by Nicole Faires
  • The foal should nurse within a couple of hours.
    Photo by Nicole Faires
  • “The Ultimate Guide to Homesteading” by Nicole Faires is a practical guide for readers interested in homesteading. Any reader can learn everything needed to be a successful homesteader without special training following step by step instructions and colorful illustrations.
    Cover courtesy Skyhorse Publishing

The Ultimate Guide to Homesteading (Skyhorse Publishing 2011), by Nicole Faires is not a storybook or a cookbook. It is a practical guide with nitty-gritty details on everything a homesteader can do, step-by-step with hundreds of color illustrations and pen and ink sketches. All of the information included in The Ultimate Guide to Homesteading meets these criteria: It is something that anyone can do, without special training. It can be done with relatively few supplies or with stuff you can make yourself. It has been tried and tested—either by the author, the military, doctors, or other homesteaders. You can do it! This book can help.

  1. When you have noticed that the udder has filled with milk and the waxy buildup has dripped off, the mare may also become restless, urinate frequently, sweat, get colder, breathe faster, etc. Some of these signs are similar to colic but keep watch. Her water will break and she will go into labor.
  2. You should already have your foaling equipment ready, so now wrap the mare’s tail to keep it out of the way and clean manure out of the stall. Take out any objects that can get in the way.
  3. Some vets suture the vulva during pregnancy to prevent infection. These should be removed now.
  4. The mare will lay down and may get up a couple of times, then finally lie down and push with the contractions. Her body will go stiff and all four legs will strain and she will grunt. Watch from a distance to make sure everything is going all right
  5. The foal’s feet will appear within 15 minutes after the mare lies down. You should see both together, one before the other. If you do not see two feet, gently reach in and straighten the other foot so that the bottoms of the feet are facing downward towards the mare’s legs.
  6. The foal will slowly emerge, and the most difficult part is the shoulders. The foal’s front feet should be uneven, one farther forward than the other so that its shoulders are slanted to make it easier.
  7. You can help with the shoulders by wrapping the foal’s legs in a towel and gently pull them down towards the mare’s hocks only during the contractions. DON’T pull when she is not contracting or you can tear something or hurt the foal.
  8. Once the shoulders are out the rest of the foal will slide out quickly. Clear the membrane from the foal’s head. If he does not sputter and cough then you need to help him breathe.
  9. Let the mare and foal rest, once the foal is breathing, for at least 20–40 minutes. Don’t cut the cord and don’t startle the mare or she will stand up and break it. This is a good time to check the mare’s health and you can imprint the foal now.
  10. After leaving them for this long the placenta will drop out of the mare when she stands up. If it doesn’t within 4 hours, then call the vet.
  11. If the cord does not break on its own when the mare stands up, cut the cord three inches from the stump and tie it with a piece of string. Then dunk the whole end of the cord in iodine solution.
  12. Give the mare fresh hay, water, and grain and make sure she is comfortable. Watch the foal during this critical time

Problems during delivery:

Mare pushes 45 minutes and no feet come out: Call your vet right away or else the foal may not get enough oxygen.

Foal’s feet are upside down: Get the mare to stand up. If the foal is upside down this may turn him around. If not, then the foal is breech and you need to call your vet right away. Walking the mare may slow labor until the vet arrives.

Labor stops completely: Call the vet. If her placenta is too thick the water may not break and no labor will happen. Or if she felt threatened for some reason then labor can stop.



Water broke but nothing happens after 20 minutes: If the foal isn’t moving then the hormones that stimulate labor weren’t released. Tug on his leg and he should tug back, stimulating labor. If he doesn’t, call the vet right away!

The shoulders are out but the mare can’t get the hips out: Call the vet right away because their pelvises have become locked.






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