Don’t Foal Around!

Foaling season is in full swing. This time can be very exciting, but also stressful!

Knowing what’s normal and when to call for veterinary intervention can help ensure a smooth foaling period. The average gestation period for a mare is 340 days, however being a few weeks early or late is not uncommon so it’s important to monitor them closely well before their due date!

A mare will ‘bag up’ (increased swelling in udder) up to a month prior to foaling. When the udder starts to ‘wax up’ (waxy droplets develop on udder), the mare is usually within 2 hours to 2 days of foaling.

Foaling occurs in 3 stages:

Stage 1

This is the phase prior to foaling which can last up to 12 hours. Often the mare will appear restless, uncomfortable and can show mild signs of colic.

Stage 2

Phase where the foal is born. This phase usually begins with the waters breaking and strong contractions beginning. The sac should be visualised within 5 minutes, then the nose and front feet should be visible. This phase should last no longer than 30 minutes.

Stage 3

The placenta should be expelled in phase 3. This should occur within 3 hours of foaling.

A veterinarian should be called immediately if:

  • Any signs of severe pain or haemorrhage
  • Any phase is prolonged
  • Foal appears stuck or is presenting abnormally, such as back feet first
  • Placenta has not passed within 3 hours or has passed, but is in pieces or abnormal
  • Foal is not standing or attempting to nurse within 2 hours

Generally, it’s a good idea to get the foal assessed within the first 1-2 days of birth.

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