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:
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.
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.
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.