EQUINE FACTSHEET: FOALING ADVICE LATE PREGNANCY
(3-4 months prior to foaling)
The average length of pregnancy is 335-342 days (can range between 320-400 days). Worming
This should be done one month before foaling and before the mare is moved to a foaling box. Pasture
worm with a single dose wormer, e.g. Ivermectin to remove adult red worms. Booster Vaccinations
Boosters should be given at least one month before foaling to boost the mare’s immunity. She will
pass on anti-bodies to the foal in her colostrum. It is also recommended to vaccinate mares against
the Herpes virus (which can cause abortion) at five, seven and nine months of pregnancy. Feet and Exercise
The mare’s feet should be kept in good shape and well trimmed.
The mare should not be ridden in the last trimester. Paddock exercise is recommended. Feeding
The foal gains 60-65% of its birth weight in the last three months of pregnancy. It is therefore
important to feed a purpose made stud mix or cube along with good quality hay or grass to provide all
the necessary nutrients.
The Pregnant Mare
Udder development starts approximately one month before foaling with a final
enlargement in the last two weeks.
Waxy material may appear on the teats (known as ‘waxing up’) 72 hours before foaling and mares
may start to lie down more at this stage.
Two days before foaling the vulva may become swollen and lengthen in appearance.
Milk may drip from the udder in the last 24 hours. If this occurs the vet doing your foal check should
be made aware of this as it may affect the amount of colostrum the foal receives and hence it’s
immune status. If the foal does not receive sufficient colostrum it made need a plasma infusion to
boost its immunity.
NB. It is important to ring the practice when foaling is imminent to make sure the duty vet knows how
to find you in case of any problems which may arise during foaling.
Most mares foal during the night between the hours of 11 pm and 4 am. It is very important that
foaling is allowed to occur as naturally as possible. Interference may interrupt the mare foaling and
excessive foal handling may cause her to reject the foal. Only one person familiar to the mare should
observe from a distance to be on hand if any problems arise or ideally monitor remotely via a video
camera Stage 1
(Average 50 minutes, range 30 minutes to 6 hours duration)
The mare is usually restless, sweaty, flank watching and may roll. If safe to do so put a tail bandage
on the mare.
(Average 20 minutes, range 10 to 60 minutes duration)
The mare’s waters wil break and she may lie down. Foaling should occur within 30 minutes of the
waters breaking. The foal is expelled forcibly in a sac and should break out on its own (provide
assistance if necessary). The umbilical cord should be left to rupture naturally. The mare will usually
be quite tired, so leave lying quietly for 30-40 minutes. Stage 3
(Average 1-3 hours)
Passing of the after-birth (placenta) should occur in the first six hours post foaling. The passed
placenta should be kept for the vet to examine to make sure it is complete when they check over the
mare and foal. When to call the vet during labour
If there is no progression of foaling 15 minutes after the waters have broken when abdominal
contractions are present.
If the foal appears mal-presented (normal presentation is a head and two legs coming first).
If you see a red velvety sac at the vulva during Stage 2 instead of a bluey-white sac. This is known as
‘Red Bag’ and is a real emergency.
If fluid from the ruptured sac is a strong yellow/brown colour, this indicates the foal has been stressed
and passed its meconium (first dropping) which it may have ingested/inhaled.
If the mare has persistent colic which does not pass with gentle hand walking.
If the placenta is not passed within four hours. A retained placenta can cause endotoxaemia and
severe laminitis in the mare.
If you have any other concerns please contact the surgery straight away.
This should be present in the first five to ten
This should occur one to three hours after
Suckling should happen two to four hours
after birth. Adequate colostrum should be
drunk within the first six hours. The foal
should suck five to seven times per hour. Urination
This should occur eight to twelve hours post
foaling. Meconium (chocolate brown foal dung)
This should be passed in the first couple of
days. After the meconium is passed the
droppings will be soft yellow milk dung. If
the foal strains excessively please call the
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