Horse Side Vet Guide ®

Equine Health Resource

Foal or Newborn, Accidentally Separated from Mare

Code Red - Call Your Vet Immediately, Even Outside Business Hours

Code Orange - Call Your Vet at Their First Available Office Hours

Code Red - Call Your Vet Immediately, Even Outside Business Hours

  • If the foal is not nursing or seems depressed, in addition to this sign.
  • If the mare is refusing to let the foal nurse.

Code Orange - Call Your Vet at Their First Available Office Hours

  • If mare and foal seem normal when re-united.

Bonding between mare and newborn foal happens from the moment the foal is born and is very important between birth through 24 hours of age. If a newborn is separated from the mare during this time, bonding may be interfered with, resulting in rejection of the foal by the mare.

An immediate concern is also whether or not the newborn has ingested the first milk (colostrum), which contains vital antibodies and nutrients – known as passive transfer. Occasionally, a foal will be born under a fence, or will roll under a fence when sleeping. When it gets to its feet it is on the other side of the barrier from the mare they cannot rejoin.

WHAT TO DO

Reunite the pair as quickly as possible. Watch their behavior for a few hours to ensure the mare has reclaimed the foal and is allowing it to nurse normally.

However, if the mare is aggressive toward the foal or will not let it nurse, do not leave the pair together unsupervised. Monitor them and contact your vet. Mares that have rejected their foals can severely injure them.

WHAT YOUR VET DOES

If there is any question about whether the foal ingested colostrum, your vet should perform a blood test to ensure adequate antibody level. Failure of a foal to ingest sufficient colostrum leads to poor immunity and a good chance for life-threatening infections later.

If there is failure of passive transfer to the foal, your vet will provide the antibody to the foal by either oral or intravenous means. If the problem is one of foal rejection, your vet may have suggestions to improve the likelihood that the mare will accept the foal, or suggestions about how to raise the foal as an orphan.

What Not To Do

Do not simply assume that the foal ingested enough colostrum. Do not foal out mares in facilities that could allow the foal to go under or through the fencing.

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP

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