Horse Side Vet Guide ®

Equine Health Resource

Newborn Foal, Mare will Not Allow Foal to Nurse

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

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

    A recently foaled mare that will not allow her foal to nurse may be inexperienced, could be in pain or could be truly rejecting her foal.

    Mares reject foals for a variety of reasons including excessive stress around foaling time and separation during the early formative period. In some cases, there is no obvious reason. Foal rejection is more common in mares with their first foal (maiden mares). Once rejection behavior starts, your first responsibility is to prevent injury to the foal and to handlers.


    Restrain the mare if you feel confident to do so. Assess the mare’s general health using the Whole Horse Exam (WHE) on Post-Foaling Mare, paying particular attention to the udder and teats. Is there a difference between left and right udder halves? Is the milk a normal appearance when stripped out in your hand? Does the mare resist your handling of the udder? Attempt to restrain the mare and apply pressure to her when she is aggressive towards the foal.


    Share your findings and concerns with your vet, who will seek to rule out physical causes and may provide treatments to encourage the mare to accept the foal. Currently, there are improved methods for fostering foals using hormones like prostaglandin and oxytocin. If fostering fails, they may provide advice on how to raise the foal as an orphan.

    What Not To Do

    Do not leave a foal alone with a mare that has shown obvious aggression toward it. Mares can savage foals and even kill them.

    Do not attempt to help if you are not experienced or lack confidence. There is a real opportunity to make the situation worse.

    Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP


    We're not around right now. But you can send us an email and we'll get back to you, asap.