Horse Side Vet Guide ®

Equine Health Resource

Assess Newborn Foal

One of the most important things you can do after your mare foals is quietly observe the mare and her newborn. You should not intervene or handle the mare or foal unless you know what you are doing and why you are doing it.

Generally, less handling is better. Mares need time to bond with their newborn foals. An exception to this is the imprinting procedure. There is debate regarding the necessity and value of imprint training the newborn.

A normal foal should have a shiny coat and be gaining weight day to day. They should be bright and playful, and sleeping in between periods of nursing. Their gums should be moist and pink and capillary refill time should be 1-2 seconds.

Procedure

Evaluate your foal from a distance, and answer these questions:

1. Was the foal on its feet by 1 hour?

2. Did the foal nurse by 1.5 hours?

3. Is the foal now active and nursing?

4. Is there milk on the foal's face or draining out of their nostrils?

5. Is the foal moving around normally or does it seem depressed?

6. Is the foal interested in its surroundings?

7. How much time does your foal spending down versus up?

8. Have you noticed the foal straining to defecate?

9. Has the foal passed their first manure (meconium)?

10. What else is the foal doing, or not doing?

Also evaluate the mare’s udder. Do the teats appear nursed - flatter and shiny, or full and dripping milk?

Depending on your answers to the questions above, your vet may advise you to evaluate your foal further, or recommend that they examine your foal.

Tips for safety & Success

I strongly recommend that you have your vet examine your mare and newborn foal within 24 hours of foaling. Short of that, you should be on the lookout for any abnormalities or illness, and contact your vet with your concerns and questions.

Regarding treatment of the umbilicus: If your mare foals in a relatively clean location and you see no problem with the umbilicus, it is best left alone. If you do treat it, use a very dilute solution of chlorhexidine or povidone iodine in water. I find it easier to use a hand sprayer and to spray it liberally than to dunk it in a cup or syringe case.

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP

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