What you see. The starting point for addressing any equine health related issue is your observation.


Placenta Looks Abnormal or Incomplete


A normal placenta should be complete and have two very different looking sides, the pregnant horn (in which the fetus resided, and the non-pregnant horn, a smaller and more shriveled horn).

Unless you have the opportunity to see many mares foal, and have looked at many placentas, trying to distinguish between a normal and abnormal placenta may be impossible for you, and should best be left to your vet.

That said, there are some basic things that you can look for: The side in contact with the foal should appear pale, pink and clean. The side that was in contact with the uterus should be velvety red. You may see spots of brown discoloration and liquifying of that red surface, which is normal decomposition of the surface that happens rapidly, especially during warm weather.

The placenta should be complete, meaning that there should be tips to both horns. (See the related media image.) Often, the mare or foal step on the shed placenta and it may be damaged.

If if even a small piece of placenta is retained inside the mare, this can cause a life-threatening infection that must be addressed quickly.

If you have any question about the appearance of your mare's placenta after foaling you should immediately contact your vet.

  • Code Red

    Call Your Vet Immediately, Even Outside Business Hours
    • If you think that the mare has retained her placenta for more than 3 hours.

your role


What To Do

Assess the mare's rectal temperature, and general attitude and appetite. Look for any placenta protruding from the mare's vulva. Gently place the placenta in a clean bucket. Keep the placenta in a cool spot until your vet can lay it out and evaluate it.

What Not To Do

Do not attempt to manually remove the placenta unless you cannot get veterinary help. Do this under veterinary guidance only.

your vet's role

Your vet conducts an examination of the placenta, for normal appearance and completeness. They also evaluate the health of the mare and foal.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • When do you think the foal was born?
  • How much experience do you have with the foaling process?
  • Did the foal stand and nurse normally after foaling?
  • Did the mare have a retained placenta?
  • Does the mare's attitude and appetite seem normal?
  • Will a veterinarian perform a post-partum exam on mare, foal, placenta?
  • What are the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE)?

Treatments Your Vet May Recommend

A way to resolve the condition or diagnosis. Resolving the underlying cause or treating the signs of disease (symptomatic treatment)

Very Common
more treatments

further reading & resources

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP