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


Cannot Find Placenta after Foaling


Suppose that your mare foaled unsupervised. The mare and foal seem fine but there is no a sign of the placenta anywhere. After carefully checking the stall or foaling area, you simply cannot find it. What do you do?

Equine fetal membranes are large and heavy and are usually a prominent part of the foaling process. Most mares shed their placenta within minutes to 1 hour after the foal is born. If you cannot find the placenta it may be hidden under bedding, removed by another animal (dogs or other scavengers), or retained (whole or part) in the mare. A placenta is considered retained if it is not shed within 3 hours or foaling, and this is a veterinary emergency.

  • 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 your mare's general health using the Whole Horse Exam on Post-Foaling Mare (WHE), paying particular attention to whether she has a fever, which could be indicative of a retained placenta. With a helper holding the mare, and using good light, slightly part the mare's vulva to see if there is any placenta visible there. The tip of a retained fragment of fetal membranes is sometimes visible just inside the vulva. Do not attempt to remove it, but do share your findings with your vet.

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 will perform a physical and vaginal examination, either using a gloved hand, or a speculum. If they suspect that the mare has retained even a small portion of the placenta, they may flush the mare's uterus and may instill antibiotics. Ultrasound and rectal palpation may also be helpful.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • How many hours ago did the mare foal?
  • Is it possible that dogs or other animals gained access to the enclosure?
  • What is the horse's age, sex, breed and history?
  • Is the foal active and nursing?
  • What are the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE)?

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP