The mare should be moved to a foaling stud or a foaling box 4 – 6 weeks before she is due to foal. This gives her time to settle and ensures that the mare can build immunity to disease producing organisms in the new environment. She will produce protective antibodies, which are passed onto the foal in the colostrum.
The foaling box should be a minimum size of 3m x 3m (10ft x 10ft), ideally 5m x 5m (16ft x 16ft). The stable must be in a quiet, warm area; a temperature of 25 degrees Celcius is ideal. A clean, deep bed of good quality straw should be provided. Shavings are not thought to be as good as they can block the nostrils of a new-born foal and can cause problems for the recently foaled mare too. A power point and a means of providing a sick foal with warmth should be available. CCTV camera is very useful or if not a window so that the mare can be observed.
Removal of Caslicks
If the mare is stitched at the time of breeding this must be opened in preparation for foaling. This is done 1-2 weeks before foaling under local anaesthetic.
Basic Foaling equipment:
- Clean towels ready to dry the foal
- Lubrication if there is a problem foaling (lubigel)
- Disinfectant (e.g. dilute iodine solution) to dip the foal’s navel in immediately after birth
- Access to hot water
- Clean protective clothing including wellingtons
- A tail bandage for the mare
Notify your vet
Make sure that your vet knows that you have a mare expecting a foal and when it is due so that should you require some assistance they can be prepared for any eventuality. If you are uncertain about any part of the foaling process call your vet for help or advice before the foaling date.
Signs of Impending Foaling
The udder of the mare begins to enlarge approximately 4 – 6 weeks before foaling. Most of the development takes place in the last two weeks when both the udder and the ventral abdomen can become oedematous. Drops of dried colostrum accumulate as waxy deposits on the teats 1-4 days before foaling, which are sometimes called candles.
These signs should not be taken as a reliable indication that foaling is imminent. Some mares show very little change until the last few hours while others run milk for days or weeks before foaling.
Change in mammary secretions:
The composition of the mammary secretions changes as the mare approaches parturition (foaling). If there is a particular need to know when foaling is imminent, the secretions can be tested, however these tests are still fairly unreliable. Milk strip test kits are available for measuring the electrolyte concentrations in the mammary secretions and may provide a guide to the maturity of the foetus and its readiness for birth.
Shortly before birth, the vulva lengthens and appears slightly swollen. Softening of the rump and tail head muscles can also be seen.
As foaling gets more imminent the mare may separate herself from the rest of the herd, act more nervous and go off her food. This usually indicates that the mare will foal within 24 hours.