Earlier this morning, Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow, thus predicting six more weeks of winter…UGH. Despite this fun tradition, mares are still expecting their foals any day now and it is important for caretakers to be prepared for the spunky, long-legged babies headed their way.
Breeding is one of the most exciting yet stressful aspects of equine management. After all, you have been planning for this day for eleven months and it usually happens in the wee hours of the morning when no one is around. Though no two mares will foal the exact same way, or even similar to previous births, there are a few common characteristics to watch for that likely indicate your mare is ready to foal.
A handful of weeks prior to the exciting day, a mare’s udder will begin to fill. It is likely to expect a foal in the next few days when you notice the mare’s teats distend and waxed, then eventually start to drip milk. Though mares are hardy and often foal without any outside assistance, it is wise to check on your mare frequently in the last few nights of her pregnancy and have a veterinarian accessible in the event of an emergency.
For a couple hours while her water bag breaks, the mare may appear to exhibit signs of colic as she paws on the ground, paces around her stall, and shifts between lying down and standing up frequently. Once she is ready to deliver the foal, she will choose a position that is comfortable for her to position the foal. Most mares will to lie down, but some may stand up. If she chooses to stand up, caretakers should try to catch the foal to prevent injury. This stage happens swiftly. In fact, it is recommended veterinarians assist if it takes longer than a half hour.
Once the foal is on the ground, the mare will likely stand up to break the umbilical cord and then pass the placenta over the next couple of hours. The first 24 hours of a foal’s life are critical for long-term health of the animal. It is very important to ensure he or she is breathing normally and remains bright and alert. As prey animals, foals mature quickly. They should be standing and nursing alongside their mother within the first couple of hours.
NIGHTWATCH® smart halters (and optional safety collars) can be useful in predicting foaling. Since the technology learns a horse’s normal, algorithms detect subtle changes in her biometrics and behaviors prior to foaling and alert caretakers of distress. This gives caretakers a significant advantage in preventing complications during foaling.
Now that the nerve-wracking event of foaling is complete, the joy begins! Foals bucking around their mothers and looking for mischief never cease to captivate a horse lover. It certainly makes the eleven months and a few stressful hours in the middle of the night quite worth the wait. The Protequus® team behind NIGHTWATCH® would like to wish you all the very best of luck this foaling season. Please feel free to share your adorable photos with us!