Part 3: Once the foal is born
Ready for the last article in our foaling series? Check out some tips for care of the post-partum mare and newborn foal below.
- Post-partum examination of the mare’s reproductive tract is performed in order to decide whether or not to breed the mare again on first postpartum estrus.
- The mare may have dark red colored vaginal discharge for about a week following foaling. If the discharge is yellow or if there is a putrid smell with the discharge, the mare may have an infection and should be treated by your veterinarian with antibiotics.
- Owners should deworm the mare immediately following parturition to decrease the parasite load that could spread to the foal. An ivomec product is recommended for this deworming.
- The mare will have a foal heat 5 to 14 days following foaling. Although there is a decreased pregnancy rate while breeding on foal heats, mares can get pregnant if bred at this time.
- The mare’s energy needs are highest during lactation. At this time, she should remain on a very high plane of nutrition.
- As long as the mare is getting enough energy through her food and your vet says she is healthy following foaling, riding can be resumed within several weeks post-partum.
The first days:
- The foal should be standing and nursing within 2 hours following birth. The first 6-12 hours of life are a crucial time for the foal. During this time, it is important that the foal drink colostrum from the mare. Colostrum, or the mare’s first milk, contains many antibodies to various pathogens and is high in fat and protein.
- Failure of the foal to ingest colostrum is called failure of passive transfer and can be fatal for the foal.
- In order to test that the foal took in enough colostrum, your veterinarian can run an IgG test on the foal’s blood. This is a quick stall-side test that can give much insight into the foal’s health.
- If the foal did not receive enough colostrum, a plasma transfusion may be necessary.
- In addition to drinking colostrum, it is important that the foal pass the meconium- or fetal stool. If the foal is unable to defecate, an enema may be necessary.
- Within the first day of life, it is helpful for the foal to be examined by a veterinarian. Your vet can auscult the heart and lungs and can also identify any congenital problems such as a cleft palate or umbilical problems.
- Owners should also closely monitor the umbilicus and joints for signs of disease. Often if an infection is present in the foal it will settle in the joints causing them to be hot and swollen. The umbilicus itself should also dry up and close up within several days. Owners should apply chlorohexidine to the umbilicus twice daily for the first three days. If the umbilicus becomes swollen or remains open after 3 days, contact your veterinarian
- Overall, monitor your foal to ensure that they are getting up and moving around with the mare and that they are nursing frequently. Healthy foals will normally be spunky and playful.
Later in life:
- Generally, horse owners start foal vaccination programs around 4 to 6 months of age
- The exception may be for the Influenza vaccines, which should be administered at 6 – 9 months of age.
- Depending on which vaccines are given, the foal may need follow-up booster shots.
- Vaccines recommended:
- EWT – 1x or 2x per year
- Influenza, Rhinopneumonitis – 2 x per year
- Rabies – 1x per year
- WNV – 1x per year +
- ± Potomac Horse Fever – 2x per year – April and August
- ± Strangles – 1x or 2x per year
- Deworming: Parasite control is very important in the foal. Foals should be dewormed with an ivermectin product starting at one month of age, and then follow up doses given every two months. It is important to have an accurate weight on the foal so that correct dose of dewormer is given. While she is nursing, the mare should also be dewormed every two months coordinating with the foal’s deworming schedule.
- Nutrition: The foal is sustained only on the mare’s milk for the first few weeks. Following that time, the foal may begin to nibble on hay and can start to get grain. By 6 weeks, the mare’s milk production decreases and the foal will need extra feed to supplement its diet. There are many commercial formulations of grain that are proper for a growing foal.
- Weaning: Foals normally remain on the mare for 4-6 months. After this point, they should be able consume enough other nutrition from hay and grain to sustain themselves and continue growth.
- Weaning stress can be reduced if the foal is kept from nursing, but is still allowed to have some contact with the mare. This can be achieved by housing the mare and foal in adjoining stalls for several days so that they can still smell and hear each other.
Thanks for your interest in our foaling articles and in our practice. Please give us a call for any of your equine needs. 540-788-6094