The spring heralds the arrival of the first of this year’s crop of foals, and for many owners it can be a frustrating wait. So, how do you know when the foal is on their way?
When’s it due?
Foaling usually takes place between 330 and 360 days gestation. Foals born in the early spring months are often carried for longer than those born later in the year. Colts are carried for slightly longer than fillies and older mares often carry their foals for longer than their younger counterparts.
Signs of Impending Foaling
Keep an eye on the size of the mare’s abdomen. It will swell as foaling gets nearer, but too much swelling too early in the gestation could indicate a problem with the foal.
The mare’s udder will begin to ‘bag up’ or fill with milk a couple of weeks before foaling. Within 24 hours of the foal’s arrival, the bag will begin to drip a milky-white fluid which will turn creamy and sticky. This fluid is colostrum which is essential for the newly arrived foal’s immune system. If the mare is discharging a significant quantity of colostrum, collect it and freeze it so that the foal may be given it later.
When the mare develops a bag, a waxy substance will appear on her teats. This usually happens a couple of weeks before foaling. You might also notice around this time that the area around the mare’s tail-head begins to appear hollow as the muscles in her pelvic area relax.
Over the last couple of weeks before foaling, your mare may become grumpy and restless. Mare’s often want space at this time and prefer to be by themselves. As the early stages of foaling begin, the mare may show signs of colic, stamping her feet or kicking at her belly. Provided she is still drinking, urinating, eating and passing droppings, this is probably the beginnings of labor.
Once your mare’s labor begins, watch from a discreet distance. If she appears to be struggling or distressed, contact your vet for advice.
The arrival of a foal is undoubtedly exciting. Make a note of your mare’s service date and calculate the approximate due date of the foal. In the couple of weeks leading up to that date, keep a look out for the signs that she may be getting ready to deliver her new baby, and have your camera at the ready!
Image source: ashbrookequinehospital.co.uk
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