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How To Tell If Your Mare Is Ready To Foal
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How To Tell If Your Mare Is Ready To Foal

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.

In Conclusion

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 sourceashbrookequinehospital.co.uk

Disclaimer: Of Horse! and sponsors do not endorse nor validate the accuracy of a blog post. Each article is the opinion of the blogger.

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  1. jst4horses
    Nice article. I am laughing to myself though. Your mare will foal when you go to the bathroom, or decide after two weeks of constant watching of mare herself, and/or camera fed computer system that you are going to starve if you do not finally go to the store, and are gone twenty minutes. I worked for brood watch professionals who take care of expensive and expensively bred mares. These horses often have problems, or it is their first foal and the owners are very afraid. SO they put the mares in special brood mare stables where they are watched 24/7 by cameras, oversight screen teams and in person professional horsemen who know how to care for an emergency with the vet on the line getting there as fast as possible. Many the time a foal came when the watch person went to the restroom for less than five minutes. We used to laugh, maybe we said, that poor mare had her legs crossed and was waiting for us to leave. We had one mare who had jumped a fence with a broken leg in wraps, and let a little group of stallions out of the big arena where their owner had left them overnight as they were going to be picked up the next day by new owners after a sale. She never showed any signs of being pregnant, and we did not really think about it. The vet saw her regularly for her shots, worming, etc. and even he never noticed any swelling of abdomen or other signs. One day a friend said, is that horse pregnant. I said, not sure. She did get out one night with those young stallions. We looked her over and decided to have the vet come take a look. The next morning I came early to work with her, she was a rescue that we had just left out in her paddock to heal as directed by the vet, and not very people friendly. Some kids ran up to me and said something about my big present. I looked past them, and there she was, a tiny filly! I had the harsh lesson of a couple of those thoroughbreds that even after months of being gentle and loving, and liking me, the day or two before the birth of the foal, some mares get VERY nippy and want to be alone............I have a big scar on one side of my face from the first one that taught me that lesson. I walked up to the stall, SHE kindly bit me in the face. No warning of any kind........SO, be careful of your gentle, loving mares. They might just decide to tell you birth is around the corner.

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