After the foal breaks the fetal membranes, check that it is breathing. If possible, allow the mare and foal to break the umbilical cord themselves. If you have to break the umbilical cord, twist and pull it apart about one inch from the foal’s abdomen, where the cord is most narrow. Never cut the cord using cutting implements. If the cord keeps bleeding, squeeze and hold the stump for a few minutes until it closes. Treat the cord with an antiseptic solution after it breaks and for several days after.

On average, a healthy foal should stand within an hour and nurse within three hours.  If this is not happening, call your veterinarian right away.  It is important that the foal ingests enough of the first milk, called colostrum, within the first day of life. Colostrum is rich in antibodies, and will give the foal the passive immunity it needs to help prevent diseases until its own antibody production begins. Ideally, the foal should ingest colostrum within the first 8-to-12 hours of life. If the foal cannot or will not nurse, colostrum may be given through a stomach tube.  Your veterinarian can test the first milk to determine if it has adequate antibody. Alternatively, they can test the foal’s blood 18-to-24 hours after birth to evaluate colostrum absorption. 

After expulsion, check that the entire placenta has been passed. If you suspect part of the placenta may have remained in the mare, call your veterinarian and save the placenta for them to examine.

Once the foal has been born, allow the mare and foal some quiet time together. This is important for maternal bonding. Interruptions during this period of time, especially with a first-time mother, can cause the mare to reject her foal.

Foals should be able to stand and run within hours of birth. Foals should nurse small amounts frequently (multiple times an hour). In general, they should drink, urinate, play, and sleep in a regular routine. If the foal is sleeping a lot, difficult to get to stand, or nursing infrequently, it may be sick, and it is recommended to contact your veterinarian to discuss the situation.

Monitor the foal and mare closely for the first couple of days. Make sure you provide the mare with plenty of food and water, as milk production requires a great deal of calories. Some mares may be very protective of their foal and aggressive to approaching humans. If the mare has not had a previous foal since you have owned her, it is important to be careful when first handling the pair. 

Other notes on postpartum care:

  • Foals should pass their first stool, which will be sticky and dark, within 12 hours of birth, and if this does not occur, your veterinarian may administer an enema
  • Check the mare’s temperature and vital signs periodically for 24 hours after giving birth to monitor for infections

If at any time during the foaling process, you suspect there may be complications, call your veterinarian. Do not attempt to pull the foal out unless it is an emergency and the foal’s life is on the line. Only pull during contractions and as much as your own strength will allow so as not to injure the mare or yourself. If the mare rejects the foal, the foal should be removed and then carefully reintroduced while the mare is restrained. Lastly, allow your veterinarian to do a postpartum exam on both the mare and foal to ensure both are healthy.