Equine foalings can be a stressful time and there are a few key things to look out for. The information here is a brief overview of what to expect prior to and during the foaling process. If you are in any doubt or have any questions don’t hesitate to call your vet.

How long is a mare’s gestation?

It should be 11 months (340 days) but mares are VERY variable (320->365 days). We get quite a lot of calls from anxious owners worried that their overdue mare has a dead foal inside her. Nearly always a dead foal would be normally aborted, so usually she is just running over.

Can I ride my pregnant mare?

Riding for the first 7-8 months of pregnancy is fine. The mare will foal better if she is fit and not fat so riding is a good idea to keep muscle tone up. Ideally she should get as much turnout as possible before foaling to keep her fit.

What should I do for the mare prior to foaling?

Should I give my mare a tetanus booster prior to foaling?

This is a good idea since it ensures a good level of antibodies in the colostrums. Ideally it should be done before the colostrum is formed, so 4-6 weeks before due date is good. If the foaling date is not known, the watch the udder and get it done just as the udder starts filling.

Is it best to foal inside or out?

Foaling outside is probably best. It is more natural, generally cleaner and there is more space.

Foaling Outside Foaling Inside
Benefits Disadvantages Benefits Disadvantages
Clean environment Monitoring is harder Easy monitoring Less clean environment
More natural – less stress for mare Poor weather Easy to check the placenta Must be large enough (4m x 4m?)
Softer landing for the foal! Other horses may interfere
Plenty of room May not find the placenta!
Injury to the foal (fences etc)

How do I know the foal is imminent?

You don’t! Mares are notoriously unreliable and do what they want. Some imminent signs may be:

The Stages of Foaling:

First Stage Labour – Preparation for Foaling: Lasting several hours to several days!

Second Stage Labour – Expulsion of the Foal: Lasting normally 5-25 minutes (maximum 60 minutes)

Third Stage Labour – Expulsion of the Placenta: Lasting 30 minutes to 3 hours

Normal Parameters For A Foal

Time Heart rate Respiratory Rate
Birth 60-80/min
0-2hrs 120-150/min 40-60/min
12hrs 80-120/min 30-40/min
24hrs 80-100/min

What If My Foal Has Not Suckled?

It cannot be stressed enough that good colostrum is absolutely essential to a new born foal. If the foal has not sucked within 3 hours then you should consider getting the vet out to strip out the mare and tube the foal with her colostrum.

What is ‘Red Bag’?

This indicates premature separation of the placenta during first stage labour. A velvety red bag will be visible at the vulva. This is an emergency – phone us if you are unsure but we will tell you to cut it. Do not worry about a minor injury to the foal; if you do not do it quickly you will lose the foal. Make a small hole in the bag then rip it open with your fingers.

How do I know the placenta has been passed?

If you did not see the foaling, it will be lying around somewhere. If it has not been passed, it should still be hanging out of the mare. It looks like a large heavy T-shirt when laid out with a cord attached and a hole in one sleeve:


Good luck!

OUR Advice