Knowing the Newborn Foal

Congratulations – you’re going to become a parent! Are you and your mare ready?

Everybody knows that becoming a parent is both exciting and daunting… and after 11 months of waiting the big day has finally arrived; your mare is about to deliver! Are you prepared? Do you know exactly what to expect, how to tell if your foal is happy and healthy and, most importantly, how to spot early warning signs that something is going wrong?

In most cases of course, the foal arrives bright and happy and ready to take on the challenges of the world. However, on those occasions where things don’t go to plan, having the ability to detect problems quickly can make the difference between life and death.


  1. Draw breath within 30 seconds of birth
  2. Have a palpable heartbeat of >50bpm
  3. Sit in sternal within 5 minutes
  4. Have pink membranes
  5. Be responsive to external stimuli
  6. Not bleed excessively from his/her umbilicus
  • The umbilical cord stump should be treated with an antiseptic solution recommended by your vet every 6 h or so during the first days of life to prevent infection entering.


  • Stand still and allow the foal to suck – if she is young or excitable then she may need sedating to allow this to happen
  • Pass her placenta within 3 h of delivery – if this doesn’t happen, a vet needs to be called. Once the placenta has been passed, a vet should examine it to check it is complete and there are no parts retained inside the mare which could cause infection
  • The mare’s udder should be checked regularly within the first few days of the foals life – if it looks engorged or swollen then the foal may be unwell and not drinking enough

REMEMBER: if everything is proceeding normally, try to not interfere for the first few minutes of the foal’s life, because you could interrupt the mare-foal bonding!

Lizzie Halliwell BVSc MRCVS

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