She’s having a baby


She will turn to look at her baby, licking him, nuzzling and nickering to him. Good mama; sometimes the mare may be too nervous to make the maternal bond. This is not uncommon, especially with first-time mothers and usually results from too much outside interference.

The new mother may turn her aggression toward you, but don’t take it personally.

However, she’s not fooling and you should take her seriously. Have her wear a halter beforehand so you and an assistant can handle her more easily.

You should stay in the stall to make sure the umbilical breaks and isn’t bleeding. If the mare is very nervous with your presence inside the stall, she may try to stand up too soon and this increases the chance that the cord will break prematurely and begin to bleed..

Shine your flashlight on the stump of the foal’s umbilical, some blood will ooze and then this should stop. Get the Betadine and thoroughly soak the stump. It should not be bleeding steadily or be spurting blood.

If this happens, tie the stump with a 12 inch string halfway between the foal’s belly and the end, give it a good knot and disinfect the whole thing, string and all. Repeat this procedure every 2 hours for a total of three times, then remove the string.

At 30 minutes to 1 hour your foal should be standing on shaky legs, with a wide legged stance, looking for his first meal. Baby foals can only see about 10 inches in front of them so chances are he’ll nurse everything from the wall to his mother’s chest, without coming close.

The mare will still be experiencing cramps, as the placenta has yet to be expelled.

Don’t try to help the foal get up or walk as moving and falling help him learn his own balance. Your broodmare stall should be soft and free from harm. Don’t try to help him find the udder, either, as the animals are not ready for that step at this time.

What you should see at 1 to 2 hours out is that the mare has expelled more placenta and is becoming more comfortable. She should be focusing more on her curious baby, who should be moving around, lying down, springing up and whinnying.

Do not give the mare any horse treats or even bran mash until the placenta is entirely expelled and the foal has nursed. You do not want to distract her or have her be so protective of her food that she kicks the baby as he comes poking in search of a nipple.

The sooner the mare passes the afterbirth the better. If it stays too long, it becomes tightly attached and is difficult for her to expel without tearing it. If pieces of the placenta remain in the uterus, there is high chance of infection because placental tissue acts like a magnet for organisms that come from the outside and move up to the inside.

Don’t pull the placenta, rather let the uterus contract it out naturally. Do examine the placenta when it finally comes out by taking it to a clean, well-lit area or put it into a heavy plastic bag.

I suggest calling the Vet, either to come immediately or in the morning to examine it, as this is very important that all of it come out. It’s always nice to have a professional opinion of the situation.

It is important that the foal have his first bowel movement within this 1 to 2 hour time frame. He will be switching from inutero nutrition to post-partum nursing. A Fleet enema is standard procedure for all newborns to encourage him to pass the meconium in his colon and prevent impaction.

It is also very important that the foal begin nursing 3 to 4 hours after birth as the colostrum contained in the mother’s milk is his ticket to immunity out in the world.

Basically, it comes down to "no colostrum, no foal," it is that important. The foal will weaken rather quickly without that essential mother’s milk.

From the 3 to 6 hour time frame you should see the foal passing several little piles of meconium, enough to fill a half-gallon milk carton. He should be popping up and down, stretching his legs, even cantering in the stall like a small rocking horse. He should pee, too, good evidence that his bladder is functioning normally.

Make a mental note when you close up for the night what your observations were and what time it was, so you have a time frame in case something doesn’t look right in the morning.

If weather allows, move the baby and mare to a clean, safe outdoor enclosure the following morning. The fencing should be post and board and you will enjoy watching the two of them moving about. Exercise is good for them and it will help push remaining fluid out of her uterus.

It is normal over the next day or two for her to pass a reddish brown fluid. Exercise helps reduce swelling in her udder, helping to make nursing less uncomfortable.

Remember to add bran mash to her (reduced) grain ration and provide plenty of fresh water.

The outdoors helps the two of them bond as she is his world and he is hers, both focusing on the other to remain nearby.


The above article is meant strictly as a guideline and not Veterinary analysis. Always consult a qualified Vet when your horse is pregnant or has given birth. Vets provide shot schedules and general advice and like I said, it is always nice to have that professional opinion.

They say blessed are the broodmares and blessed are the babies. I’d have to agree with that and will wrap it up this week to the immortal words of Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, " Happy Trails to You."

(1) Evans on Horses, Selection, Care and Enjoyment by J. Warren Evans

(2) "Baby’s First 6 Hours," by Karen Hayes, DVM, MS. Horse and Rider Magazine, February, 2000.