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Caring for the new born Foal

Early management of the newborn foal is critical to its health
and development. By following these guidelines, you can reduce
the chance of illness in your newborn.

1. If possible, attend foaling to ensure safe delivery and
acceptance of the foal. If the mare is in hard labor for more
than thirty minutes and has not delivered the foal, call your

2. Allow the mare to break the umbilical cord. If this has not
happened within fifteen minutes of birth, break it two inches
from the foal’s abdomen where the cord narrows. Never cut the

3. Allow the mare and foal to bond if there are no problems that
require immediate attention.

4. In cold or damp weather, rub the foal briskly with clean straw
or a towel.

5. Dip the umbilical stump in 2% iodine or 0.5% chlorhexidine
solution two to three times during the first day. This reduces
the chance of infection entering through the umbilicus.

6. Wash the mare’s udder before the foal attempts to nurse. The
foal needs to receive colostrum (first milk) in the first two to
three hours of life. If the foal is weak and unable to stand, it
may need assistance. Do not force the foal’s head down to the
mare’s udder. Encourage the foal to find the udder by putting
your fingers in the foal’s mouth and guiding it to the udder. You
may want to put some colostrum on your fingers and the udder to
help the foal make the connection. If the foal has not nursed
within two hours, but has a strong suckle reflex, colostrum can
be milked from the mare and bottle-fed to the foal.

7. Mares that leaked large amounts of milk prior to foaling or
have poor udder development expose their foals to a high risk of
infection (septicemia).

8. Foals are often constipated soon after birth due to the
retention of fecal material (meconium) in the rectum in utero.
Constipated foals will strain to defecate and flag their tails.
If no fecal material is noted on the foal’s hindquarters or in
the foaling area, it may be necessary to give the foal an enema.

9. If the mare was not vaccinated prior to foaling, the foal will
need lockjaw antitoxin and toxoid injections as determined by
your veterinarian.

Your foal should be examined by a veterinarian 12 to 24 hours
after birth to detect any potential problems early. A blood test
conducted during this period can assess whether adequate
colostrum has been absorbed by your foal. Remember, failure to
nurse adequately during the first hours of life can be
potentially fatal to your foal. Watch carefully, and call your
veterinarian with your concerns.

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