Help Your Mare Have a Safe Delivery


After 11 months of pregnancy, it's finally time for labor and delivery. In most cases, you will simply need to be a quiet observer and if you are lucky enough to witness the birth. Mares seem to prefer to foal at night in privacy, and apparently have some control over the exact timing their delivery. Because most mares foal without difficulty, it is usually best to allow the mare to foal undisturbed and unassisted.


What you can do, however, is prepare your mare for a safe and successful delivery. Follow these suggestions from the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) to help the new mother and baby get off to a great start:


  • Have our phone number at hand, call early if you have any concerns.
  • Wash the mare's vulva and hindquarters with a mild soap and rinse thoroughly.
  • Clean and disinfect the stall area as thoroughly as possible and provide adequate straw bedding.
  • Keep an eye on udder development and changes as she nears parturition.
  • Keep a watch or clock on hand so you can time each stage of labor.
  • Wrap the mare's tail with a clean wrap when you observe the first stage of labor. Be sure that the wrap is not applied too tightly or left on too long, as it can damage the tail.


Most mares will go off their feed or not finish their meal on the day of foaling. The mare may be uncomfortable, get up and down multiple times prior to going into active labor. Sometimes this can be mistaken for a mild colic episode.


Active labor should take less than 20 minutes. If your mare is taking longer to deliver the foal, call immediately, as timing is critical at this point. Foals should present with 2 front feet followed by the nose. The feet should be slightly off set, one just in front of the other, to help the shoulders pass through the birth canal. If the sack does not break, remove it from the foals' nose to avoid suffocation.


The mare may stand or lay down for delivery. After the foal is born, the mare may get up immediately or stay down for 20- 30 minutes. If she is not alert or does not rise after 30 minutes, call the office. Most foals try to stand almost immediately, but it takes several tries for them to find their feet. Make sure they are in a safe environment to avoid injury. A normal foal will be standing within 1 hour of birth and will be nursing within 2 hours. Most mares and foals can figure out how to get this done on their own. Intervening too early can make the process more difficult, especially with a maiden mare. When the foal is nursing, observe closely to ensure the mare has milk let-down, you should be able to see the foal swallowing periodically.


The placenta should pass withing 3 hours of foaling. The act of nursing help with placenta passage through hormone release. Once the placenta is passed, remove it from the stall and inspect it to ensure it is all present and save for the doctor to examine later. If the placenta is retained for longer than 3 hours, the mare can develop serious complications, such as sepsis, endotoxemia, laminitis and permanent uterine damage.


Remember we allow approximately: 20 min for delivery, 1 hour for standing, 2 hours for nursing, and 3 hours for passing the placenta. If things are not progressing, we would prefer to hear from you early on, so we can make corrections to get your new foal off to a great start.


If you have any questions regarding the foaling process, please call to discuss with our doctors, 330.410.4899

3578 Hamlin Rd.  Medina, OH 44256   |   330.410.4899

Copyright ©2012-, Willow Creek Veterinary Service, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Designed by Aluby's Signs & Graphics.