Newborn Foals

Newborn foals require special handling. The first month of your foal’s life is critical in assuring that you have brought a healthy and well adjusted young horse into the world. When it comes to caring for foals, the first month is the most crucial of all.

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Before Foaling Time

The following is a checklist of things to do and to watch for in order to assure that your foal gets every opportunity to reach its potential.

newborn foals, learning about caring for foals, your first foal

Booster vaccines for the expectant mare: In order to assure that her foal is protected against disease, the mare should be given her annual booster vaccines for Tetanus Toxoid, Eastern and Western Encephalomyelitis and West Nile.

This will protect your newborn foals until they are old enough to begin their own vaccination programs. Check with your Veterinarian for recommendations regarding the vaccines needed for your area. It’s important to maintain good medical records for both your mare and foal.

If this is your first foal, take extra time with your vet and go over any questions you may think of at that time, so that you are best prepared for your first foal.

From Birth To 4 Weeks

Colostrum: This “first milk” is slightly thicker than regular milk and is yellowish in color. It contains the necessary immunities for the newborn foals, against various infections. By giving the mare her booster vaccines, as previously recommended, you have assured the health of your foal.

Navel: Immediately after the navel cord breaks disinfect it with Nolvasan, or whatever disinfectant your Veterinarian recommends. Repeat the process, every few hours, until the naval stump dries.

Testing for Immunities: Many Veterinarians recommend that the foal be tested to assure that it has received the necessary immunities in the colostrum. This testing can be done from four to six hours after the foal first nurses. It is an important step in caring for foals.

Worming: Many farms worm the mare within twenty-four hours of foaling. This reduces the number of worm eggs that may be ingested by the foal.

Dummy foal: Read how a newborn foal may lack the foal suckling response. This may be due to the dummy foal syndrome. Check for information about a dummy foal here.

Orphan Foals

Caring for orphan foals is never an easy task. When it should be a satisfying and fulfilling time as the foals arrive without incident and the mares first see their newborn foals, nickering a little welcome and beginning the bonding process.

However, there is the rare chance of problems developing that unfortunately may result in the death of the mare. When this occurs, you are now given the task of rearing a foal that will not have the milk and reassuring love from its dam. Read about caring for orphan foals here.


Imprinting is the term given to the process of desensitizing a newborn foal to the handling of a human and assuring them that the many things that we will do to them in the future are not things to fear.

New born foals, caring for foals, your first foal.

The object is to socialize the foal. The foal is gently rubbed from head to tail, including the ears and inside the nose and mouth. The feet are handled and patted on the soles.

There are several theories regarding the amount and timing of the handling, when caring for foals. We, at Mares’ Nest, go further with the process. We rub them, all over, with crinkly plastic and also use a battery operated, blade-less pair of small clippers around the head and ears.

This desensitizes them to the noise and vibration of the clippers. In addition, we gently squeeze them around the girth and put a foal halter on them, without buckling it, several times.

Experts claim that when the foal is born there is a span of a few hours when the foal learns about 80% of the things it needs for survival. However, if you can’t imprint immediately, don’t be concerned. Do it as soon as you are able. We have found that imprinting the morning after foaling works just fine.

Lead Training

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Within the first two or three days of birth, the foal needs to learn lead training. We recommend using a soft rump rope, holding it with your right hand.

Cradle the foal, around its chest, with your left arm and gently pull on the rump rope until the foal ceases to resist and moves forward.

After the foal learns to respond without too much urging, begin using a rope on the halter.

This process will take several days, or even weeks before you can eliminate the rump rope. The foal will outgrow the baby halter at about 2 to 2 1/2 months of age. It is now ready for its "Foal to Yearling Halter." Okay, by now you and your foal have gotten to know each other pretty well. You've got a sense of his or her temperament, how quickly it learns and it has grown to trust you.

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