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Caring for 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.

Nurse Mare Foals

Caring for orphan foalsCaring for orphan foals with love.

The ideal solution is finding a nurse mare that will take over and care for the orphan foal. Nurse mare foals are provided with a much more normal environment than a bottle-fed baby. 

If you are unable to secure a nurse mare, you will have to rely on a commercial milk substitute, such as Foal-Lac. Always check with your Veterinarian for recommendations as to the care of orphan foals. 

Bottle Feeding the Newborn Foals

If the mare lived long enough to nurse her foal, the foal may have received adequate immunity through the mares’ colostrum. 

Your Veterinarian can check out the level of immunity by taking a blood sample. In the event that the immunity level is too low, additional colostrum or immune serum can be administered. Now you have the unenviable task of bottle raising a foal that, for the first few days, requires feeding every two hours. 

If the mare lived long enough for the foal to have nursed from her, you will probably not have too much of a problem in convincing the orphan foal to drink milk from a bottle. 

However, if not, you may find that the foal resists the bottle and you will probably have to use a syringe to begin with. Gently release the milk substitute into the mouth of the foal. Always use small amounts and be certain that the foal has swallowed the milk before giving it an additional amount. Hopefully, the foal will quickly learn to nurse from a bottle.

Bucket Feeding Your Orphan Foal

The next step is to teach the foal to drink from a bucket. It may take several days for it to reach this plateau. A good way to start teaching the foal is to place the bucket near the foals’ head, use your hand to dip into the milk and transfer it to the foals mouth. 

You want to encourage the little guy to drop his head into the bucket while you continue with the hand dipping process. Let him know that there is more milk in the bucket. Once he realizes that he can drink from the bucket, you can breathe a sigh of relief.

You Made It

The foal will now empty the bucket quickly and without urging and it won’t be long before he starts nibbling hay. Some breeders also offer a pelleted milk substitute and Calf Manna. 

Caring for the orphan foal is never easy. Remember, always check with your Veterinarian regarding the type of feed he recommends and how often he wants it fed. Also, if you live in an area that gets cold, you may want to consider purchasing a foal blanket.

We recommend the "Foal to Yearling” halter.

Unlike other halters, this patented halter will be the only halter needed until the foal is well into the yearling year. There is much to think about with your newborn foal, using the best horse tack halter available will be a great advantage for both you and your foal.

Other Information You May Be Interested In

Signs of foaling.

Information on newborn foals.

Read More About Common Foal Problems here.

Need to know information on caring for foals is here. 

Read about the foaling process.

What you should know about orphan foals. 

Read a diary of foaling, from the Mare's perspective

You are invited to visit the home page for Foal To Yearling Halters here.