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Signs of Foaling

Read about the foaling process, know the signs of foaling. Is there a reliable method of predicting foaling? 

Be Prepared for Foaling

the foaling process and signs of foaling. How to predicting foaling?

The two most important items that are needed for the foaling process are common sense (appropriately known as “Horse Sense”) and your Veterinarian’s phone number. Always use a large dose of the former and, hopefully, you’ll not often need the latter. 


Signs of foaling will vary from mare to mare. The accepted “normal” gestation period is 340 days, but this period can vary as much as three weeks.

It helps if you are aware of the number of days the mare has carried previous foals. Mares tend to closely repeat themselves when it comes to their individual “norm” and their own actions just prior to foaling.

Is this a Reliable Method of Predicting Foaling?

There is not a sure-fire way to predict the foaling date. Mares usually begin “making a bag” about three weeks prior to foaling. The udder gradually fills with milk and sometimes “leaks” milk hours, or even days, prior to foaling. 

If too much milk is lost, the colostrum may also be significantly decreased. Consult your Veterinarian if this occurs. On the average, 50% to 60% of mares will “wax”. 

A wax like substance forms on the teats. This can occur immediately before foaling or may appear for several days prior to foaling. Then again, some mares do not wax at all. Because of these variations, waxing cannot accurately be used for predicting foaling.

The muscles around the tail and pelvis relax hours, or even days, before labor begins. The colostrum, or “first milk” is of prime importance for the health of the newborn foal.

This yellowish, slightly thick milk caries antibodies that protect the foal from infection-causing pathogens. If the foal does not receive an adequate amount of colostrum, within a dozen hours of foaling, it is in severe danger of infection. Call and confer with your Veterinarian if this occurs.

Booster vaccines should always be administered to the expectant mare thirty days prior to the expected foaling date. Additionally, always check to assure that the mare has not had her vulva sutured. 

This procedure is called “Caslic”. If this has been done, have your Veterinarian open the caslic two or three weeks prior to the foaling due date, and far in advance of any signs of foaling

Read about the advantages of choosing a real Leather Foal Halter here.

Stall Preparation Before The Signs Of Foaling

The foaling stall should be larger than the normal 12 X 12 stall and heavily bedded with clean straw. Shavings are not acceptable for a newborn foal as they can get into the foals nose and mouth.

However, shavings can be a base for the straw as it can absorb the fluids. The mare should be introduced to her new surroundings at least a week prior to foaling, or any signs of foaling. 

In cold climates, a heat lamp is of benefit. In warm climates, a clean well-lit pasture is sometimes used in place of a stall.

Supplies You Will Need for the Foaling Process 

Some essentials to keep on hand before the first signs of foaling:

  • Tail wrap. Vet-wrap makes an adequate tail wrap.
  • Disinfectant - For the umbilical cord. Check with your Veterinarian for his recommendation.
  • Towels. Used to clean the nose and mouth of the foal and to rub him dry.
  • Fleet enema. Use only if the foal is having trouble expelling the meconium (a sticky fecus) in a timely manner.
  • Tranquilizer – For the mid-wife. (Just a joke).

The Foaling Process - Birth of the Foal

Keep it simple and the foaling process will be a happy experience for the mare, the foal and you. It’s not a party. Have the least number of people present as possible and maintain silence. This is an important event for your mare. Allow her a quiet time to bond with her new baby.

The vast majority of the time, the foaling will proceed without human intervention or a problem.

One of the first signs of foaling you may notice is that the mare will become restless, pacing the stall and probably sweating. Her chest will feel warm to the touch. Normally, she will lie down, on her side, with her feet stretched out.

At the onset of labor pains, the foal’s front feet will appear. Shortly after, the nose and head will emerge between the front legs. The shoulders are the next to appear and take the strongest labor pains to expel. The hips are the next most difficult to pass. Make certain that the sac is removed from the head to allow the foal to breathe.

The foal and the mare need time to recover from the foaling experience and to bond with one another. Leave the stall and quietly observe them.

The mare will stand when she is ready. The longer she remains down, the more blood travels through the umbilical cord to the foal. The foal will usually stand within an hour and will nurse within two hours. The afterbirth should pass within three hours. If anything varies greatly, call your Vet.

The majority of mares will foal between 10:00 P.M and 2:00 A.M. However, if the surroundings are familiar to the mare and quiet, she may foal during daylight hours. Here at Mares’ Nest, after several hundred foalings, about 25% of the mares foal during daylight hours. So, foaling can be three weeks early or late and mares can foal any time of the day or night.  

Remember ...You came prepared with horse sense and your Vet’s phone number. Enjoy the experience and have a super 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.