The gestation period ( length of pregnancy) for the mare is 320 to 340 days. In the thoroughbred it is closer to 340 days.
The Normal Newborn Foal
Has a righting reﬂex within seconds
A suck reﬂex within 5 – 10 minutes
It will try to stand within 30 minutes
Most foals will be standing within the hour
Usually nursing within the hour
Also the normal foal nurses 5 – 7 times per hour
If your foal is not nursing within four hours, seek veterinary attention as the best time for colostrum absorption is the ﬁrst 12 hours.
High Risk Foal
If mare ran milk / lack of colostrum
Aggressive / inexperienced mare
Any signs of abnormal foal behaviour
The cord should be treated with a navel spray eg. 0.5% chlorohexidine
The mare will pass the placenta usually within one hour and certainly by 3 -4 hours following birth.
Keep the placenta for the vet to examine
The ﬁrst droppings (meconium) are usually passed within the ﬁrst few hours of foaling. These are a dark green / black colour. Failure to pass the meconium is the most common cause of colic in new born foals
The ﬁrst urination is at 10 – 12 hours ( slightly earlier in ﬁllies)
Observing the colour and that no urine drips from the umbilical stump is useful information for your vet.
Where the foaling has gone well, the best time for a veterinary examination for mare and foal is at 24 hours post foaling, however if the mare has retained the placenta or for the high risk foal or if the foal is not progressing as it should, veterinary advice should be sought sooner rather than later.
The vet will give the mare a check over and the foal will get a thorough examination. Keep the placenta for it to be examined 18 – 24 hours post foaling is the best time to check for failure of passive transfer of immunity from mare to foal – ie inadequate or poor quality colostrum intake. This can be done by a simple blood test but the results are hugely valuable. If the result is unsatisfactory, the foal can be given treatment to help prevent it getting sepsis.
At the 24 hour veterinary exam, the foal is given tetanus anti toxin. This is immediate short term protection against tetanus. However if the foal gets a cut or an injury before its full course of vaccinations start at ﬁve to six months, seek veterinary advice as they may require another tetanus anti toxin injection.
If your foal becomes lame, seek veterinary attention. It is fairly uncommon for the mare to stand on the foal and cause lameness. An infected joint is often the cause. This is a veterinary emergency. Septic arthritis is usually due to bacteria in the bloodstream of the foal infecting the joint. Left untreated, it can rapidly lead to irreparable damage to the joint cartilage and permanent soundness issues.