Foaling by Dr. Christy Moore

Prior to Foaling

Monitor mare for any signs of prepartum complications (placentitis, prepubic tendon rupture, etc.). Signs can be subtle prior to loss of the foal, so make sure to routinely and carefully evaluate your mare. Call your veterinarian if you have any questions or concerns at any time.

Things to watch for:

  1. Premature udder development (prior to 6 weeks before foaling) and milk dripping prior to foaling.
  2. Vaginal discharge of any sort.
  3. Abnormal position of the udder (displaced forward).
  4. Ventral edema or swelling – some is normal during late pregnancy, but call if edema develops rapidly or is progressive.
  5. Signs of colic in the mare.


  1. Stage 1 labor: May last for an extended period of time (up to 24 hours). During this time the mare may be restless and get up and down repeatedly. This is a great time to wrap the mare’s tail and gently clean the outside of her vulva with mild soap in preparation for foaling. Make sure the stall is kept clean and is bedded appropriately.
  2. Stage 2 labor: Begins after the mare’s water breaks and should only last 15-20 minutes. If the mare is not making significant progress fairly quickly, call your veterinarian immediately.

**If you note red tissue with a velvet-like appearance coming from the vulva AT ANY POINT, call your veterinarian. You may be instructed to cut through this tissue if the mare seems to be having a red bag delivery.**

  1. Stage 3 labor: Expulsion of the fetal membranes (placenta) – see below for timeline.

Post-Foaling Timeline

“1 to stand, 2 to nurse, 3 to pass the placenta and meconium” 

i.e. The foal should be standing by 1 hour from birth, should be nursing by 2 hours, and the mare should have passed the placenta by 3 hours and the foal should have passed meconium. If these time points have not been met, check in with your veterinarian.

Other things to watch for:

  1. The foal is able to find the udder and latch on appropriately from both sides.
  2. The foal passes meconium and then milk feces without excessive straining or signs of colic.
  3. The foal is able to urinate and no urine is seen coming from the umbilicus.
  4. The foal is able to move around the stall and the structures of the legs (tendons, ligaments, bones) appear similar to an adult horse.
  5. The foal is interactive with its mother and the environment – napping is very normal but the foal should get up to nurse and move around hourly!

It is important to expect the unexpected when expecting a foal! Make sure to plan ahead and think carefully about which options you may choose if the mare has a difficult foaling and needs referral, a C-section, or other advanced, life-saving procedures. Make sure transportation to a referral center is available if that is an option for your mare and foal. You can never be too prepared! 

Piedmont Equine Practice is always available for emergencies, with both ambulatory veterinarians on call to come to your farm and specialists available to evaluate your mare and foal at the hospital, if needed. Give us a call at 540-364-4950.

Contact Us

4122 Zulla Road
The Plains, VA 20198

Phone: 540-364-4950
Pharmacy: 540-506-5060
Fax: 540-364-4987

Location Hours for Equine
Monday8:00am – 5:00pm
Tuesday8:00am – 5:00pm
Wednesday8:00am – 5:00pm
Thursday8:00am – 5:00pm
Friday8:00am – 5:00pm

We are on call 24/7 for emergencies- please call 540-364-4950 anytime