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Being well prepared will hopefully make it an

unforgettable experience for all the right reasons,

so here we provide some top tips you can

employ to help things go as smoothly as possible;

Are you ready?

When things are becoming


During the last month of pregnancy the udder

usually enlarges. Three weeks prior to foaling the

pelvic muscles start to relax and in the last 24-48

hours the mare’s vulva may swell and relax too.

‘Waxing up’

(figure 1)

where wax-like beads

appear at the end of each teat can occur anytime

between 12 hours and 2 weeks prior to foaling.

In some cases, usually in mares that have not

foaled before, this may fail to occur at all.

The Big Push – three stages of


Stage one: Positioning of the foal

uterus starts to contract

mare becomes restless, sweaty and may have

signs of mild colic

foaling should occur in the next few hours

Stage two: Delivery of the foal

waters break and abdominal contractions seen

the foal should be in a forward diving position

and can be seen in its sac at the vulval lips.

the foal should be delivered in 15-20 minutes.

If labour progression is slow or delivery lasts

longer you should call your vet to assess the


Stage three: Expulsion of the


occurs within a few hours of foaling, (if this

has not happened within 4 hours, call your

vet as soon as possible)

Foaling kit list (figure 2):

Mobile phone with your vet’s emergency


Pen and paper to note timings or instructions

Fully charged torch

Clean towels

Clean buckets and warm water

Tail bandage



Disposable rubber gloves

String to tie off umbilical cord if necessary

Antiseptic solution (chlorhexidine

recommended), with cup for dipping the

umbilical stump

Large plastic bag to store placenta for

veterinary inspection

Good luck.

Veterinary Surgeon

Jenna Elliott

XLVets Equine practice

Rosevean Vet Practice

Figure 1. Waxing up

In the weeks leading up to foaling, ensure

the following have been done:

Advice for the first time

foaling mare

Jenna Elliott BVetMed MrCVS,

Rosevean Veterinary Practice

The birth of your first foal is undoubtedly an exciting experience for

any horse owner. However as your mare’s belly is getting larger, this

excitement can also be mixed with anxiety about what to expect and

fear that something could go wrong.


– routine vaccinations for

influenza and tetanus should be up to date

and boosted 4-6 weeks prior to foaling.


- routine worming regimes should

be maintained throughout pregnancy. A final

dose should be given 2-4 weeks prior to

foaling. Not all products are suitable for

pregnant mares so please check with your

vet if you are unsure.

Caslick removal

- if your mare has had her

vulva stitched it is essential that they are

removed by your vet 3 weeks prior to foaling.


- mares should be fed high quality

roughage along with stud mix and additional

stud balancer if required. Mares should be in

good condition but not overly fat so some

will require more additional nutrition in the

form of stud mix than others.

Foaling area

- ensure your mare is

comfortable and relaxed in the area she

is to foal in; whether that be a deeply

bedded, large foaling box or a paddock

that is free of obstacles with secure fencing.

Foaling alarms/cameras

- if using either of

these, ensure they are installed and working

well in advance.

Figure 2. A foaling kit

Courtesy of Rachael Bromage Photography