Foaling Down Your Mare

Foaling: The Normal and the Abnormal


  • In the early stages of foaling, you may notice your mare sweating up and acting strangely. This can be anything from mild colic signs (pawing at the ground and flank watching for example) to acting very unsettled. You will get to know your individual mare as often they act very similarly from one pregnancy to the next. Most mares will foal overnight when everything is quiet.
  • Usually once the foal is ready to be born, the mare will sit and then lie down to begin pushing the foal out.
  • Once the passage of the foal through the birth canal begins, you should see a white membrane appear from the mare’s vulva, surrounding one or two feet. The feet should be one in front of the other and the head should be not far behind. The head should be on top of the legs, not underneath.
  • Some mares (especially maidens) foal standing up. This increases the chance of health issues with the foal and early veterinary examination of foals born from standing mares is often advised.


foaling mareHow do I know when to call the vet?


1.    In a normal foaling the foal will be born within about 20 minutes of the feet appearing at the vulva. Note the time when you first see some of the foal appear as it is easy to forget how much time has passed. If the foal is not born in 20 minutes call the vet

2.    If there is any abnormal presentation of the foal (it is not coming out the correct way) you should seek veterinary advice. Front feet should be visible (one a little in front of the other) and the head not far behind. The heat should be above the legs. Any evidence of back legs or not being able to feel/see the head behind the legs then call the vet

3.    If the sack covering the foal is not white but instead a red/brown colour then call the vet. 

4.    Repeated straining with no sign of a foal appearing is also a concern call the vet, again don't wait too long to do this as most foals are born very quickly so any delay can be significant.

5.    Do not pull the foal or interfere if the mare seems to be doing well on her own.

When the foal is born resist the urge to jump in, the early stages are crucial for mare and foal bonding (particularly in maidens who need to work out what is going on!) and you can interrupt this by stepping in.

  • Once the foal is born do not break or cut the umbilical cord. Immediately after birth when the mare is still lying down, valuable extra blood is pumped from the placenta into the foal via the umbilical cord. It is best to leave the cord to break naturally, which will happen as the mare or foal stand up.
  • Passing the placenta is the final part of the foaling process. Most mares pass this within 30-60 minutes of foaling. If the placenta has still not been passed at 4-6 hours after foaling you should call the vet. Do not attempt to pull the placenta out unless you are very experienced as you can make the situation a lot worse by inducing a severe bleed or tearing the placenta.
  • The whole placenta must be expelled. If pieces are left in it can make the mare extremely sick. The placenta should be passed with the white side out and the red brown surface on the inside. If this is not the case then the foal is at a higher risk of  health problems and you should seek veterinary advice.