[READ: Gentle Weaning]
Immediately following birth:
- A bright flashlight, for visibility.
- Two one-foot-long pieces of clean cotton string, for tying off your foal’s umbilical stump–if and only if it bleeds excessively.
- Two three-foot-long pieces of clean cotton string, for tying up the afterbirth (see Afterbirth Protocol below).
- Scissors to trim the string.
- A clean squeeze bottle filled with umbilical-stump disinfectant. I use a solution of chlorhexidine (Nolvasan). Consult your vet for his/her preference.
A few hours after foaling:
- A pre-warmed Fleet enema. (To warm, place it in a water bath that’s 95 degrees Fahrenheit, then keep it in an insulated Thermos bottle or coffee carafe.)
- A woven-plastic feed sack (which won’t weaken when it gets wet) for the afterbirth (see Afterbirth Protocol below).
Foaling Do’s and Don’ts
- DO note the time your foal is born so you’ll know if he stands and nurses on schedule (he should stand within two hours and nurse within three hours), and if the placenta passes on time (within three hours).
- DO help support your foal on his sternum if he can’t sit up–his lungs will drain more easily in this position.
- DON’T pull his feet out of the mare’s vagina unless he’s moving them a lot.
- DON’T dry him. This could interfere with the mare-foal bonding process.
- DON’T help your foal stand. Intervene only if there are obstacles and hard surfaces that could injure him. Keep him from falling onto obstacles, but allow him the learning experience of falling.
- DON’T help him nurse.
- DON’T pull on the placenta–your mare must push it out (see Afterbirth Protocol below).
[READ: Foal Milestones]
Here’s how to handle your mare’s afterbirth (or placenta) for safekeeping.
- Tie it up. A large part of your mare’s placenta will already be exposed by the time she stands (usually within a half-hour after foaling). You need to tie it up to keep it from dragging on the ground, where she might slip on it or tear it. To do so, tie a three-foot length of string around the exposed portion of placenta, approximately one foot from the ground. Then lift this section until it meets the placenta just below the bottom of her vulva. Secure the two sections with a second three-foot length of string.
- Leave the stall. Avoid pulling on the placenta. Instead, stay out of your mare’s stall and minimize distractions so she will feel secure enough to lie down and push, if the impulse hits.
- Examine it. When your mare completely drops her placenta (usually within three hours after foaling), take it to a clean, well-lit area for examination. If you’re unsure what to look for, or you see something that looks questionable, set the placenta in a clean, woven-plastic feed sack, so your vet can examine it.
For Dr. Hayes’ step-by-step guide to foal imprinting, see “First Impressions,” in the February 2002 issue of Horse & Rider magazine; she is the author of the book Hands-On Horse Care.