Newborn Foals


Newborn Foals are either a joy or a nightmare. I healthy foal is a joy to watch. A sick or ADR (ain’t doin’ right) foal can be an expensive and disappointing experience.
There are neonatal specialty clinics all set up ready to help your foal, but it is a serious expense. Here are some tips to help you get your foal on the right path to health and normalcy.

So what is normal?

Newborn normal foals are alert and react strongly to stimuli.
They try to stand shortly after birth and often will attempt to suck on the mare within a few minutes once standing. They seek the udder but often times mom’s front legs look, smell and taste good too.
An abnormal foal is slow to stand, looks sleepy, has a poor suck reflex and gives up easily. Normal foals may take 2-3 hours to finally find the tap but the difference between them and an abnormal foal is they keep trying.
Normal foals resist human interaction, and jump when you try to catch them while abnormal foals are “sweet” and allow you to easily handle them.

In preparation for foaling, several things you can do will increase your chances of having a healthy foal.

  • Vaccinate the mare with a minimum of a tetanus toxoid about 3-4 weeks prior to foaling. The antibodies go into the colostrum and give the foal immediate and long-term immunity up to 6 months. This is different for interstate mares.
  • Clean out the “udder junk”. That is the black gooey stuff in between the mammary glands. That “smegma” hides clostridial spores that are very harmful to foals.
  • Make sure the environment is clean and safe for both the mare and foal. If the mare is in a herd make sure the foal is not taken by another mare after foaling. The fencing should be either low enough to prevent the foal from escaping or high enough that the foal can return to the mare.
  • Practice handling the mare’s mammary glands and desensitizing her to the eventual need to either you or the foal.

The foaling process is usually short. For anything more than 20 minutes in the foaling process call for advice or assistance.


Once the foal is born:

  • The foal should be attempting to sit up and get up within a few minutes.
  • He or she should be standing and seeking the teats within an hour.
  • He or she should be latching on and actively nursing in two to three hours. ( (If not call for advice)
  • A good indication is that the mare passes her placenta, but don’t be fooled and make sure the foal is actually on the teat and nursing. Often dribbling milk after a good feed is a good sign. Milk on the face may be of concern.
  • The foal should have a wellness check at 12 -24 hours after foaling only if everything is normal. If the foal is weak or you are not sure the foal should be seen earlier. Call us.
  • A colostrum test in vital. This test checks for not only the consumption of colostrum, but the absorption of immunoglobulins which are life saving for all foals. Plenty of foals fail to absorb the immunoglobulins even though they received plenty of colostrum.
  • If the mare didn’t get a tetanus vaccine or the foal did not adequately absorb the immunoglobulins then the foal will require a tetanus antitoxin (TAT) which provides short term but immediate immunity and should not be confused with vaccine which is started months later. The foal will also need a plasma transfusion.

This is a great video on assessment of a foal:

Foal-Mare Bonding


Foal rejection is another nightmare (pun intended). If the mare won’t let the foal nurse, you need to get onto this straight away. Sometimes expressing some milk to soften the turgid teat helps. Sometimes you need further restraint such as a twitch.
If this is not working, call us and we can guide you or come and help. An initial sedation and twitch will work most times, but there are new exciting treatments that we at APEC use on “unmotherly” mares to increase the mare’s interest and bonding to the foal.

Sick foals

If you think your foal is sick you need to call a veterinarian. Facebook is not the answer. Just call us. Don’t wait.
We are going to assess the foal for several things including infection, gastrointestinal abnormalities and neurological assessment.
We are going to look at blood counts, temperature, demeanor and other things that are important in the initial assessment.
Some foals require hospitalization and intensive care and some can be dealt with on the farm. This is a decision made by a trained expert.
Dummy foals
This is a symptom of more than one potential problem in newborns.
These foals may:
? Wander and not show attachment to their mother
? Lay down and sleep
? Not nurse
? Have bizarre vocalization

Here at APEC we have been involved with the treatment of neurological foals since 2012 when we preformed the second ever “Madigan Squeeze”. We were the first to video the procedure and Elizabeth Herbert is on the original team of researchers in this field of fetal consciousness and “awakening” of dummy foals by a squeezing technique.
This is not appropriate for all foals and you need to get an evaluation of your foal before performing this procedure.


This is a procedure to be done when the foal is sleepy and not sick or it can be done in conjunction with required medical treatment.
Here are some videos that show you how it is done.


We store colostrum for mare owners who have lost the mare foaling of the mare leaks colostrum prior to foaling.
We need your help in replenishing the store room.
If your mare foals or aborts and the foal is dead, you can milk the mare and place the colostrum in the freezer. If you can bring it to the clinic that is great, but if you can’t milk the mare please call us as soon as the mare foals and we will come and get the colostrum. Call us.

For more info:

look at our education section

Happy foaling.

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