Equine Parturition

Average gestational length for a horse is 335 to 342 days, but can go as long as 360 days.

Prior to foaling we recommend that if the mare is to give birth in a stall that the stall is no smaller than 14’ by 14’ and is cleaned and bedded with straw. If preparing to foal in the pasture we recommend the mare be placed in a dry paddock or pasture with appropriate fencing so that the foal cannot accidentally become separated from the dam.

Stages of Parturition

Stage 1:

Duration: Approximately 30 minutes to 4 hours

Signs: Mare appears restless and may exhibit signs of similar to colic such as looking at her side, sweating, and lie down and get up repeatedly.

At this time you may elect to wrap the mare’s tail and the perineal area and udder may be cleaned.

The chorioallantois will rupture (water breaking) releasing the allantoic fluid.

Stage 2:

Duration: Approximately 30 minutes

What you should expect to see: A white transparent membrane (amnion) and the foal should be positioned with the feet pointed down and should be in a foot-nose-foot position during birth.

Stage 3:

Duration: 1-4 hours

Expulsion of the placenta (afterbirth). We recommend tying the placenta in several knots if the placenta is not expelled directly after giving birth to prevent the mare or foal from stepping on it.

When to call the veterinarian

Premature Placental Separation (Red Bagging): During stage one if the chorioallantois does not rupture and the red surface of this is observed at the vulva this is an emergency. You must break this open as the foal’s ability to receive oxygen has been compromised. Break open first then call the veterinarian.

Passage of the foal: If stage two does not progress with expulsion of the foal within 10-15 minutes call a veterinarian. If the foal’s presentation appears to be anything other than hooves down, front feet first in a diving position call a veterinarian.

Umbilical Cord: Never cut the cord. The umbilical cord will often break when the foal or mare gets up. If the umbilical cord does not break it can be removed approximately 1 inch from the foal’s abdomen in a twisting fashion. Contact a veterinarian prior to attempting to remove the cord.

Passage of the Placenta: Call if the placenta has not been passed within 3-4 hours. We prefer that the placenta be kept once it has been passed in a cool area preferably in a covered bucket with water until the scheduled new foal exam appointment to determine that there are no abnormalities associated with the placenta and that it has been passed intact.

Call if the foal:

  • Appears Depressed
  • Rectal Temperature is over 102
  • Respiration Appears Labored
  • Appears to be Straining to Urinate or Defecate
  • Joints Appear Swollen and/or Painful
  • Umbilicus Appears Swollen and/or Painful
  • Does Not Appear to be Nursing at Least 2-3 Times per Hour
  • Gums and/or Sclera (white part of eye) Appears Yellow

We recommend scheduling an appointment between the first 12 and 24 hours following birth to evaluate the health of the foal and the mare.

Recommendations for a foal kit include

  • Predictor strips
  • Timer or watch
  • Heavy twine
  • Exam gloves
  • Bucket or drawstring hefty bag
  • Your vet’s phone number
  • Hemostat/scissor
  • Towels
  • Navel dip
  • Enemas
  • Umbilical tape (or dental floss)
  • Banamine (must be purchased from a veterinarian)
  • Tail wrap
  • Thermometer
  • Stethoscope
  • Ivory soap