The Newborn Foal

The average time of gestation in anywhere from 320 and 370 days.                                                                                             Dr Kate Forster with new born minature pony

After birth a foal should normally:

  • Sit up in 1 to 2 minutes
  • Have a suck reflex in 2 to 10 minutes post partum
  • Attempt to stand
  • Should be standing within 2 hours (Average 1 hour)
  • Suckle within 4 hours
  • Urinate within 8 hours

The mare and newborn foal should be given the time to bond without human intervention for the fist 4 hours. A foal that fails to stand 2 hours and suckle within 4 hours is considered abnormal and needs veterinary assistance.

IMPORTANT POINTS TO REMEMBER:

  • Allow the mare and foal undisturbed time to bond.
  • Ensure the foal receives a sufficient amount of colostrum. (The sticky yellow 1st milk “Liquid Gold” present for approximately 3 days), because a foal losses the ability to absorb colostrum and it rapidly decreases after a 12 hour period.
  • Check the foal has passed the meconium within the first 2 hours.

WHY ARE FOALS DIFFERENT FROM HORSES: Foals are very susceptible to extreme temperature changes, so try to avoid direct sun or wet conditions. Foals are born with very limited energy stores, so need to suckle soon after birth and at regular intervals (every 20-30 minutes) The mares placenta does not allow the passages of immunity, so foals are born with poor immunity, they rely entirely on the mares colostrum to help prevent disease.

Problems in the newborn foal:

Premature: Shorter gestation period and signs of immaturity.

Immaturity: Foals at term but small in size, floppy ears, silky hair coat, slightly domed head and tendon laxity.

Septicaemia: Can result from infection before birth. (i.e. Placentitis), infections usually through the  navel, respiratory and gastrointestinal tract. Good hygiene, colostrum and plasma transfusions will help prevent infections.

Joint infections: Are very prominent in foals. Infections occur via bacteria spread in the blood stream. ANY case of lameness should be seen as soon as possible by your veterinarian.

Meconium impactions: Firm stick like droppings present at birth, meconium is normally passed within 12 hours. Foals present with unproductive straining and colic signs should be seen as soon as possible by your veterinarian.

Urine dribbling: Usually from the naval, may be noted soon after birth or as late as a month post partum, should be seen as soon as possible by your veterinarian.

Tendon laxity and bent limbs: Not uncommon in the newborn foal. Some may need veterinary attention.

WHY SHOULD YOU CALL A VETERINARIAN: A vet is able to identify early stages of infections and problems associated with immaturity. They can perform a blood test on the foal 12 to 24 hours post partum, this will assess antibody levels. A plasma transfusion may be warranted to protect the newborn  foal from infections.

CHECK THE MARE: A veterinarian must always be called if the mare fails to clean (Pass the placenta within 3 hours). Always try to keep the placenta, your veterinarian can acquire a wealth of information from a well preserved placenta.

NORMAL VALUES IN FOALS 12 TO 24 HOURS OLD: 

Temperature 38°  

Heart rate: 80 – 120 beats per minute   

Respiratory rate: 30 breaths per minute

REMEMBER: A FOALS CONDITION CAN DETERIORATE RAPIDLY, IF IN DOUBT ABOUT YOUR FOALS HEALTH CALL YOUR VETERINARIAN IMMEDIATLY.