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Preparing for foaling

Be ready a week or two before the due date

Witnessing the birth of a foal is a beautiful thing. Usually the mare can handle it herself, but it's always wise to make preparations a week or two in advance to make sure she delivers safely.

Leon Matthias raises Arabian horses and says some mares will let you be in the stall with them, and other horses won't. You have to let them get used to you being around before the blessed event arrives.

"Just don't bring them in out of the pasture. Bring them in a few weeks ahead, at least a week ahead," Matthias says. "Brush them down, let them know you're not going to hurt them. Because even mares, although you think they're tame, they might be a pet or something, when they have that baby they can get very aggressive and say, 'this is mine, stay out of here'. So you want to take your time with them, don't walk right in, because I've had them take me right out."

The stall should be safe from hazards, and away from other horses if possible. Clean the stall well, disinfect it, and bed it with fresh straw. In warmer weather, many foals are born in the pasture. Try to keep them out of dirt and standing water. Newborn foals can easily drown in a little puddle.

You'll need a few supplies on hand. A flashlight, iodine for the umbilical stump, clean towels, and your vet's phone number. Keep an eye on your mare and watch for warning signs that she's having trouble.

"Generally what will happen is the mare gets up and down a lot. A lot of times that means the mare is trying to situate the baby in her stomach," Matthias says. "The baby could be flipped upside down, it could be sideways. The head and front feet are to come first. If you see a back foot come through, you're going to need a vet help, you're going to have to push it back in. Two legs have got to come and a nose has got to follow. If you don't have that, you're in trouble."

Once the foal is born and everything seems okay, Matthias says put some iodine on the navel, then leave. Mother and baby need their time to get to know each other.

Learn more about how to prepare for foaling

Here's what you need in your foaling kit

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