Prepare Now for January Foaling

Foals start arriving in January, so having all of the necessary equipment organized and ready to go is a project best completed in December.

There are basic supplies that are important to have on hand for foaling mares. These should be in a kit or box, readily available at the foaling stall.

It is strongly recommended you meet with your veterinarian to determine what equipment is right for your foaling situation, and that you are familiar with when and how to use the equipment. In the excitement of the foaling process, the organizing and homework you do now will pay big dividends come January.

The following are recommended by the Equine Reproduction Laboratory at Colorado State University:

  • Phone number of veterinarian posted at stall or telephone in barn.
  • Thermometer for evaluating body temperature of mare and/or the newborn foal.
  • Stethoscope for evaluating heart rate and respiration rate of mare and/or newborn foal.
  • Scissors serve multiple uses, such as opening the placenta in "red-bag"birth, cutting umbilical tape, tail wrap, or in rare cases, cutting umbilical cord.
  • Flashlight (with fresh batteries) to provide a light source in a dark stall or paddock.
  • Tail wrap to keep tail hair away prior to and during foaling.
  • Sterile obstetrical sleeves, to use if needed to check position of fetus.
  • Obstetrical lubricant (KY, etc.) to apply to sleeve prior to checking fetus
  • Exam gloves (two pairs); general-purpose non-latex gloves for washing mare prior to foaling, handling placenta, etc.
  • Liquid soap, such as Ivory, to wash genital area of mare and udder prior to foaling.
  • Umbilical tape or clamp to tie off the umbilical cord immediately after foaling if needed.
  • Umbilical cord disinfectant (Chlorhexadine diluted 1:1 with water) to dip the umbilical stump to disinfect and reduce probability of bacterial infection. Put this into a wide-mouth, small container with cap.
  • Towels to dry off and stimulate respiration in newborn foal.
  • Catheter-tip syringe (60ml) to be a dose syringe for oral medications given to foal under the instruction or supervision of a veterinarian.
  • Nylon cord/hay twine to tie placenta above hocks of mare after foaling; prevents mare from stepping on it and tearing membranes.
  • Enema (sodium-phosphate-type), to be administered to newborn foal at 1-2 hours of life to prevent or treat meconium impaction.
  • Drawstring plastic bag for disposal of placenta.

Other equipment that might be optional, depending on your farm's foaling protocol:

  • Some farms test foaling mares prior to foaling for antibodies to other equine red blood cells that could cause neonatal isoerythrolysis (jaundiced foal syndrome). Equipment needed would include syringes, needles, blood tubes, transfer pipettes, screw top vials, Styrofoam mailing kits, and relevant forms. Consult with your veterinarian about this test.
  • Farms that test the mare's colostrum for quality might stock a colostrum refractometer (i.e. a Brix or sugar refractometer) in their foaling box. This is a test to identify potential cases of failure of passive transfer due to poor colostrum quality before they occurs.
  • A large (20 ounce) measuring cup for collecting colostrum for freezing and plastic bottles for storing frozen colostrum would be helpful. Cotton gauze 4 x 4's are useful for straining the colostrum to remove dirt and debris. Commercial mare milking kits are also available.
  • Those who test the mare's milk calcium prior to foaling should have a milk calcium test kit on hand and small plastic cups for milk collection, as well as a supply of de-ionized water.
  • Foals should have their blood tested between 12 and 24 hours of birth to determine if they have received adequate passive transfer of antibodies from the mare's colostrum. An on-farm Snap Test is available for farms that do this procedure themselves. Veterinarians can also perform this test for mare owners. Consult with your veterinarian regarding the optimal time to test and types of tests available.
  • If a veterinarian is a long distance from the farm, some farms keep portable foal resuscitation device (i.e. an Ambu-bag with nose cone) on hand in case the foal has difficulty breathing immediately after birth.--Cindy Reich


This article is provided as an educational service of the Equine Reproduction Laboratory at Colorado State University.

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Colorado State University

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