Most foals are born at night, and we have an experienced staff working overnight to make sure that all the horses stay healthy and happy. During foaling season, it is their responsibility to alert the Broodmare Farm Manager that a mare is about to foal.
We look for several physical and behavioral changes in the mares that indicate a foal is about to arrive. Some mares show more obvious signs than others, and maiden mares may show no signs at all. These are the signs that indicate a mare is close to foaling:
1. The udder will become full. This is known as “bagging up”
2. A waxy substance may appear at the end of the teats. This is colostrum, the vital first milk that passes immunity from mother to newborn foal
3. Droplets of milk may be seen on the teats or between the hind legs
4. The pelvic muscles relax, and the croup appears to visibly soften either side of the tail
The first four signs will appear in the mare anywhere from two weeks to two hours prior to foaling. These next signs typically indicate foaling is very close:
5. The mare may become restless, irritable, or anxious
6. The mare may repeatedly lie down and get up. These movements help re-position the foal
7. She may begin to sweat
8. She may paw at the ground or look at her stomach – these signs of discomfort are a response to the contractions
Shortly thereafter, the water should break. This indicates that the final stages of parturition are about to occur. We will visit foaling in a future blog, stay tuned!