For many horse owners January is a very exciting time of the year. These are the people who are expecting a new addition to the herd, i.e. a foal. You have spent a large amount of time, effort, money and now you wait. There are some things that you need to prepare for the foal’s arrival.
Today we try to foal in the barn when possible. This allows us to be present and help IF needed. We can also control the environment and provide for the comfort of the foal; improving their chance of good start in life. It is ok to have the expecting mare turned-out during the day so long as they are close and can be monitored. It is best to bring the mare into the barn and foaling stall at night. Foaling stalls are usually larger than the “normal” stall in the barn. Where most stalls are 12’X12’, foaling stalls should be at least 16’X16’. I have seen foaling stalls that were close to 16’X20’ up to 20’X20’. Regardless of the size of the stall, it is better to put the mare in the stall at night about 10-14 days before she is expected to foal to get her accustomed to the stall. If you are taking your mare to a foaling/breeding facility be sure and do that at least 30 days before she is due, 45-60 days would be better.
Foaling outside under the correct circumstances is also acceptable. The area should be relatively small, so it can be easily monitored. A grassy area would be preferable to a dirt lot, it is usually cleaner, so the newborn and mare stay cleaner.
The foaling stall should have been washed and allowed to dry. Then disinfected with a broad-spectrum disinfectant. Your veterinarian maybe able to suggest a suitable disinfectant. Older wooden stalls may be difficult to disinfect, but not impossible with proper preparation. Dirt or clay floors make sanitation more difficult. Disinfect the stall between deliveries.
As to bedding, you can use anything from straw to shavings. Regardless of the material used, it should be good quality and free of dust. I have seen more foaling stalls bedded with straw than any other type of material. Shavings tend to stick to everything and are more difficult to remove.
You need to have your foaling kit put together and know where it is located. The foaling kit is discussed in detail at www.equiuniversity.com. You also know where you can obtain colostrum if needed.
Having a closed-circuit monitor in the foaling stall will allow you to observe the mare without disturbing her or adding additional stress. You should have good lighting in the stall so that when you need them they are available.
With proper planning, this should be an exciting time. Watching the foal take their first step is but a brick on the road to a successful career for the horse whatever that career entails.