Contributed by: Valerie Mellema
For the first time ever, I have spent the last two weeks waiting for a phone call in the middle of the night. It didn’t matter if it was 4 in the morning, I wanted that phone to ring! My mare Abra Joy, aka Abby, was due to foal on March 1st. Just a few days after her “due date” even the vet was convinced that it would be “that night” after he checked her, but there we all were waiting patiently for Abby. We even talked to her previous owner to see if this was typical of her because by looking at her, you’d say it would be any minute – not any day. She was huge and just looked tired. We even came up with funny names for the foal like MommaWontLetMeOut and CantSeeDaylight.
Abby’s due date came and went. Four days after her due date came and went – that apparently was her typical foaling time from previous pregnancies. I had my camera, my GoPro, everything ready and waiting on the phone call that she was lying down and in labor. This birth was going to be documented by golly!
But, the days passed. The vet called daily to check in with her. Friends and family members called, texted and Facebooked checking in on her. No baby yet!
Twelve days later and 7 inches of rain later, I finally got a phone call at 11:30pm the night of March 12th. “You have a colt!” My barn owner said on the other line. She had just checked her at 10:30 and was about to go to bed a little after 11 when she noticed the stall camera not working and decided to check her one more time. She arrived at the stall to see a bay colt with a star on his forehead staring back at her. She had him quickly so nobody was even there to see it happen and certainly no way for it to be documented!
Now we have this handsome little guy, we are embarking on the first few days of life with him. Here’s a look at what they will hold.
Typically, you want a foal to stand in an hour, nurse within 2 hours and the mare should have delivered the placenta within 3 hours. All of this happened for us in like the first hour. Our little boy was already standing up within 30 minutes to an hour of being born and was ready to nurse on whatever he could find. With a little direction, he was nursing from mom quickly.
We ventured out of the foaling stall into the round pen. Some sunlight and fresh air was definitely needed. With a little guidance, mom and baby were moved to the round pen. She was ready to go outside and was nickering to him. He wasn’t sure about all this and a little hesitant to go, plus those long legs were still a little shaky. By the time they got out there though, he was ready to let loose a bit. He ran around, reared and bucked a bit, but it wasn’t long until it was nap time.
By Day 2 or 3, it is expected that the foal will begin cantering and running in circles around his dam. The first few days you will also need to check for any physical ailments the foal may have. A number of conditions can develop such as cardiac dysfunction, eye conditions, or limb deformities. Fortunately, our little boy has very straight legs and healthy. Anything abnormal should be checked by a vet quickly.
This is also a good time to ensure that your foal has lots of positive interaction. Foals learn from their mothers, so lots of positive interaction with the mare is important. The foal will learn to respond to humans positively from this interaction. Fortunately, Abby is a bit of an old hand and not overly protective. She is very willing to allow you to handle both her and the foal. She’s happy as long as she has her hay! Plus, with the excitement of a new baby, it’s easy to give the foal all of the attention when mom needs some too.
The greatest risk to a foal’s well being is in the first 48 hours. After this crucial time period, it’s all about gaining weight, healthy and safe play while exploring their environment.
If you're preparing for the arrival of your new foal, read Valerie's post, Prepping for Foaling Season, for a complete supply list and signs to look for to know she's getting close!