Miniature horse foals must receive their mother's
first milk, colostrum, in order to have antibodies. Don't assume that your foal has
or will nurse on it's own.
Description of the Problem:
Foals are born without any of their own circulating antibodies to protect them from
respiratory diseases and other neonatal diseases. The foal must rely entirely on
antibodies that it receives via the colostrum from its dam to protect it from disease for
the first two months of life. Foals that do not receive colostrum need immediate
veterinary care and are usually treated with a plasma transfusion to supply antibodies. It
is critical that the attending veterinarian has an accurate and reliable test with which
to measure the amount of antibody (IgG) present in the foal's blood between 12 and 24
hours of age. There is a test available that can be used "foal-side" by the
practitioner that provides rapid results. However, this test is new this foaling season
and there have been numerous complaints from veterinarians about test variability. The
gold-standard test, serial radial immunodiffusion (SRID), requires 24 hours to run and
must be run in a laboratory. Because there is only one convenient test available for the
measurement of IgG in the foal, it is crucial that the issues of accuracy and reliability
are addressed immediately so that the test can be improved or a new test can be developed.
Call your veterinarian
Miniature Mare gestation:
On average our miniature mares carry 326 days gestation. Some
of our foals come as early as 300 days gestation, others carry 356. We ultrasound 18
days post breeding.
We do find that mares tend to follow their dam's gestation length.
Typically, mares carry a little longer with their first foal.
Signs that your mini mare is preparing to foal:
- one to two weeks prior to foaling we notice our mares rolling more often.
- watch for any changes in her milk sac, heat and increase in size. Some mares begin
"bagging up" weeks prior to delivery, others wait until the last minute.
- check the consistency of the milk too. 90% of the time the milk will change from a
watery consistency to a thick syrupy texture, "colostrum" or mares first
milk. This indicates the foal should come within 24 hours. Only a drop of milk
is needed to rub between your fingers.
- very few of our mares "wax" like full size horses.
- check for softness around the tailset.
- check for swelling or elongation of the vulva.
- some mares may become nervous, restless and excitable.
- loose stool, lack of fecal balls - generally within 24 hours of foaling
These are all signs that the baby will be coming soon. Just be aware that maiden mares
may not check my list. :-) Some maidens show no visible changes.
After your mare foals:
- Apply strong iodine or Novalsan to the foals umbilical cord after it is
detached. Check with your vet about his/her suggestions. Current research
indicates that most foals pick up bacteria from the ground rather than the old school of
thought that bacteria enters through the navel stump. I still spray the navel with
- If you hear fluid in the babies lungs you may need to hold the foal up off of the
ground by the hind legs and swing them gently back and forth. This will drain
some of the fluid from their lungs.
- Pull on the mares nipple to make sure that she has colostrum to feed her foal.
- Check the foal for sucking reflex.
- The foal may nuzzle the milk sac but not drink. Make sure the foal gets hold of
the nipple and stays there sucking for 30 seconds at a time - at least.
- Foals MUST drink the mares first milk. This colostrum is the only way the
babies get protection and immunities. Without proper intake they may need a blood
transfusion. The foal should begin nursing within two hours of birth. The
sooner they begin to drink the more absorption of antibodies they receive. After 12
hours it may be too late. Your vet can do a simple blood test to see if the
absorption has taken place.
- The closer to 300 days gestation they foal, the closer you need to watch the baby for
standing to drink milk. They may be weaker and unable to drink sufficient
colostrum. The vet can tube the foal with colostrum.
- If the mare is uncomfortable ask your vet what type of medication and dosage she
would need. Some mares that are uncomfortable will not stand still for the foal to
There are so many other things to tell you but these are the basics. Please ask if you
have other questions.