Foaling time is an exciting time of year but is very important to do the right things to
ensure the health of the foal. Before the foal is even born you need to make sure the mare is properly de-wormed and vaccinated, this will help with disease protection of the foal since immunity from the mare is passed to the foal in her first milk, called colostrum.
Once the foal is born the naval should be dipped with a disinfectant. A Chlorhexadine solution is preferred over the other products such as iodine. The foal should be examined for any defects or abnormalities such as Cleft palate, limb deformities, hernias, etc. Even though the mare was vaccinated it is very important to give the foal a tetanus antitoxin injection, to help ensure it doesn’t get tetanus. Horses are very susceptible to this disease and proper precautions are required. Other injections that often are given at birth are vitamins A and D and penicillin to help the foal through its early days. The foal should stand within an hour or two and start to nurse. It is very important for it to get the mother’s colostrum within the first few hours. If you are in doubt that the foal did get ample colostrum or are worried that it has enough immunity, a quick test can be run on the foal’s blood to check its immunoglobulin levels. Treatment can be given to the foal if it is found to be low. If it is low and not treatment is given, the foal will have a very poor chance of surviving.
Another thing to watch for is to make sure the foal passes feces within a few hours. The first feces passed are called meconium. The mare’s colostrum serves as a laxative to help move this meconium out, but if it does not pass soon the foal will show signs of colic such as switching it tail, hunching up, and getting up and down frequently. If this is the case an enema must be given to relieve the foal. This condition can be life threatening so careful observation is needed.
Often time’s owners will have a veterinarian visit to make sure all is well with the newborn foal and give the above mentioned treatments. If wanted, a foal kit can be picked up at our clinic, in Preston, Idaho, that contains the needed medicines for your newborn foal.