The First 24 Hours
After a long eleven month wait, the new foal has finally arrived! All that tender loving care you lavished on your mare has paid off.
It was a nice easy birth with the active labor lasting the average 20 to 25 minutes; and the result? A beautiful bundle of big, soft, dewy eyes and gangly legs. It would be hard to decide who is the proudest; mama mare or you.
While a physical exam by your local veterinarian can do a lot to ease your mind, there are several basic things to watch for that play a large role in determining whether or not you have a normal, healthy foal.
Within the first 2 hours after birth, your foal should struggle to his feet and on wobbly legs approach mama for his first meal. The thick yellow colostrum that precedes the mare's milk production, is so essential to preventing illness in your foal; since the colostrum is full of antibodies. Without this "boost" your foal could become susceptible to upper respiratory viruses.
Also within 2-4 hours, your foal should pass a dark sticky stool or "meconium". Some slight straining to defecate can be normal. If straining is excessive and does not produce a stool, call your veterinarian immediately.
It is a common practice to bathe the umbilical cord stump with betadine or some other disinfectant. However, horses in the wild have survived without this practice for millenniums; so this is a choice that is up to you and your veterinarian. Do keep on the watch for any swelling or unusual drainage.
Bonding with mama happens early and your foal's instinct to stick closely by her side and follow wherever she goes is a survival must in the wild. Then too, your mare may become very protective and try to stand between you and her baby. Cut her a little slack at first...after all...it is her baby. So give it a day or two. Then you can assert your right to a little "bonding" too.