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Q5) How do I know when my mare is close to foaling?

The most clear and concise guide we've found to answer this question comes from Lon Lewis' Feeding and Care of the Horse. While every mare is different, most go through these stages before foaling.

While this is a great quick reference chart for foaling, many people also prefer to have a good book or DVD on foaling nearby to answer more in-depth questions. Some thorough, non-technical and fairly inexpensive choices are listed below the chart.

Signs and Stages of Foaling

From Feeding and Care of the Horse by Lon D. Lewis

Signs and Stages Usual Time of Occurrence
Distended udder (minimal in many maiden mares) 2-4 weeks before foaling
Dropping of the abdomen (more with age), followed by relaxation evident on each side of tailhead 1-3 weeks before foaling
Teats fill with a clear, watery secretion 4-7 days before foaling
Secretions become cloudy and wax-like and cover end of nipples (waxing-over), and calcium exceeds 320 ppm (8mM/L) 1-4 days before foaling
Vulva becomes loose, soft, and relaxed and no evening drop in rectal temperature 1/2 -1 1/2 days before foaling
Foaling stage 1: Stop eating; pacing, restlessness, lying down and getting up which helps get foal into position for birth. Tail switching, sweating and frequent urination. If disturbed, mare can delay progression for many hours.

Membranes rupture and several gallons of fluid are expelled. Mare now can no longer delay foaling.

Begins 2-5 hours before delivery and 2-3 hours before water breaks
Foaling stage 2*: Amnion, forefeet soles down, then nose appears. If not, provide help. Mare usually standing. 5-15 min. after fluid expelled. If over 20-30 min., help needed.
Foaling stage 3*: Most mares lie down, and labor using abdominal effort begins. 15 min. or less before delivery
Foaling stage 4: Expulsion of the placenta (fetal membranes) 15-90 min. after delivery

* Some define stage 2 as what is given here as stages 2 and 3, which then makes expulsion of the placenta stage 3.

Other References & Suggested Reading:

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