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When a foal is born, it is crucial for any horse owner to keep an eye out for potential issues and address them quickly. A lack of urgency in the face of a serious issue, or an incorrect method of addressing them, can lead to many long-term problems for the foal, or even death. It is essential that every horse owner with a pregnant mare do their research to be cognizant of how their foal is doing. The following are just a few of the many signs that action needs to be taken.

No Breathing After Two Minutes

Just like a human baby, a foal will take its first breath after birth. Foals need to take their first breath within the first two minutes of being born, or else it is a sign of complications. Foals should typically take 60 breaths per minute. If the foal is not breathing properly, see if there is a membrane covering its nostrils. Remove it if so. If the airways are clear, you may need to resuscitate your foal by covering one nostril and breathing into the other. Be sure to contact your horse’s veterinarian prior to birth to ensure you know the proper method.

No Walking in Two Hours

Most foals can begin walking within an hour of being born. However, some take up to two hours to begin walking. If your foal is struggling to walk due to a slippery surface, put down some bedding to allow it to gain traction. If it is still unable to walk after two hours, contact your veterinarian to ensure there is not a major issue. If you notice a deformity, such as crooked legs, you may want to contact your veterinarian earlier to ensure that the foal does not need a support to avoid developing long-term problems.

No Nursing in Three to Five Hours

Foals need to nurse within the first few hours of their life. Most foals figure out how to nurse within about three hours. If the mare is too excited and is not allowing the foal to nurse, she may need to be sedated. If the foal is unable to nurse, or if the milk is not going down properly, there could be an issue that a veterinarian needs to address. Additionally, if the foal is not nursing roughly every 20 minutes, it could be a sign of another issue.

There are many concerns that can arise within the first few hours and days of a foal’s life, but many of them can be resolved with quick action and a veterinarian on standby. Be sure to read up on what to expect so that you can prepare yourself in the event of an emergency.