The delivery of a new foal can bring great joy to a horse owner, but it is important to prepare yourself in advance to be able to help your mare through this process. Mother nature knows what she is doing, but you will make the process go much more smoothly if you have a little knowledge, too.
Well in advance of the delivery of the foal, you should be sure to have an area familiar to your mare clean and ready to be used as a birthing area. Watch for signs of labor, and when the mare's water breaks, be ready to help with the foal's delivery.
The foal should start to appear five to ten minutes after the mare's water breaks, and its hooves should be staggered, one out more than the other because of the way its shoulders need to be positioned in order to fit through the birth canal. Once the foal's legs have been exposed to its knees, you should be able to see its nose. If a mare struggles for more than 20 minutes after her water breaks, a veterinarian should be called.
It is possible that you may need to use a clean arm to reposition and guide the foal out, but this is very rarely the case. More often, if your mare is having trouble with the delivery of her foal, you may need to assist her by gently pulling the foal out and downward by its front legs. Wrapping a towel around the foal's slippery legs will help your grip.
Once the foal has been delivered, it is important to let the mare and foal rest. The umbilical cord will still be attached at this point and will still be nourishing the foal, so allow several minutes of quiet time during this period. Soon the mare will break the umbilical cord and unless there is any heavy bleeding, all that is needed of you at this point is to clamp or tie off the cord with something that has been sterilized.
The foal should begin to nurse with in about an hour of delivery.
Mares have been delivering foals for a long time without assistance from humans, so all should go as nature intended, but a well prepared owner can make a world of difference if something should go wrong. Be sure to let your veterinarian know your mare's expected delivery date and have the vet's phone number nearby in case of an emergency.