Signs of Imminent Foaling in Mares

Last Updated on February 21, 2022 by Allison Price

Most mares foal between 330 and 345 days after successful breeding. However, they can foal up to a week earlier or later. Experiential broodmare owners know the signs that indicate a mare is near giving birth. These signs may not be as well-known to first-time breeders. Anyone who is pregnant with a foal should be aware of these signs to help them prepare for the delivery.

The last month of pregnancy will show changes in the mare’s udder. The udder might appear larger in the morning, but less when the mare is active during the day. Foaling is approaching when the udder remains distended throughout the day and the teats begin to point slightly downward rather than to the side. This should be checked regularly.

Signs of Imminent Foaling in Mares

Within 12 to 36 hours of foaling, many mares will have beads of colostrum on the teats. Each mare’s “waxing”, which can occur at different times, is a strong indicator that the mare will foal in the near future. Some mares may actually start to dribble colostrum. This causes fluid to evaporate and the foal to become ill. It is important to collect any colostrum that the mare is losing and freeze it so that the foal can eat it after birth.

A few weeks before foaling, the muscles in the mare’s pelvic region will start to relax. You should be looking out for hollowed areas at the tail’s top. This change, like other signs, is more noticeable in some mares that in others. The mare’s vulva should also begin to swell and relax in the days before foaling.

Mares can experience the same symptoms of colic as horses. These signs include restlessness, kicking the belly, looking at her flanks, and general anxiety. These signs could indicate that labor is beginning, particularly if there are sweat patches on the flanks and neck of the mare. The actual delivery could still take hours.

Mares, prey animals, instinctively seek out safe and quiet places to give birth to their foals. Even if they’re in familiar surroundings with trusted caretakers, this instinct prevents some mares showing signs of foaling. Even foaling assistants are not experts at knowing when mares will foal.

If the mare is showing signs of labor, owners should ensure that they are kept in a safe and quiet area (foaling paddock or stall). Some mares will not go into the stall if they are visible from outside. There are many stories about mares appearing to be asleep, then producing foals while their caretaker goes to the house to grab a cup of coffee. An owner can monitor the mare’s progress with a remote camera that is mounted in the foaling area.