Last Updated on May 21, 2020 by Allison Price
A mare’s gestation period is 11 months. They are usually in labor for almost eight hours. This foaling season is an exciting one for mares. They generally give birth at night. Owners are also excited to welcome new addition to their four-legged family. But we must be aware of things with regard to their weight. We want our foals to have a healthy normal weight. In this article, we will know the usual weight of a foal. We will also define what a premature foal is. Complications and treatment discussions will be added as well.
Normal Weight at Birth
Generally, foals weigh 10 percent of their mother’s weight at birth. This means a 1000-lb thoroughbred mare can give birth to a 100-lb foal. A 1500-lb warmblood mare’s foal is approximately 150 pounds. A 2000-lb draft mare’s offspring can weigh 200 pounds. This proportional weight is true no matter what the breed of your mare is. Foals born to first-time mothers are generally smaller than those of older ones. The normal gestation period of a horse ranges from 320 to 365 days. Foals born prior 320th day tend to be smaller. Those that are born after 365 day does not show a significant difference. There is not much difference between the weights of fillies and colts at birth.
The pregnancy length of a mare is approximately 341 days. Normal and healthy foals are born anywhere from 305 to 365 days. Foals born before day 300 are usually considered hopeless.
Foals born before day 320 of gestation are considered premature. Unlike humans, the length of pregnancy in mares is not related to fetal maturation. The length of pregnancy varies that you cannot rely on it to determine if the foal is already mature. It is not a guarantee even if the mare is having a full-term pregnancy. Premature foals are not just born before the expected due date. Some foals are born within the normal range yet show physical signs of being premature. These are “dysmature” foals.
Premature was regarded as a lost cause with a little chance of survival and less hope of being an athlete. Being premature is not a death sentence nor is it labeled non-athletic. Since neonatal intensive care units are already established, the survival rates are increasing. Thus, helping us treat these foals more effectively. They often need intensive care to survive. Many of them can get through with proper treatment.
Low Birth Weight and Other Signs
As we have already tackled, foals born before day 320 are more likely premature. There are other physical characteristics that define a premature stage. Premature ones have low birth weights, they are often less than 90-100 pounds. Foals that weigh less than 10 percent of their mother’s weight are premature most of the time. Foals can stand within two hours of birth and nurse. Premature foals often find it difficult to stand. Premature foals have a short hair coat that is silky, with soft and pliant ears. They also have dropped fetlocks, most common in their hind legs. Premature ones also often look quite thin due to low body fat stores.
Reasons for Premature Birth
Some reasons have to do with the dam, the placenta, or the foal itself. For example, if the mare experiences an accident and suffers a broken leg, a foal might be born early. Spontaneous delivery of a premature foal also occurs. Placentitis or infection within the placenta is one of the most common causes. It happens when the infection within the placenta crosses the foal. It usually results in premature delivery or abortion.
Facts About Foals
Gestation Period of 11 Months. A foal takes 11 months to fully develop inside the mare. Some foals are delivered several weeks late or early. Most of the time, a foal can be up to four weeks late. Time foaling is best during early spring. The foal can grow and exercise throughout the summertime.
Foals Stand Within Two Hours of Birth. Foals can generally stand, walk, and trot a very short time of birth. Within two hours of birth, foals should be up and nurse. If it takes longer than that, it is best to consult a veterinarian. Foals can gallop after 24 hours.
Mare’s Milk Gives Immunity. Colostrum is the first milk a foal gets from its mother. Since foals are born with little protection, this milk boosts their immune system. Foals should get colostrum within the first 24 hours of birth. Not only does it provide antibodies, but colostrum also helps foal pass the first manure.
Foals Lack of Immune System. Infection can set in rapidly because the foal has no immune system of its own. It is important to disinfect the foal’s umbilical stump for a few days after birth. Observe for any signs of illness.
Bowed Legs. A lot of foals are born with oddly bowed legs. This is common to foals born to smaller mares. Their ligaments and tendons are immature. They may walk with their fetlocks almost touching the ground. As the foals become stronger within a few days, the
Legs should show signs of straightening up. If not, call a veterinarian.
Foals Are Born at Night. Most foals are often born at night. Birth usually happens quickly. This nocturnal and rapid birth helps protect mares and foals. It protects them from predators when they are at their most vulnerable.
Legs Rarely Grow in Length. Foals’ legs are almost the same length when they become adults.
Foals Wean at Three Months. In as early as three months, foals can be weaned. If the foal shows signs of rapid growth, early weaning may be best. Problems in their leg joints can occur when they grow too fast. The foal no longer gets a large amount of nutrition from the mother’s milk when they reach four months.
Knowing the weight of your foal at birth is necessary. A foal normally weighs 10% of the weight of the mother. They are likely 90-200 pounds. If your foal weighs less than that, you can take necessary actions to help your foal survive. Keep track of its health, growth, and nutrition. You will be able to provide your foal with a proper diet and medicine if you know its weight.
I’m Allison, born and raised in San Diego California, the earliest memory I have with horses was at my grandfather’s farm. I used to sit at the stable as a kid and hang out with my Papa while he was training the horses. When I was invited to watch a horse riding competition, I got so fascinated with riding!