What does the Code of Practice say about the Care of Mares and Foals?

Icon of a book Mares and Foals

Mare Management

  • Mares must be provided with a nutritionally balanced diet prior to breeding, throughout gestation and during lactation. Mares should be fed a diet with sufficient protein (11% during late gestation; 13.5% in early lactation [months 1-3]; 11% in late lactation.
  • Mares to be bred/inseminated should be handled as quietly as possible. 
  • Pregnant mares should be allowed to exercise, unless stall rest is required for medical purposes or due to severe environmental conditions 
  • Mares should be vaccinated and dewormed during gestation to protect the mares and fetus. Vaccinations should be boosted approximately 3-4 weeks before the estimated foaling date to optimize antibody concentrations in colostrum, which transfers immunity to the newborn foal.
  • Mares should be managed so that they are in suitable body condition at the time of breeding and foaling. A body condition score of 5 or better on the 1-9 scale is recommended. 
  • Mares should be routinely monitored for health status throughout the gestation period. A health program should be designed in consultation with a veterinarian. This health program should include prefoaling instructions for attendants. Any mare requiring veterinary care during pregnancy must receive such care.
  • Mares close to foaling should be observed at least twice per day for health, well-being, and signs of foaling.
Pregnant Mare
Figure 3.3: Pregnant Mare
Credit: 10marek.n [CC BY-SA]


  • Where a foaling stall or paddock is used, it should safely confine both mare and foal. The area should be large enough to accommodate the ambulatory movements of the mare during foaling and allow her to lie down comfortable during and after foaling. It is recommended that the mare be given the opportunity to become familiar with the stall, foaling area or paddock several days before foaling. 
  • Mares foaling on pasture should be provided with a clean, dry, sheltered, and hazard free area. 
  • The foal should be kept thermally comfortable. Foals are sensitive to adverse weather conditions and can lose body heat if they are exposed to wet, cold, or drafty environments. If indoors, heat lamps or space heaters can be used to ensure warmth, provided they are used with caution to prevent a fire hazard. Alternatively, a foal blanket can be used to provide warmth. 
  • Mares generally foal without complications. Before administering assistance to a mare, attendants should be familiar with the signs of a normal delivery. Mares having difficulty foaling should be assisted immediately, preferably by a licensed veterinarian. 
  • After delivery, the umbilical cord should be allowed to sever on its own.
Mare and foal in falling stall

Care of the Neonate
(Newborn Foals)

  • Newborn foals must ingest adequate amounts of colostrum as soon as possible after birth, preferably by nursing within the first six hours of life. Previously frozen colostrum should be available in the event that foals are unable to nurse, or the mare’s colostrum is unavailable or of poor quality. 
  • The newborn foal should consume 250 ml of colostrum per hour for the first twelve hours. Feeding colostrum after 24 hours is of limited value. If the foal does not suckle adequately during the first six hours of life, a veterinarian should be consulted.
  • Foals should be observed regularly (preferably daily) during the first month of life to ensure that they are adequately nourished and healthy. If abnormalities are observed, a licensed veterinarian should be consulted. 
  • You should consult a veterinarian and/or nutritionist when caring for an orphaned foal, as they need specialized care to meet their nutritional requirements. The best option is to foster the foal onto a nurse mare as soon as possible.
  • If a nurse mare is not available, ensure that the foal receives adequate colostrum.The foal should then be fed a foal milk replacer containing 15-18% fat and 18-22% crude protein made from milk products. For days 2 and 3, the foal should be fed a daily volume equal to 10- 15% its body weight, at a rate of 250-500 mls (8-16 ounces) every 1-2 hours around the clock. Starting on day 4, increase the volume to 20% of body weight and adjust the feeding interval to every 3-4 hours. Free choice nipple or bucket feeding is recommended to achieve this level of intake.

Foal Care

  • The dam’s milk will normally meet the foal’s nutrient requirements for the first 6-8 weeks of life. After the first few days of life, foals may begin to seek out solid food. At this time (or if necessary) creep feed can be offered to foals at a rate of 0.5-1% of body weight per day to a maximum of 1.8-2.3kg (4-5lbs). Creep rations need to be balanced for growth.
  • Foals should be raised outdoors, where possible. If mares and foals are kept indoors, the opportunity for regular exercise should be provided for normal development. 
  • Foals are typically weaned around 4-6 months of age, depending on the health status of both the mare and the foal. Weaning is stressful for mare and foal; strategies should be employed to minimize this stress. Keeping foals in the company of other horses (i.e. other weaned foals, an older, calm horse) will help to reduce weaning stress. 

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