It is always an exciting time when your mare has a foal on the way. Although you know that a mare is pregnant an average of 11 months, you can never be completely sure when the birth will take place. That is why it is wise to make some preparations when the end of the gestation is approaching, so there will be fewer surprises and you can reduce the risk of complications.
Place of delivery
In most cases a mare will give birth in a stable, but this can also happen outside in the field (sometimes unplanned). The advantage of giving birth on grass is that it is natural and the mare is less likely to become cast. A disadvantage of giving birth outside is that you cannot monitor the mare as closely, especially at night. It may be difficult for a person to intervene when necessary or help may come too late. When giving birth in the field, it is important that the field is clean, because otherwise it increases the risk of infections. In addition, it should be free of potential hazards to the foal, such as water troughs or ditches.
The advantages of giving birth in a stable are that the environment can be controlled (temperature, ventilation, hygiene). This is especially nice if the foal is born early in the year, when the weather can still be harsh. You can keep a close eye on the mare through cameras or by quietly observing her. It is also easier to intervene when necessary. The main disadvantage is that the mare runs the risk of getting cast if she is too close to a wall.
There are a number of requirements for a stable to ensure that the delivery can go as smoothly as possible and that the risk of certain complications can be reduced. First, the stable must be large enough (minimum 5 x 5m) so that the mare can lie flat on her side with enough space behind her. Before you put the mare in the stable, it is wise to clean the walls and floor well. Scrub them with warm soapy water first, when it has dried you can disinfect it with an iodine-based disinfectant. Then let the box dry for a few days before putting bedding in it. Straw for bedding ensures that the floor is less slippery and does not stick to the new-born foal. Pay close attention to water buckets in the stable, if these are on the floor the foal can end up in them. Do not feed hay from a hay rack or hay net, as the foal can get stuck with one leg. Also make sure there are no other unsafe objects, such as protruding nails.
It is wise to have the foal box ready two weeks before the estimated delivery date. This also allows your mare to get used to the new environment so that she has as little stress as possible during the birth. It is nice if the mare gets on well with her neighbour, so preferably put a horsey friend next to her. This way you avoid unnecessary stress.
If you can estimate the date of delivery, let your vet know. You could also use a birth alarm. You can put this alarm on your mare a few weeks before the estimated date. The moment the mare lies down on her flanks (birthing position) you will receive a notification. This way you can be at the birth without having to stake out nights. Find out in advance which things you will need for the birth and put them ready a few weeks in advance. When the critical moment arrives, you will have everything ready at hand.
Tip: If you have no experienced in foaling yourself, it might be wise to have someone with you who does. This person will be able to see more quickly if there are any complications, so that you can intervene or call for help.