If you are thinking about giving birth to a baby foal, then you want to make sure that it is healthy. At our stables, we take a well-rounded approach to our baby foals and this includes thinking about the age of the mare, the gestation period, and the birth weight of the foal.
It is a good idea for you to have a professional vet attend the birth of every foal. We try to do this at our stable as well; however, there are times when the vet might not always be able to make it.
In this case, it is important to have a good idea of how much each foal should weigh. If the foal is too light, he or she might require professional medical attention. How much should a baby foal weigh?
10 Percent of Mom’s Birth Weight
No matter what breed of horse you have, your foal should weigh 10 percent of the weight of its mother. This means that a mare weighing 1000 pounds should give birth to a foal that weighs 100 pounds. The long answer is that the normal birth weight of foals will vary.
There Are Numerous Factors Involved
It’s no secret that there are lots of horse breeds out there. These include Shetland ponies, Clydesdales, Paints, Appaloosas, and more. All of these horses come in different sizes so the healthy birth weight of a foal is going to vary from breed to breed.
While the 10 percent rule is a good rule to follow, we try to teach everyone about the factors that are involved in the birth weight of a foal. Some of the important factors include:
- If a mare is giving birth for the first time, the baby foal is likely going to weigh less than similar foals from mares giving birth for the second, third, (or greater), time
- The normal gestation period of foals is between 310 and 360 days
- The longer the gestation lasts, the larger the foal is going to be
- Fillies (female foals) and colts (male foals) tend to be of similar sizes
- Foals that are born between 300 days of gestation tend to be inviable
These are just a few of the most important factors that will play a role in the birth weight of a foal. It is important to have a general idea of how much a foal should weigh when born. If you give birth to a foal that is too light, this could lead to health problems.
What If the Foal Is Too Light?
One of the first things you should do after the foal is born is to weigh him or her. One of the best ways to do this is to pick up the foal, stand up on a scale, and subtract your own weight. This is one of the most common methods we use; however, some foals might weigh 200 pounds, so this could be difficult.
You might be thinking that if you (or two people) cannot pick up the foal, this is a sign of a healthy weight; however, this is not always the case. Normal foals are able to stand and start nursing within two hours. If the foal doesn’t do this, this could be a sign of a problem.
One of the most common reasons why a foal might be too light is that he or she is premature. If you have a premature foal, he or she might have trouble standing.
It isn’t always obvious when a foal was conceived, so you might not know exactly how many days the gestation lasted. That is okay! This is why it is a good idea to have a trained vet present at the delivery.
Some of the signs of a premature foal include:
- Hair that is silky in nature
- Ears that appear to be floppy instead of straight
- Tendons that are weak, which prevents the foal from standing
- A forehead in the shape of a dome
Low birth weight foals are at a high risk of developing serious health issues. Because of their low weight, their bodies might not have the nutrients they need to power their organs.
If you have a foal that is below the ideal birth weight, you should call the vet immediately. Particularly for premature foals, quick access to medical care plays an important role in the survival of that child.
The Role of the Placenta: A Retained Placenta Can Lead to Serious Complications
During the birthing process, you need to make sure that your mare expels all of the placenta’s contents after delivering the foal. This is important because a retained placenta can lead to serious infections.
We have had a few mares retain placentas and end up getting sick. Some of them even required IV antibiotics. Luckily, we have access to professional medical care that can help us treat infections and remove placentas that might be retained.
While it is a happy time when a healthy foal is delivered, do not forget about the mare.
Placentas should be delivered within an hour of the birth of the foal. If you notice that the placenta hasn’t passed after about three hours of the foal, then you need to call a vet.
Professional medical care might be needed to remove the placenta.
Once your mare delivers the placenta, try to look at it carefully. Make sure there aren’t any pieces missing from the placenta. Sometimes, the placenta gets delivered in pieces because it is jostled during the birthing process.
If you are having a hard time weighing the foal, you can also weigh the placenta. Usually, the placenta weighs about 11 percent of the foal’s birth weight. This can help you avoid the hassle of trying to find extra people to help you lift up the foal.
Remember that the placenta’s weight will change as it dries, so try to weigh it quickly after the delivery. A retained placenta is a serious problem for the birthing process, so remember to watch for it after the foal’s delivery.
What About a Twin Gestation and Delivery for Foals and Mares?
A twin gestation is a serious issue for foals. Similar to human babies, there is a higher rate of complications when a mare is giving birth to twins. As soon as you think your mare is pregnant, you need to call a vet (or a trained tech) so perform an ultrasound.
The ultrasound is used to not only estimate the gestational age of the embryo but also to look for the presence of twins. We have had mares in our stable with twins before.
I know that we have had some twin gestations where we have intentionally “pinched” one of the embryos so that the mare only delivers one healthy foal.
In other cases, we have let the twin gestation proceed. Sometimes, both foals are delivered without complications. In other cases, we have had serious issues.
One of the most common issues when it comes to twin gestations is that both foals are going to below birth weight. The trigger to start the labor process in the mare’s uterus is the weight of the foals.
Once a foal reaches a certain size, the pressure causes labor to start. The uterus of a mare is only designed to hold a single foal. If there are two foals, this can lead to major problems because the labor process will be triggered at a much earlier date.
If both foals come out, it is unusual for both to survive. While we have had both foals survive before, both of them usually end up dying shortly after birth because of their low birth weight. While we have had cases where one (or both) survive, this is unusual.
So, if you suspect one of your mares is pregnant, you need to call for a trained medical professional to perform an ultrasound of the uterus. If there are twins present, you should follow the advice of the vet.
In addition to a high mortality rate for the foals, there could also be serious complications for the mare as well. This is why many vets will recommend trying to pinch one of the embryos to ensure that the other foal will survive.
While twins sound exciting, this can lead to life-threatening complications for both the mare and the foals.