Springtime is the traditional foaling season, but your mare could be expecting a foal at any time of year. Your foaling kit should be ready to go at a moment’s notice, because once the mare’s water breaks, you should have a foal on the ground within thirty minutes. That means the time to prepare is well before your mare’s due date. So how should you stock your foaling kit?
Here are some of the essential elements of a foaling kit:
Flashlight, battery-powered lantern, or head lamp, with extra batteries: Sure, it would be best if your mare foals in her tidy, well-lit stall, but you have to be prepared for every eventuality, including a foal in the dead of night in the middle of a pasture, or perhaps during a power outage. Head lamps are a great tool for foaling, offering you hands-free light right where you need it.
Tail Wrap: Tails just get in the way during foaling, especially if you or your vet need to take a peek at proceedings, or if the mare lies down and gets her tail dirty, then swishes it over her new foal. Not to mention, you’ll have to get the tail clean after birth, and you’re going to be concentrating on other things. To save on laundry, practice wrapping up the tail with elastic self-adhesive tape, like VetRap or similar, and have a couple of fresh rolls ready to wrap up as soon as your mare shows signs of labor.
Mild soap: Many breeders like to give the mare’s hind end, including her udder, a wash before birth. If you bring in a mud-encrusted mare already in labor, you’ll probably want to clean her up a bit while she’s just beginning her contractions. Only use the most mild and pure of soaps, and rinse everything away thoroughly, or you could put your foal off drinking, the last thing you want to happen.
Buckets: You can never have too many buckets.
Towels: Wiping yourself off, wiping the mare off, wiping the foal off – you can never have too many towels, too.
Sterile gloves: You can’t be too careful about germs when you’re dealing with a newborn foal, so use gloves, especially if you’re handling any part of the mare which could easily be infected.
Sterile empty bottles or jars: If you haven’t collected any colostrum and there is milk streaming from your mare’s udder while she is still in early stages of labor, this is a good opportunity to collect some. You never know if you might need it. Talk through a replacement colostrum plan with your vet before the foaling date, just in case.
Baling twine or string: If the mare’s placenta is taking its time passing, you’ll need to tie it up so she can’t step on it. A mare can cause serious damage to herself by tearing the placenta away before it’s naturally pushed out.
Watch and a notepad: Write down the time of everything of significance: contractions, water breaking, the first appearance of hooves – and have notes to make sure you’re aware to the minute of how long everything should be taking. As we said above, a foaling does not take long. If anything is delayed, your vet should be aware immediately. Speaking of your vet…
Emergency phone numbers: Know ahead of time how to reach a vet at any time of any day, and have that contact information in your foaling kit. If you don’t have a landline, you might want to keep a rapid battery charger for your phone in there, too.
Iodine or another antiseptic: Dousing the foal’s umbilical stump with antiseptic is a well-known tactic to prevent infection from entering the foal’s system. However, the antiseptic you use might depend on your vet’s recommendation. Some use diluted iodine, some use dilute chlorhexidine, commonly sold under the name Nolvasan. Get the details and buy the right antiseptic for your foaling kit well ahead of time.
Plastic container or dish: This is for holding the antiseptic; you can dip the umbilical stump into the dish to get a thorough covering.
Enema kit: Consult with your vet on enema kits and how (and when) to use them with a newborn foal. If your foal is struggling to pass his meconium, which is baby’s first manure, an enema can get things moving. However, they must be used carefully or more damage could be caused. This might be a job for your vet, but have the kit on hand just in case.
Most foalings are straight-forward, but you’ll find use for most of the items on this list even if the mare doesn’t need any help with her foal. If you have any questions about foaling or foaling kits, consult your veterinarian – you need a good partner in this business of breeding and foaling!
Happy foaling season!