How to Care for a Foal

Caring for a foal is usually left up to the mother, but sometimes you need to give her a helping hand.


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    You should make sure that the paddock is safe for a newborn. Ensure there are no gaps in fences that the foal can get its hoof stuck in. Ultimately, you should either have a paddock with small chicken wire, or with post and rail. The foal shouldn't go too close to the fence, but they do silly things!
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    Make sure there is a shelter from prevailing weather. A simple shelter with a door would be sufficient, but ultimately a stable would be far warmer, and protect the foal from the sun, rain, wind or the cold.
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    The area should be big enough that the foal can run and play as this helps the foal increase its muscles and allows it to find their legs. If you watch a newborn, they are leggy and look like their on stilts. Imagine if they were confined to a small paddock with no room to run.........which would you prefer???
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    Now, on that note, make sure you have a small paddock that you have access to, in case you need to treat the mare or foal. The foal may need vaccinations or the mare may need treatment, a smaller paddock means you don't have to run after the mare whist scarring the foal.
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    The fence should be high enough that the mare can not jump the fence, foals and weanlings often jump fences to be with other horses, so it needs to be at least 150 centimeter (59.1 in) tall or 1 and a half meters.
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    Make sure the feed troughs are safe and have no sharp or pointy bits. Usually a rubber dish or a tyre feeder are great. You can also use a bathtub, making sure it has no sharp edges.
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    Water should also be available. The larger the facility the better, the mare and foal should have adequate water, and be unrestricted access to it. Water allows milk to be produced and water is another liquid the foal will drink. Although the foal won't drink it like the mare, the foal will play with it with its nose, and will introduce water to him, and when its time to wean, he'll know what it is.
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    Okay, now that the area is suitable, you can begin to care for the foal.
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    When feeding the mare and foal. you need to reduce certain feeds and increase other feeds. Depending on the current weight of the mare, breed and age as well as if you are showing the mare and and foal or if the mare is a broodmare, will suggest what feeds to feed. The following feeds are a basic recommendation for a basic feeding ratio. Bear in mind that some feed wouldn't suit certain horses and that it depends on access and availability.
      • Lucurn chaff or alfalfa: This provides the mare and foal with the correct amount of calcium, which makes the milk and helps the foal develop.
      • Oaten or wheaten chaff: This is simply a bulking feed, commonly used as a filler. It provides little or no essential vitamins or minerals. And can be given without any restrictions. It is non-offensive.
      • Cereal flakes etc- This is basically your wheat mix or cereal which we eat for breakfast. However, it has no fruit etc. You can buy this product in Australia from most feed companies. In America i am not sure if you can buy it, ask your feed stockist and they may be able to help.
      • Grain is often a feed that is reduced. However, it puts the weight back on the mares, and the foals often are much better and gain weight faster.
      • Vitamin supplements: This helps to improve the milk and helps when weaning the foal.
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    Okay, they are the basic feeds, you can also buy pre-mixed mare and foal feeds, which are excellent, depending of you wish to mix your own or to simple scoop and feed.
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    When feeding, provide the mare and foal with enough to fill 2 small buckets. You can wet the food or moisten it, which makes it more palatable. Make sure though, that you remove any left over feed at the next feed time, as when wet the feed with become sour and may cause colic.
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    By using a dollop of molasses, you encourage the foal to nibble at the feed. This makes it easier when weaning also.
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    We all know the saying "What goes up must come down", well, in horses, "What goes in comes back out" Grown horses usually defecate about 12 times a day, depending on climate, feed and workload. Foals only defecate about 6 to 12 times a day, sometimes they hardly defecate at all. Watch the foal and if it has manure around its bottom and looks to be constipated, seek veterinary advice. Okay, back to defecation, you should remove manure every day, as this will remove the worm population. Foals often will eat the mare's manure-though gross, it's completely normal. When they eat it however, the worms are passed onto the foal. So removal of manure stops the cycle of worms.
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    Now, you're probably thinking, if I worm the mare, the worms will be gone? TRUE! But make sure you get a wormer paste that is suited for foals, even though you are not worming the foal, the wormer will be passed onto the foal through the milk and the manure. A wormer that has no boticide is best. But seek advice from vet or experienced breeders as wormers differentiate depending on area or country.
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    You are now set to care for a foal. Just make sure you keep an eye on the foal and the mare. If you think that something is wrong, go with your gut instinct.
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    Also, make sure you remove any obstacles such as rugs, (on or off horse) as the foal may become entangled. As well as buckets with handles, wire or rope.
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    Many people throw a ball or something for the foal to play with, this is good, as the foal will be less likely to crib or windsuck, even at this young age.


  • Encourage contact from the foal, when feeding walk slowly and encourage the foal to sniff at you, don't scare it and don't push for a touch. He'll come to you when he's ready!
  • Talk to the foal, this will allow the foal to be able to hear you when you come and he will respond by nickering or even whinnying.


  • Foals are cute, but they are also dangerous, Their legs are the height of your belly, and a kick is faster and often not to be seen.
  • Watch their bum, they can turn without meaning to and may kick out of excitement.
  • Don't let small children near the foal, the child's head is at the same level as the kick.
  • If the foal bites, don't smack, but flick the foal in the mouth. Foal habits can easily turn into bad grown up horse habits.
  • Never put a foal and a gelding or stallion with each other. Stallions don't think and some geldings get envious. TRUE! ==

Things You'll Need

  • Rubber buckets (more than one)
  • A safe and manageable paddock

Article Info

Categories: Horse Care