As foaling season approaches, horse owners who are expecting foals this year should know how to recognize the signs of labor in a foaling mare. The normal gestation length for a mare can range from 320 to 360 days, with the average being around 340 days.
The first stage of labor is generally the longest and might take from one to four hours. The mare may act restless, circling her stall or paddock. She might get up and down frequently, pass small amounts of manure or urine, and act nervous. The mare might also show some colic-like symptoms such as looking at her sides, sweating along her neck and flanks, and showing signs of abdominal discomfort. Mares might not exhibit all of these symptoms but usually have a distinct change of behavior during Stage One labor.
This stage of labor begins when the mare’s "water" breaks and ends when the foal has been delivered. The process typically takes approximately 15-20 minutes to complete. The water breaking is actually the rupture of the chorioallantoic membrane, releasing allantoic fluid. The membrane usually ruptures before being pushed through the cervix and the allantoic fluid will be expelled in a gush. At this point, uterine contractions will usually begin in earnest. Generally at this point, the mare will lay down if she has not already done so. Once the water has broken, the feet and head of the foal should start to emerge. The front feet should be delivered first with the soles pointing down in a normal delivery. One front foot is generally slightly ahead of the other and the muzzle of the foal will be at the