In a very short time after birth, the foal’s body must undergo tremendous changes in order to adapt to life outside the uterus. Normally, the following happens in the first three hours after birth:
- Stretching and rupture of the umbilical cord – 1-2 minutes after birth.
- The first attempts to breathe – within 1 minute.
- Attempts to straighten up – within 5 minutes.
- The sucking reflex manifests itself within 5 minutes.
- Attempts to stand – within the first 30 minutes after birth.
- The ability to stand independently appears within 60-120 minutes.
- The first feeding with mother’s milk occurs within 60-180 minutes.
All of the above events must occur without fail. Any deviation signals the health problems of the newborn and the need to consult a veterinarian.
It is very important to observe the sucking reflex in the newborn foal. It occurs within 5 minutes of birth. This reflex may be weak at first, but gradually, during the first hour of life, it intensifies. The foal will try to look for the mother’s udder. It is important to make sure that the foal has found the udder and is drinking milk with its tongue wrapped around the teat.
During the first week of life, foals suckle milk approximately 4-5 times per hour, from a few seconds to a minute. If the foal tries to feed more often, it can be assumed that the mare does not have enough milk. If the mare’s udder appears to be enlarged and milk is dripping from it, it is likely that the foal cannot eat enough. This can be an early symptom of illness in a foal. An urgent consultation with a veterinarian is required.
If you are in doubt as to whether the foal is getting enough colostrum, you can contact your veterinarian who will take the foal’s blood for analysis and check how it is absorbing colostrum. You can also test the foal’s blood for antibodies from the mother between 12 and 24 hours after birth.
Soon after birth, the foals attempt to straighten up and sit up. They should actively move their legs and hold their head. Lying on its side is not normal for a newborn.
The foal’s first bowel movement occurs approximately 30 minutes after the first feeding. The foal’s first manure is called meconium. It consists of dark brown hard balls. Sometimes a newborn foal has difficulty with the first bowel movement (in this case, the foal is given a cleansing enema). He may arch his back and push to try to have a bowel movement.
A foal’s first urination occurs between 3-5 hours after birth. Occasionally wearers confuse straining to defecate (arching the back) with straining to urinate (squatting). Foals learn very quickly. In nature, they should be able to escape predators as quickly as possible after birth.
During the first few days of life, foals do not move further than 10 meters from their mother. As they adapt to their environment, they begin to gradually increase the distance between themselves and their mother.