In case of emergency please call the normal number:

01823 475208

Outside normal office hours, your call will be received by a dedicated call service and the message will be passed to the duty vet. The vet will phone you back as quickly as possible. Please ensure there is phone signal and a person to answer who knows what is happening.

While it may seem frustrating, it is important to provide all requested details to the call handler in case the duty vet is not one who normally comes to your yard.

Normal for your horse


A normal healthy horse should be:
1. B: bright,
2. A: alert
3. R: responsive to their surroundings.

Temperature Heart rate Respiratory rate
37 – 38.5°C 32 – 44 bpm 8 – 14 bpm
98.5 – 101.3 °F (beats per minute) (breath per minute)

Horses should be eating, drinking, urinating and passing droppings through the day. Horses become used to their own routine, therefore knowing your horse’s habits will help you to spot any abnormality.

It is a good idea to take your horse’s temperature regularly, partly to get them used to it and partly to get an idea for what is normal for him / her.

The best way to take your horse’s temperature is rectally with a digital thermometer, although you can also use a mercury thermometer (but don’t forget to shake it first and hold it tightly, so doesn’t get lost in the rectum!)

Follow these simple steps, but above all do not put yourself at any risk:

Check the temp when your horse is relaxed, with either someone holding the horse or with the horse tied up. If you are right, stand on the left hand side of the horse, always to the side of his leg. Use your left hand to lift the tail so you can use your right hand to gently guide the end of the thermometer a couple of inches inside the anus. Remember to lubricate the thermometer before insert it in. You can either use some water (not hot), or your saliva (spit on the end of the thermometer even if not very elegant). Hold the thermometer and tail until you have a reading, then carefully remove the thermometer.

The heart rate can be checked by placing your fingers on the mandibular artery, just under the jaw.
You will need to have your horse quiet, and not eating. Put your fingers on the inside of your horse’s jawbone nearest to you, and feel for a cord-like structure which you will feel beating (slowly).
You should count the number of beats in 15 seconds, then multiply by 4 to get the number of beats per minute. You should repeat this 3 times to get an average.
If you cannot find the artery, you can try placing your hand over the heart, just behind the elbow. In slim horses, you may feel the heart beating. Again, you should count the number of beats in 15 seconds and then multiply by 4 to get beats / minute.

A horse’s respiratory rate is the number of breaths taken in one minute. You can measure respiratory rate by watching the flank and rib cage. Count how many times it rises and falls in 15 seconds, then multiply that by 4 to get the number of breaths in a minute.
Watching the nostrils is less accurate.


Assuming that the foaling was uneventfully, Owner should monitor the
newborn foal closely for the first 24 hours. It is important to make
sure that the foal shows a normal behaviour, therefore seeking for
veterinary intervention at early stage if he does not.
A normal newborn foal should:

1. SITTING IN STERNAL within 5-10 minutes of birth. Foal must
be considered abnormal if it lay on the floor for longer than 10
mins after birth.

2. STAND within 1 hour of birth (Pony foals generally stand within
the first 30 mins of life, where larger-breed foals might take up to
2h). Foal must be considered abnormal if it takes longer than 2h
to stand.

3. TIME TO SUCKLE: within 2 hours of birth. (Pony foals might take
even less than that. Thoroughbred foals may take up to 3 hours).
Foal must be considered abnormal if they do not suckle within 3
hours of birth.

4. FIRST URINATION within 6 – 10 hours of birth

5. PASSING OF MECONIUM (the first foeces produced by the foal,
rounded in shape and very hard like “stone”) within 2 – 12 hours of birth.

THE DAM. During the first week the foal suckle about 2 minutes,
5 – 7 times each hour. Foals that spend too long time sleeping,
gradually straggle to stand, go to the udder less often, and when
they go there, they do not grab the teat, move from one teat to the
udder without clutch it, therefore no actually suckling any milk
must be considered abnormal.

7. Newborn foals tend to rest in sternal recumbency for the first few days. When older they will lay in lateral recumbency just like OHLan adult horse does.

8. The normal newborn foal is often poorly coordinated and the
joints and ligaments are notably slack or weak. These
conformational problems may all improve dramatically over the
first week of life. Whether laxity of joints tend to solve
spontaneously over the first week of life with or without minimal
treatment, foals that show tight joints needs to be examined at 24
hours by a vet.

9. Foals that stop suckling, develop diarrhoea, become
lethargic and more and more sleepy, manifest a lameness,
have an arise temperature, do not follow the dam in the
stable or outside in the paddock or have an enlarged, wet
navel, require urgent attention from the vet.

Temperature Heart rate Respiratory rate
37 – 39°C 80 – 120 bpm 30 – 35 bpm
99 – 102 °F (beats per minute) (breath per minute)

A normal healthy foal should be:
1. B: bright,
2. A: alert
3. R: responsive to all external stimuli.

They should be regularly suckling from the dam and start playing with
the hay/grass. They have to urinate and defecate normally.
We recommend you should know what is normal for your foal.

Temperature Heart rate Respiratory rate
37 – 39°C 60 – 70 bpm 20 – 40 bpm
99 – 102 °F (beats per minute) (breath per minute)

1. Respiratory rate should be measured and assessed before
restraint the foal if possible. Abnormally high respiratory rate with
flaring nostril and big excursion of the chest would need to be
examined by you veterinary.
2. A digital thermometer should be used to check the rectal
temperature and should be pressed gently against the rectal mucosa.
3. Foal should gradually and regularly put weight on. The foal
should develop fat and muscle day by day.
4. Normal foals are usually mildly resentful of restraint and appear
to be ‘rather nervous’. They should follow the dam, explore the
surrounding environment and suckle regularly and often. Foals that
become depressed, dull required veterinary attention.
5. The umbilicus should be examined carefully and frequently. Any
detectable swelling or abnormal thickening or heat should lead to a
detailed examination by you vet. Foal can develop an umbilical
infection up to 6 – 8 weeks of age. Also, umbilical and inguinal hernia
required attention. The normal umbilicus of the foal is wet for the first
24 hours, then becomes progressively drier and shrivels considerably.
A dry stump falls off naturally between 2- 4 weeks.
6. The urachus it is another important anatomical structure in foals.
It is the conduit for urine passage into the allantoic cavity during
gestation and it normally close at the time of parturition. If it suddenly
becomes wet again or urine can be detected coming out from the
stump while the foal is urinating, the foal needs to be examined by the
7. Lameness may be difficult to identify because foals are often
mildly uncoordinated. Swollen, hot or painful joints must be explored
8. Any deviation of the legs, whether is angular (to one side) or
flexural (“too soft or too tight”) would need to be examined.
9. Please see the “worming” and “ vaccination” articles for
recommendations on those two topics.

Donkeys and horses are closely related, and many of the conditions that affect them are very similar. However, the detection of sickness or disease in the donkey can be made more difficult by its stoical nature.
Dullness and depression or refusal to eat may be the only
symptoms exhibited.

Normal vital signs:

Temperature Heart rate Respiratory rate
36.5 – 37.7°C 31 – 53 bpm 13 – 31 bpm
97.7 – 99.9 °F (beats per minute) (breath per minute)

According to The Donkey Sanctuary, almost 40% of donkeys that appear dull, do not show any other specific signs. Sometimes the apparent dullness may be normal behaviour for that donkey.
Colic and hyperlipemia (mobilisation of fat from body stores, into the
blood stream) seem to be quite frequently recorded along with hoof
Donkeys often remain in the same home for a large part of their lives
and moving them or separating them from a companion appears to
cause significant stress, which may predispose to disease.

A normal donkey must be alert and responsive to stimuli.
1.In cases of COLIC they very rarely show all of the classic symptoms such rolling. A donkey in pain will often stand with its head lower, lie down or not respond as it normally would.
2.DENTAL DISEASE should be considered an important possible cause of difficulty or reluctance to eat, especially in elderly donkeys.
3. HYPERLIPAEMIA: Total anorexia (refusal to eat) should be considered a very serious clinical sign as it may lead to hyperlipaemia. This occurs when an animal mobilises fat from body fat reserves in response to a negative energy balance (starvation). If not treated promptly, hyperlipaemia may result in multi organ failure. Risk factors that can predispose to hyperlipaemia are:
– Obesity
– Stress
– Age: older animals are more susceptible
– Sex: mares are more likely to get the disease
-Late pregnancy/early lactating mares
– Cushing’s Syndrome
– Laminitis
– Concurrent disease (gastro-intestinal disease, dental disease, neoplasia, systemic infections).

Keeping a sick donkey eating is important. If a donkey is reluctant to eat their usual food, a different feed should be offered or molasses may be added in order to tempt an unwell donkey to eat.

4. FOOT CARE: Good foot care is as essential in donkeys as in horses. Donkey’s feet generally require trimming every 6 – 10 weeks.
Donkeys can suffer from laminitis and should be prevented from getting too fat as is the case for horses and ponies.

For more information please visit the Donkey Sanctuary website here.

First Aid Tips

Horses and ponies commonly injure themselves particularly on their face and legs. Many wounds require just simple first aid measures, while others require the attention of your veterinary surgeon. Timely first aid can help reduce the risk of infection or further damage.

What should I do first?

  • If your horse has sustained a cut or wound that is bleeding a lot, the most important thing to do is to stop the bleeding. Apply firm pressure with a clean dressing / pad either held or bandaged in place, whilst waiting for the vet. If blood soaks through the dressing, do not remove. If an artery or vein has been cut it may take 20 minutes to half an hour for bleeding to stop.
  • If heavily contaminated with mud or debris, clean gently with a hosepipe or use diluted chlorhexidine (Hibiscrub). We recommend 1 part Hibiscrub to 10 parts water. Using a cold hose has the added benefits of flushing off dirt and debris, helping to minimise swelling and inflammation and to help to stem bleeding.
  • In case of a foreign body, if possible leave it in place until the vet arrives. Always tell your veterinary surgeon if you have removed a foreign body, and keep it for their examination, as they will wish to make sure that no more foreign material is left more deeply in the wound.
  • Penetrating object, such as nail in the foot should not be removed unless there is a risk of deeper penetration by leaving it in place. An X-ray may be needed to assess where the object is located and what structures could be affected. If this is not possible, try to photograph or video it being removed and make a careful note of its position.
  • Some improvisation may be called for in the presence of large skin flaps such as those which may occur on the belly or upper limb. With these wounds it may be necessary to try to use clean towels or sheets held in place with bandaging materials just to try to prevent further damage occurring to the skin and underlying tissues.
  • It can be helpful to take pictures of a wound to send to a vet.
  • While waiting for your veterinary surgeon, the wound should be left covered where possible. Please do not apply any topical creams (sudocream), spray (blue/purple spray) or powders to wounds before the vet has assessed. Never put anything in a wound that you would not put in your eye!
  • Remember the size of a wound is not always related to severity of harm, some may only look small but can involve vital structures.
  • Wounds involving joints and tendon sheaths are always potentially life-threatening! An infection in these structures can be extremely difficult to resolve even if treated very quickly, and can cause long term or permanent incapacity. These wounds will require prompt intervention from your veterinary surgeon, the sooner this is done following injury the better the chances for a successful outcome. In some circumstances, further investigations to either confirm or rule out significant injury might be necessary; this may include as joint/tendon sheaths tap(extraction of a fluid sample), radiographs (x-rays) or an ultrasound examination, to make sure that there are no fractures or tendon/ligament injuries and to look for foreign bodies. If a horse is very lame with a small wound or blackthorn puncture, consider that the above may apply.
  • Penetrating wounds into the chest and abdomen may cause immediate death or serious life-threatening complications. Wounds into the chest (thorax) may affect a horse’s ability to breathe by allowing air into the chest cavity, or result in the development of serious infection (pleuropneumonia). Penetrating wounds into the abdomen may result in the development of peritonitis and can cause damage to any of the internal organs. These cases, if resolvable, will need intensive treatment. Your veterinary surgeon should be called immediately, stressing the emergency nature of the injury.

Basic first aid kit

Your first aid kit should contain the following items:

  • Sterile non-stick dressing ( 10x10cm or 10x20cm).
    Cotton wool or gamgee.
  • Bandaging material including self-adhesive sticky and non-sticky bandages.
  • Spare clean stable bandage/ vetwrap bandage.
  • Small bottle of skin disinfectant, such as Hibiscrub.
  • Spare pair of scissors.
  • Antiseptic wound ointment.

Tetanus Protection:
Any wound can result in contamination with environmental bacteria, which may include Clostridium tetani, and your horse may be at risk of developing tetanus. This is a particular risk if the injury has been a puncture wound and the skin surface has closed over relatively quickly, or a hoof abscess, resulting in the airless conditions in which these bacteria like to grow and produce their toxins. Every horse should be fully and regularly vaccinated against tetanus, to reduce the risk of this disease and avoid the worry that minor wounds may result in such unnecessary complications. Tetanus vaccine is safe and inexpensive, it is initially administered on two occasions a month apart. A third vaccine is given 6-12 months later and booster vaccinations are given every 2 years. This vaccination regime can be combined with that for influenza and there are no excuses for not taking advantage of this life-saving vaccine. Foals can be vaccinated from 5 months of age.

Collapse in horses is uncommon, but can be difficult and sometimes dangerous to deal with. Horses may get up again quickly or may become stuck or apparently unable to stand.
If your horse has collapsed, regardless of the reason, you should remove anything from the stable or area, that the horse may injure themselves on if they attempt to stand. If the horse is attempting to stand, stay out of the way and do not try to help them, keep the environment quiet, to avoid frightening them. Stay out of the way of their heads and legs. And don’t become trapped in a stable.
Finding out the reason for collapse and trying to predict whether it will happen again in the future can be difficult.

Causes of collapse:
Severe injury
Pain of various causes
Sleep deprivation
Serious illness
Sleep disorders (narcolepsy)
Horses rarely collapse during exercise, but this is a particularly frightening and dangerous experience for both the horse and rider. This can occur as a result of heart disorders, major internal bleeds or injury.

Dealing with a collapsed horse:
Any horse that is unable or reluctant to stand because of injury, pain or due to an existing problem such as severe arthritis, may become cold and exhausted by attempts to try and stand. The weight of a horse lying on the ground, eventually causes damage to the lower muscles, which develop poor circulation and become cold and sore, making them unable to function normally. The longer this situation goes on, the harder it is for the horse to stand. It is best to call a vet sooner rather than later.

Seizures are rare, they result in collapse and loss of consciousness, often (but not always), associated with rapid leg and head movements (which can be violent). Seizures are can have a pre-seizure phase and a post-seizure phase, during which the horse might appear bewildered, blind or stagger even through fences or other obstacles, for a few minutes. This condition can be challenging to diagnose. No attempt should be made to control a seizuring horse as they are unable to respond normally to voice or visual actions, and may unconsciously cause damage or injury to anything in their way.

Narcolepsy, is an uncontrollable tendency to fall asleep and is a type of seizure. Horses usually collapse in a ‘floppy’ way.

Sleep deprivation can result in horses falling asleep on their feet, sometimes during a quiet, pleasurable experience, such as being groomed or when the farrier is holding up a leg. Affected horses tend to lower their head and neck and buckle at the knees, literally falling asleep on their feet. They often wake up as they fall, but occasionally collapse onto their knees or noses causing injury. Often these horses have back, pelvic or hind limb pain that makes it too uncomfortable for them to lie down and get back up again normally. Although horses can rest standing up, they do need to lie down to sleep properly for a short period of time every day. Sometimes treating the cause of their pain, as well as providing a thick comfortable bed, allows them to lie down and sleep normally again, which in turn prevents these episodes of collapse.

What is Colic?

Colic is a broad veterinary term used to describe any form of abdominal pain. Colic can be caused by very many different causes; most of these are gastrointestinal in nature but occasionally colic can be the result of urinary and reproductive problems and even some severe respiratory disease can present as colic.

Signs of Colic

Knowing and recognising signs of colic is very important for all horse owners as it
will allow you to notice even subtle changes in your horse’s behaviour and allow us to
attend to your horse as soon as possible. It must be remembered that no two colic
episodes are alike and there is much variation in type, nature and severity of colic
signs which include:

• Pawing at the ground
• Flank watching
• Kicking or biting at the belly
• Repeated lying down
• Rolling
• Holding head in unusual position
• Repeated curling back of upper lip

• Sweating
• Stretching out as if to urinate
• Dog sitting
• Lying on back
• Depression
• Inappetence

Types of Colic

The vast majority are due to a gastrointestinal problem.

Idiopathic / Spasmodic:
A common type of colic and equates to the majority. Spasmodic colic occurs when the bowel is contracting abnormally with painful spasms can be termed as overactive. Spasmodic colics usually respond very well to anti-spasmodic drugs along with other therapeutic treatment. Idiopathic, or unknown of origin. Despite the best veterinary investigation there are still lots of colics which have unknown cause regarding abdominal pain. The vast majority of these colics respond to veterinary treatment.
This term describes intestinal blockage by a firm mass of food. A fairly common type of colic often be easily resolved with administration of fluids and / or liquid paraffin via a stomach tube.
Occasionally, larger and more severe impactions may require surgery to correct.
Displacements, Strangulations and Torsions:
Displacements occur when one section of the bowel moves to an abnormal location within the abdomen. Strangulating colics occur when the blood supply to a piece of gut gets cut off. Torsions occur when the bowel twists on itself cutting off the blood supply. The horse’s gastrointestinal system has large sections of the bowel either suspended in place by loose lengths of tissue such as for the small intestine or completely unattached to the body wall, as is the case for the large intestine. Both of these predispose the horse to displacements and torsions. Strangulations, displacements and torsions are intestinal accidents that
are uncommon but are very serious in nature. Some displacements can be treated by starving and medical therapy but severe displacements and all strangulations and torsions require immediate surgery to correct the problem. The early stages of strangulating or displacement colics often present in a very similar manner to the more common, less life-threatening forms of colic – the major reason to take all colic
episodes seriously and call the vet at the earliest signs of abdominal pain.

Acute refers to lameness that came on recently and often suddenly while chronic refers to an ongoing lameness that the horse has had for a longer period of time. Both acute and chronic lameness can fall anywhere on the severity scale; but, in general, chronic lameness tends to be relatively mild.

Other important variables of lameness are whether it is persistent or intermittent, and progressive or static. Many people confuse the terms persistent with chronic, but the latter refers to the length of time of the problem while the former means that the lameness (which could be recent or not) has been consistently observable since its onset – not coming and going.

AAEP Lameness Scale:

0 Lameness not perceptible under any circumstances

1 Lameness is difficult to observe and is not consistently apparent, regardless of circumstances (e.g. under saddle, circling, inclines, hard surface, etc.)

2 Lameness is difficult to observe at a walk or when trotting in a straight line but consistently apparent under certain circumstances (e.g. weight-carrying, circling, inclines, hard surface, etc.)

3 Lameness is consistently observable at a trot under all circumstances

4 Lameness is obvious at a walk

5 Lameness produces minimal weight bearing in motion and/or at rest or a complete inability to move

Causes of acute lameness:

1. Foot Conditions: up to 90% of all lameness involving the front legs is due to pain in the foot like a foot abscess
or stone bruise. Always look at the feet first and pick the feet out properly with a hoof pick. Look for foreign objects like sharp stones or nails. A horse recently had a gallop on hard ground and suddenly pulled up 4-5 out of 5 lame and the cause? A stone bruise?

Laminitis is a serious condition that can come on very quickly. Whilst laminitis will not make a horse very lame while you are out on a ride, it is common for horses to look fine at lunch time and then suddenly struggle to walk when the owner comes up in the evening.

2. Tendon/ligament problems: also quite a common problem. The age of the horse can be important in determining the most likely location of the injury. Older horses often suffer from superficial digital flexor tendon tears, whereas younger, more athletic horses can injure their deep digital flexor tendons in the front legs. All ages can injure their suspensory ligaments in the hind limbs.
3. Fractures: thankfully fractures are rare but when they do happen they need to be diagnosed as quickly as possible and in some cases can result in the horse being euthanased. As a general rule of thumb, the closer to the foot the injury is, the more chance vets have of treating the fracture.
4. Penetrating wounds: we have all seen pictures of horses with injured legs. They do seem to be very good at it but vets have a saying: ‘beware the small wound with a big lameness.’ The biggest concern is a wound that has penetrated a joint or tendon sheath as these can be life threatening.
5. Other conditions: cellulitis from an untreated wound that has caused an infection of the skin of a leg resulting in a very swollen limb. Often successfully treated with antibiotics. Azoturia (tying up) can make the horse appear very sore and shuffle around, rather than stride out. Thankfully a blood test can quickly make a diagnosis.

What should you do if your horse suddenly goes lame?

The first thing is don’t panic. All horses go lame at one time or another. What you need to do depends a little on how lame your horse is. If we refer to the grading system and your horse is grade 1-2 lame,
look for obvious heat or swelling. Check the foot carefully using a hoof pick to remove all debris. Can you see any sharp objects or deformities involving the sole? Any hoof cracks that have tracked up to the coronary band? Flex all joints to see if you can locate an area of pain. If you’re concerned call your vet for advice.
If your horse is grade 3, do all of the above but also think about box rest while you make an appointment with your vet.
Finally, if your horse is grade 4 or grade 5, call your vet immediately as although the problem is probably just a foot abscess, time may be of the essence in making a diagnosis, in case the condition is something more serious.

As foaling season approaches, horse owners who are expecting foals should know how to recognise the signs of labour 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 owner or stud manager may play a very important part in the delivery of a normal, healthy, viable foal:

  • Consult with your vet about the stages of labour and what to look for, before your mare is due to foal.
  • Have a plan if, for example, there is no sign of a foal after the water has broken.
  • Make sure you have a foaling kit with the basic essentials near the foaling box along with the phone number of your vet and other people that may be of assistance.

Most mares foal with no trouble, but understanding the birth process and what should occur at each stage will ensure that you will be able to enjoy the birth of your foal with less worry.

When your mare shows definite signs of imminent foaling, set your clock. The 3 stages of the labour follow a precise time pattern.

STAGE 1 may take from 1 to 4 hours. The mare starts to become restless, may show some colic-like symptoms such as looking at her sides, sweating and walk in circles in the box or paddock. She may get up and down frequently, pass small amounts of faeces or urine and act nervously. Mares may not exhibit all of these symptoms but usually they have a distinct change of behaviour during Stage One labour. During this first stage the foal starts to rotate to reach the right position to be delivered. First-stage labor ends with rupture of the membranes and release of the allantoic fluid (“Breaking water”).

STAGE 2 (DELIVERY) takes approximately 15 to 30 minutes to complete. This stage of labour begins when the mare’s “water” breaks and ends when the foal has been delivered. Generally, at this point, the mare will lay down if she has not already done so. However, mares can foal in a standing position.
Once the water has broken, a whitish, transparent, thin “bag/sack” should protrude from the vulva; this is where the foal was kept over gestation. The feet and nose 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 level of its knees.
Once the foal has been delivered, if the sack did not rupture during labour, it should be torn open and pulled back from the foal’s face and head to allow the foal to breathe.
During the second stage of parturition the mare often gets up and down and may roll, which helps to rotate the foal into a normal presentation.

STAGE 3 (PASSING OF PLACENTA): occurs within 3 hours of birth. This stage is the expulsion of the placenta. If the placenta has not been expelled after three hours, it is considered retained.
If after 6 hours from birth the placenta is still hanging out of the vulva, this is abnormal. Please consult your vet for advice. The importance will vary with breed, circumstances and time of year.

The placenta should be taken out of the stable as soon as passed ideally, and kept in either a bag or bucket for the vet to examine. Please remember to store it in a place where dogs/foxes cannot reach it.


If at any time you are worried or concerned about your mare or foal just call your vet even just for some advice or reassurance.

“Red bag” – Premature placental separation: in a normal birth, after the waters have broken, a white sack will protrude from the vulva. If this bag is a dark red with a velvety appearance, this is the placenta which supplies oxygen and nutrients to the foal. A ‘red bag’ delivery means that the placenta has detached and the foal may be compromised and should be delivered quickly. Please phone immediately.

Mal-presentation – a foal can present in a number of different ways that will restrict its natural delivery. Therefore call the vet immediately if the 2 feet and nose can’t be seen within 10 minutes of the waters breaking.

Colic – can be due to the natural process of placenta expulsion or can be due to complications. Please consult your vet.


Assuming that the foaling was uneventful, owners should monitor the new-born foal closely for the first 24 hours, but must not intrude more than absolutely necessary and keep all on-lookers well away. It is important to make sure that the foal shows a normal behaviour pattern and seek veterinary advice at an early stage if he does not. Please note that it is very important for maternal bonding that the mare and foal are not disturbed more than absolutely necessary. This applies especially to young and nervous mares. Please do not allow friends, neighbours and children to visit and disturb the mare and foal.

A normal new-born foal should:

  1. SIT UP within 5-10 minutes of birth. It is abnormal if the foal remains flat out on the floor for longer than 10 mins after birth.
  2. STAND within 1 hour of birth (Pony foals generally stand within the first 30 mins of life, whereas larger breed foals might take up to 2h). Foals should not take longer than 2h to stand.
  3. TIME TO SUCK: within 2 hours of birth. (Pony foals might take even less than that. Thoroughbred foals may take up to 3 hours). Foals must be considered abnormal if they do not suck within 3 hours of birth.
  4. FIRST URINATION within 6 – 10 hours of birth
  5. PASSING OF MECONIUM (the first faeces produced by the foal, rounded in shape and very hard like “stone”) within 2 – 12 hours of birth.
  6. Foals spend most of their time sleeping or sucking from the dam. During the first week the foal sucks about 2 minutes, 5 – 7 times each hour. Weak or ill foals often spend too long sleeping, gradually struggle to stand and go to the udder less often. When they do go to suck, they do not grab the teat, move from one teat to the other without catching either and do not actually suck. Hungry foals will often stand for longer periods of time than normal.
  7. New-born foals tend to rest in sternal recumbency (lie in an upright position) for the first few days. Older foals will lie flat on their side.
  8. The normal new-born foal is often poorly coordinated and the joints and ligaments look slack or weak. These conformational problems may all improve dramatically over the first week of life. Please discuss any limb defects with your vet.
  9. Any foal that stop sucking, develops diarrhoea, becomes lethargic/ sleepy, lame, has an increased temperature, does not follow the dam and/or has an enlarged, wet navel, requires urgent attention from the vet.

Foal normal vital signs:

Temperature Heart rate Respiratory rate
37 – 39°C 80 – 120 bpm 30 – 35 bpm
99 – 102 °F (beats per minute) (breath per minute)