Raising healthy foals


Interview with Dr. Tamara GullGull photo

Few things are cuter than baby horses, or foals but raising a healthy foal can be a challenge.

The mare, or mother horse, should be in good health with ample nutrition. Giving birth in a clean, open pasture is ideal for horses, and reduces their exposure to the diseases and parasites found in barns and stalls. Treating the navel cord with an antiseptic solution, such as chlorhexidine, helps prevent the entry of bacteria into the newborn foal’s body. Vaccinations for the mare should be boosted about six weeks before she gives birth to ensure she has high levels of antibodies to give to her baby.

In horses, it is crucial that the foal nurses in the first six hours of life to receive the antibody rich colostrum that protects it from disease. Failure to receive sufficient colostrum can be life-threatening in horses. Your veterinarian can conduct a simple test to see if your foal has received the protection it needs.

Taking care of a few basics can help ensure that today’s frolicking foal will reach its full potential, and grow to be the thriving horse of tomorrow.