Horse-Breeding Success: Make Sure Your Foal Can Nurse

Use these four tips to help your mare and newborn foal through the first nursing.

From The American Quarter Horse Journal

Sometimes a newborn foal has trouble getting his first nursing. He might be weak from a hard birth or just big, clumsy and awkward. He might need help to stand and suck, or might need to be guided to the udder so he can find it. Occasionally, the mare herself may put up a fuss if she is nervous about motherhood or her udder is swollen and tender. In these cases, the foal might need help for his first nursing or two, to make sure he gets that very important colostrum. The mare’s first milk is crucial to the survival of the foal.

It contains important antibodies against disease, as well as a creamy fat that gives him instant energy for strength and keeping warm. It also acts as a laxative to help him pass his first bowel movements. Try these four tips in the event that your foal can’t nurse without help:

Breeding your mare is a process. AQHA’s FREE Mare Care: Breeding Tips report explains everything from targeting a breeding date to evaluating semen. Download this free report for a helping hand in your horse-breeding plans.

1. Put a halter on your mare, stand her against a fence or stall wall and hold her still by holding up a front leg. That way, she will be more apt to stand still and not keep moving her hindquarters to avoid the foal. If the foal is strong and vigorous, holding the mare still so he can catch up with the udder may be all the help he needs. 2. Guide him to the udder while you restrain the mare. He may need a guide if he is clumsy and uncoordinated, or has been scared off by her kicking (too timid to try again). 3. If this fails, milk a little out of the mare into a very clean container and use a sterile bottle and nipple to get the foal started sucking (a pop bottle and lamb nipple work great). Usually after he gets a taste of the milk, he will become more eager and try harder, and you can guide him to the udder or lead him to it with the bottle and nipple.

“You’ll need a breeding soundness evaluation on the mare to understand exactly what your expectations are going to be for her reproductive health,” Dr. Racquel Rodeheaver says in the AQHA FREE Mare Care: Breeding Tips report. Download the FREE report for more tips and tricks regarding horse-breeding prep.

4. Get him sucking on the bottle and move it up toward the udder if he is confused and tries to suck on you instead of the mare. This might be easier if you have someone on the other side of the mare, holding the bottle underneath her and bringing it up next to her udder to fool the foal into getting into proper position to nurse.

Member Benefit

It’s almost foaling season, and we look forward to helping you register your new foals! AQHA members get discounted prices on registration. Be sure to register by your foal’s 7-month birthday for the lowest fee. Register your foals online or fax in your form. AQHA Customer Service is here to help with any questions: 806-376-4811.