Foal­ing sea­son will be here be­fore you know it— here are some tips for get­ting ready.

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Count­down to foal­ing sea­son

Mare meets stal­lion, and you know the rest. But do you know how to pre­pare for the blessed event that (fin­gers crossed) re­sults from that union? Spend a few hours get­ting ready now, be­cause Mother Na­ture doesn’t al­ways fol­low a sched­ule! That means se­lect­ing and pre­par­ing a foal­ing area, gath­er­ing sup­plies and de­vis­ing an emer­gency plan at least a month be­fore your mare’s due date. The first ques­tion is where your mare will foal: in­doors or out­doors.

There are pros and cons to each, but re­gard­less of which you choose, you’ll need to make the area both com­fort­able and safe.

Pre­par­ing for In­door Foal­ing

A stan­dard 12- by 12-foot stall will do in a pinch, but for foal­ing, big­ger re­ally is bet­ter. Con­sider com­bin­ing two stalls by re­mov­ing their com­mon wall. This will give you more room to ma­neu­ver and de­creases the like­li­hood of the mare step­ping on her foal. Also, make sure the space is well ven­ti­lated but block any di­rect drafts that might chill a new­born.

• In­spect the stall from top to bot­tom for safety haz­ards. Re­move raised nails, splin­ters and other pro­tru­sions from the walls and take out shelves and other po­ten­tially in­ju­ri­ous ob­jects. Plug any gaps in the wall boards or at the bot­tom of the stall doors that might trap a new­born’s leg, and re­move any dan­gling ropes, chains or cords. s Do a deep clean­ing: Sweep the walls, ledges and doors free of cob­webs and any­thing that could har­bor bacteria or mold. Strip the stall of old bed­ding and dig out any wet spots in the floor and fill with fresh ma­te­rial. Level the floor, fill­ing any holes to give your foal an even walk­ing sur­face and to pre­vent urine from pool­ing. Next, wash the stall walls (and any other solid sur­faces) with de­ter­gent and wa­ter, rinse well and al­low to dry be­fore be­ing dis­in­fected. A so­lu­tion of 2 1/2 ta­ble­spoons of Lysol in a gal­lon of wa­ter is recommende­d; ap­ply us­ing a rinsed-out gar­den sprayer, a spray bot­tle or a bucket and mop. Al­low to dry.

• When it’s time to bed down your foal­ing stall, clean straw is pre­ferred over wood shav­ings or saw­dust, which can har­bor bacteria, molds and ir­ri­tants. It’s a good idea to buy and store sev­eral ex­tra bales of straw, in case the big day comes early. Pad hard stall floors—es­pe­cially con­crete— be­cause loose bed­ding isn’t enough. If covering floors with rub­ber stall mats, make sure they are clean and that their edges aren’t curled or de­te­ri­o­rat­ing.

• If pos­si­ble, move your mare into the foal­ing stall sev­eral weeks be­fore her due date. This will give her time to ad­just and to de­velop pro­tec­tive an­ti­bod­ies to any germs in her en­vi­ron­ment, so she can pass these on to her foal in her colostrum (first milk). Leave ad­ja­cent stalls empty or fill them with trusted com­pan­ions who will help keep your mare calm.

Pre­par­ing an Out­door Foal­ing Space

In mod­er­ate cli­mates, al­low­ing a mare to foal out­doors is an ex­cel­lent op­tion if you have ac­cess to a suit­able grassy area. It re­quires less prepa­ra­tion, and your mare will ap­pre­ci­ate hav­ing the ex­tra space.

• Look for a fairly level spot that’s at least 25 feet by 25 feet.

• Clear the space of rocks, sticks and other po­ten­tial haz­ards, and en­close it with a horse-friendly tem­po­rary bar­rier. Grass mown to about three inches will pro­vide a good cush­ion for your mare. • Keep horses off of the des­ig­nated site, mov­ing your mare there only when foal­ing is im­mi­nent.

Stock Up

Though many of the sup­plies you’ll need on foal­ing day are com­mon around the barn, it’s wise to take in­ven­tory well in ad­vance, in case you need to stock up. Gather the fol­low­ing items—mak­ing sure that ev­ery­thing is ei­ther new or clean—and store them in a lid­ded plas­tic bin:

• hal­ter and lead rope • plas­tic or stain­less steel bucket • tail ban­dage • ther­mome­ter s petroleum jelly or other lu­bri­cant • ban­dage scis­sors • flash­light, bat­tery-pow­ered lanterns or other light sources s ster­ile la­tex or plas­tic gloves • sev­eral large tow­els • povi­done io­dine so­lu­tion • Fleet® enema for the foal • an ex­tra-large sweater that can be placed on the foal to keep it warm, if nec­es­sary

In ad­di­tion, you’ll want a watch or cell phone with a timer on foal­ing day.

Make an Emer­gency Plan

Al­though most foals are born with­out com­pli­ca­tions, it’s al­ways ad­vis­able to plan for worst-case sce­nar­ios.

Post a list of emer­gency phone num­bers at your barn, in­clud­ing num­bers for your vet­eri­nar­ian, a backup vet­eri­nar­ian and any friends with foal­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

Ask your vet­eri­nar­ian about col­lect­ing colostrum from your mare just be­fore foal­ing and freez­ing it, in case none is avail­able when the foal ar­rives. He or she can also ad­vise you about emer­gency sup­plies of colostrum or lo­cal nurse-mare pro­grams.

Fi­nally, make sure you have ac­cess to a fu­eled-up truck and trailer that are me­chan­i­cally sound and can be ready to go at a mo­ment’s no­tice. And keep that cell phone charged up!

Once you’ve got your foal­ing area set up, your sup­plies as­sem­bled and your emer­gency plan in place, review the signs of an im­mi­nent birth, and ac­quaint (or re-ac­quaint) your­self with the foal­ing process.

Then pat your­self on the back, know­ing that you’re well pre­pared for the ar­rival of that new foal.

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