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Signs of Foaling

I Am Ranch Miniature Horses is sharing with you what we do to maintain the health of our horses. This is not intended to direct you on how to care for your horse. The intent of this is only to share what we do, and raise questions for you. We advise you to consult your veterinarian before making any changes in your horse's health care. The information found on our website is not to supersede the advise of your veterinarian. I AM Ranch Miniature Horses cannot be held liable for the care of your horse(s).

Are you afflicted with Pre-Foaling Anxiety Disease?? Come Springtime, our family catches this disease full force. We call it PFSD!!! Pre Foaling Stress Disorder!! To help me cope, I started journaling and you can read the journals here on our site! Look on the articles page to find them.

Those of us with babies coming are obsessing about when. The foaling season takes over your mind during waking moments and even during sleep. Here, at our home, we start DREAMING miniature horse babies! We did have a fun thread on our AZminiatures yahoo group wherein one breeder told of a mare that went 384 days and another mare who waited 372 days. Those have got to be record long for gestation times. On the short end, one miniature breeder told of a baby born at 296 days with only peach fuzz, no hair and cartilage for legs. The vet told this lady she would die, but love and determination (along with lots of hours) has grown this baby up to be 4 years old now. They had to be there every 2 hours around the clock and support her while she nursed. After 2 weeks, she was getting up on her own! As you can see, there can be a great amount of variation in how long that foal is in the oven :) Thus, we start really watching our mares at day 300 of pregnancy. You can click here for a calculator to help figure out how far along your mare is.

As you read about each sign, remember to take each change in concert with the others. Also remember that "the mares do not read these notes, nor do they listen to the vets, or read "The Complete Book of Foaling". They have their babies when they are ready and one mare gives obvious clues while another surprises you and foals unexpectedly. It is wise to take copious notes on your mare so that you know her pattern for following years. Click here to print out a handy data collection chart for documenting each mare's progress through her pregnancy.


Your mare's milk will change in consistency, color and taste as the day of foaling approaches. The milk will go from clear to cloudy to yellowish to syrupy in texture to opaque white milk that is sticky and thick. At first, there may be flecks in the milk, but as the day nears, these dissolve and you see them no more. These are bits of calcium precipitants!  As you see the milk progressively change, your examinations should be more frequent. The changes can happen very quickly. If you have a "cup bearer" in your home, have her taste the milk daily and it will get sweeter. It loses that salty flavor as the big day of foaling approaches. (If you don't' know what a cup bearer is, get out your Bible, and read Genesis :)

The Complete Book of Foaling mentions that the milk itself is the most reliable predictor of imminent foaling.


Of course we watch the size and shape of the udder. The mare's teats tend to point toward each other in the days before foaling is imminent, but as the day draws nearer, they begin pointing straight down.  Typically, a mare starts to bag up a few weeks pre-foaling, but, there are some mares who don't develop a bag until the day of foaling. Again, the norm is for the bag to be fuller in the morning and shrink over the day, until the day of foaling. Then the bag will stay tight even in the evening. In some mares, you will see the milk veins filling up in front of her udder.

Watching a mare's bag is not 100% reliable by itself. We do recommend washing between the teats before the bag fills, so all of her "cleavage grime" does not irritate her as her bag fills up and the cleavage area becomes tight.  More importantly than udder shape is the milk consistency.

See these teats pointing inwards. She is not ready to foal, even though she looks very full.

The teats of a mare will initially point inward, but as her big day approaches, they tend to point straight downwards. Again, with all of these signs of foaling, this is not 100% reliable. We have one mare whose teats point downward for many days before foaling.


Also, look for wax on the tips of the teats. Miniature mares do not wax up as predictably as big horse mares, but it is something to look for!

Feb 29

March 5


March 14

March 21

Change in Body Shape

Thank you Chris for your "pointy butt" picture! This mare foaled within a few hours after this picture.

You need to be watching the mare's body for many changes. Remember just as our own bodies loosened up to allow out our babies, so will hers. The ligaments in the pelvic area relax and you can see a depression in the croup muscles. I picture the tarp tented over our hay storage. At the top, right below the highpoint, is a hollow or a sag spot. This is what you will see on your mare.

Watch a baby kicking inside of momma's belly.

Minis have a way of clamping down their tails, but they do get a loose and flexible tail head as these changes occur.

Then, the belly! As those abdominal muscles begin to relax and your mare starts to look like her belly is touching the ground...you know her time is nearing. We take silhouetted pictures of our mares to see this change. Take a shot from the back and from the sides. This change happens the last 2-3 weeks of pregnancy. Some describe the mare looking more 'V' like from the side and that she loses the big bulges on either side when viewing from the front.


Change in Vulva

There can be both external and internal changes in the vulva.  There is a deepening of color which happens 24-48 hours pre-foaling and is related to the increase in circulation. The outer lips of the vulva lose their elasticity and the slit lengthens. The vulva will almost look like it is sticking out or hanging much lower.

7 PM, the night before foaling

10 PM, the same night

Both of these changes can be unpredictable though due to environmental changes. Nevertheless, we always peek just in case we see evidence of the "bloody show." Most often you will only see a gooey blood on the edges of the vulva. This occurs when the waxy plug makes its way out. If by chance, you see the bloody show, you are within 48 hours of foaling. It does not always come out in one big plug, but can ooze out for the 2 days pre-foaling.


Rectal Temperature

We were surprised to read this predictor for not many talk about temperature changes. Often, we take the temperatures of our momma dogs to help us figure out their whelping date, but didn't know until recently that mares also exhibit a change. You must take their temperature at the same time daily and take it twice daily. Begin on day 300 of the pregnancy and chart your readings. Her temperature will drop somewhere between 18-24 hours of foaling time. This variation will only be .5 - 1.0 degree lower. We are recording this for the 2008 foaling season and will let  you know the outcome.

Digestive Changes

We are getting into signs that are even more subtle, but most mares go off of feed right before foaling. Their poops look more like a cow was in the stall and can become more frequent. The mares poop may look more like a cow's poop on the day that she is going to foal.

Behavioral Changes

Study your mares and know them. This will often be a big help to you in knowing when their moment has come. They become more irritated than usual. Our mares bite their sides, kick at their bellies, walk in circles, get up and lay down frequently, rub their bums on the barn walls....They may also separate themselves from their herd when they are ready to foal. They often will stand looking almost forlorn before foaling. Her behaviors will be different from the "normal."

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