10 Interesting Facts About Foals

Low angle view of horses and foals grazing on grass

Around any horse stable, foaling season is an exciting time. Many foals are born at the same time at breeding stables, and horse owners are thrilled to welcome a new addition to their four-legged family when cherished mares give birth.

What is a baby foal?

A baby horse is called a foal until it reaches 12 months of age. The term is also used to identify baby donkeys, but it's most common when referring to newborn and young horses.

If you've ever seen a newborn horse or watched footage of mares with their brand-new foals, you've probably noticed their amazing ability to stand up and walk quickly after birth—but there are lots of other fascinating facts about foals.

Here, find 10 facts about foals to discover more about these baby animals.

  • 01 of 10

    Gestation Period of 11 Months

    Mares and foal

    A foal's development within the mare takes around 11 months. Some foals are born a few weeks early or late. A foal might be up to four weeks late on occasion. Most breeders attempt to foal in the early spring so that the foal can develop and exercise over the summer.

  • 02 of 10

    Foals Can Stand Within Two Hours of Birth

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    Soon after birth, foals can stand, walk, and trot. Within two hours of birth, a foal should be up and feeding. If the foal takes longer than expected, you should consult a veterinarian. Within 24 hours, foals may gallop.

  • 03 of 10

    Mare's Milk Provides Immunity Boost

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    Colostrum is the first milk a foal receives from its mother. Because the foal is born with minimal protection, this milk helps to strengthen its immune system. Colostrum should be given to the foal as soon as possible after birth, preferably within the first 24 hours. Colostrum not only gives antibodies, but it also aids the foal in passing the first excrement, known as meconium. In the first 24 hours of life, the foal requires around two liters of colostrum.

  • 04 of 10

    Foals Lack an Immune System

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    An infection can spread quickly since the foal is born without infection-fighting antibodies. The foal's umbilical stump must be cleansed and monitored for symptoms of sickness for a few days following delivery.

    Continue to 5 of 10 below.
  • 05 of 10

    Mares and Foals Engage in Silent Communication

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    Mares and foals bond very quickly. Much of their communication is almost imperceptible to the human eye.

  • 06 of 10

    Foals Might Have Bowed Legs

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    Many foals have unusually bent legs at birth. The condition is known as "windswept," and one reason might be a huge foal delivered to a petite mother. They may walk with their fetlocks virtually touching the ground since their ligaments and tendons are young. As the foals become stronger, their legs should straighten up after a few days. If not, you should consult a veterinarian.

  • 07 of 10

    Most Foals Are Born at Night

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    Foals are most commonly delivered at night, and they give birth swiftly. It's not uncommon for an owner to slumber near the stall, then dash out for a cup of coffee or a restroom break, only to return to discover a foal waiting for them. This nocturnal and quick delivery protects a mare and foal from predators when they are most vulnerable in the wild.

  • 08 of 10

    Foals Enjoy Grass Soon After Birth

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    When foals are around 10 days old, they will begin to consume some grass and hay. The foal will require more nutrients than the mare's milk alone by two months.

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  • 09 of 10

    Foals' Legs Rarely Grow in Length

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    The legs of a foal are about the same length as they will be when they reach adulthood. A string test is one method used by breeders to assess the height at which a foal will "finish." There are two ways to accomplish this.

    1. Measure elbow to the mid- with a string. First, hold the string against the foal’s elbow, and measure the length to the fetlock; then, flip or turn the lower end of the string up, and hold it so it is perpendicular to the ground against the foal’s withers. This is thought to indicate the foal's final height.
    2. The second way is to hold a string between the center of the knee and the hairline at the coronet band at the top of the hoof. If the measurement is 14.5 inches, the foal’s final height will be 14.2HH (hands high). If the measurement is 16 inches, the foal's final height will be 16HH. While breeders may use these methods to get an approximation, neither are 100 percent accurate.
  • 10 of 10

    Foals Can Wean at Three Months

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    From the age of four to nine months, foals can be weaned. However, if the mare's health is in question or the foal is growing too quickly, early weaning may be the best option. The foal no longer receives enough nutrients from its mother's milk after four months.

A Long Time Between Foaling and Riding

Although a foal will not be ready to be ridden for years, it can begin to develop appropriate ground manners right early. It may be trained to walk quietly while being led and to pick up its feet to be washed.

CITATION

"Why do foals need colostrum? University of Minnesota Extension.", "Routine & Emergency Foal Care. University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine.", "Horse Foaling.Texas A&M University Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences. ", "Foal Growth: Special Care and Nutrition. American Association of Equine Practitioners." ;

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