One of the thrills as a mare owner is raising a foal, but for the want of acreage, many have not acted upon this dream. It’s true that the majority of foals are born on breeding farms or ranches, or are homegrown on small private properties. But, what if you must entrust your mare to the care of a boarding stable? The comfort and safety, as well as the foal’s early informative foundation will be in the hands of the caretaker you choose to board with. Is it possible to raise a healthy, mentally sound foal in a boarding stable environment?

I board horses and have my own and other people’s foals to raise up. It can be done, and fun too," says Heather Pelletier of Pioneer Peak Quarter Horse Ranch in Palmer, Alaska.

Health and Hygiene

With the constant movement back and forth to shows and events and the turnover of horses common at a public boarding facility, the grounds are prime for the transfer of viral, bacterial and parasitic infection. The newborn is very susceptible to infection so hygiene is of the utmost importance.

Ideally, the mare has resided on the property where she is to foal for at least two months so that she was able to settle in, as well as build antibodies against organisms that flourish in her new "neighborhood". If the stable normally uses shavings or sawdust for bedding, you will want to contract with the management to provide clean straw bedding during the last month of pregnancy and for at least an additional two weeks post foaling. The stall should also be spacious and free of any protrusions that may injure the foal while he tests out his ungainly legs.

If the mare is moving into new foaling accommodations, the stall should be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected before she is introduced to her new room.

Consult with your veterinarian on vaccination recommendations the mare should receive for your particular location. "Be sure to keep your vaccinations up to date," says Pelletier. "Especially if there is a lot of in and out or show people at the facility." Immunizations should be given before the last six weeks of pregnancy so that the mare will provide some protection to the foal through the colostrum. In addition, the mare should be dewormed within the last six weeks of gestation and again after foaling. A routine vaccination and deworming program should be worked out for the foal as well.

The Accommodations

The ideal location of the birthing ground is an environment that will allow for close supervision yet away from heavy stable traffic. Many stables can provide a 24-hour foal watch, which is a blessing for those who have to work or just can’t spend day and night at the stable waiting for the foal’s arrival.

As the due date nears, many mares become nervous or agitated if there is too much activity or the area has become a gathering place for other boarders in hopes of witnessing the blessed event. If possible, it would be a good idea to limit access to the area to just yourself, the caretakers and other qualified individuals you deem vital to a happy outcome.

Following foaling, the mare will need time to bond with her foal and adjust to her duties, and so long as the mare shows any signs of anxiety, curious "well-wishers" should not be allowed access to the stall.

Improper handling of the foal by inexperienced barn help or "friends" who just want to play with the foal can also become a real problem if guidelines are not in place from day one. For that reason, limiting the handling of the foal to experienced individuals will prevent the tendency of the foal to pick up bad habits.

Contributed By: Mirror KB Ranch