Although spring and summer foals are the most common, it’s completely normal for mares to give birth at any time of the year, even in winter. However, caring for a winter foal is different from caring for foals born during the warmer months. The cold temperatures can carry many dangers for a small and helpless equine. So, in order to keep your foal happy and healthy, you need to pay special attention to meet these crucial care requirements.
When a foal is born, it’s recommended to keep it under a heat lamp and dry it off immediately as this is the time when it has most trouble maintaining optimal body temperature. After it’s dry, dress it in a foal rug to ensure further warmth. While adult horses and horses of weaning age have had plenty of time to grow a full coat for the winter, a foal hasn’t which is why you should consider looking for foal rugs for sale that offer warmth and protection from the elements. The foal can wear the rug inside the staple for the first few weeks, and as its coat thickens, a rug will only be necessary when it’s let outside.
It’s important that you purchase several foal rugs in order to reduce the risk of infection. This way, the foal can be changed into a clean rug every couple of days which helps maintaining proper hygiene. Additionally, you may also want to stick to foal rugs for sale which feature Velcro chest and belly straps which allow for a lot of adjustment. This can be a very smart investment as the rugs can be adjusted to the size of the foal as it grows. And finally, make sure that the rug is lined with a waterproof layer on the outside which will keep it dry in the case of rain or snow. A polyfill inside that is at least 200g can provide optimal warmth and insulation.
If your mare is due to give birth in the winter, prepare beforehand by providing a separate shelter for her and her young. A foaling stall should be a minimum of 3.5m x 3.5m in size, although 4.5m x 4.5m is preferable. The stall should have a door that has immediate access to a paddock or a fenced-off field where the dam and foal can get out for fresh air and exercise. Never let a foal out after sundown or when the temperatures are dramatically below zero. It can get frostbitten and freeze to death if left outside for too long. It’s very important that foals have a properly insulated shelter that can provide optimal protection from rain, snow and freezing temperatures.
Exercise & Fresh Air
Though many horse owners believe that a young foal should be kept indoors at all times during the winter, it’s actually better to let it out as often as the weather permits. This way, it can get away from the ammonia odour in the stable to breathe some fresh air which helps with lung health. Additionally, outside the foal has more freedom to move and run which provides it with plenty of exercise. And exercise is crucial to the proper growth of bones and muscles and can prevent potential leg problems in the future.