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Mare rejects foals Bulletin Board » Breeding Problem Mares - Volume 1 » Mare rejects foals « Previous Next »

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Julie Parker (
Posted on Monday, December 31, 2001 - 06:36 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post    Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

We have a 6-year-old Arabian mare. She was born and raised in a show barn where she was the spoiled brat of the bunch. She is the most wonderful horse, to humans, ever put on this earth. However, she has no need for other horses. She would much prefer to live with humans.

We bought her at 3 years of age. She went to the breeder who had a time with her, but she was bred. When her first colt was born, she completely rejected him. She had the colt and we watched from afar, she licked him and cared for him until he tried to stand. At that point she was scared to death of him. He eyes were wide and she was honestly shaking, wouldn’t let him near her. We drugged her, she was somewhat violent, biting and kicking at him to get him away. We ended up losing him because he failed to get enough colostrum.

We skipped a year and bred her the next year. She then had her second colt that she also rejected. This time she was not quite as mean, but she still wouldn’t let him nurse. We did learn from the first and drugged her again for ten days to let him eat. We’ve tried twitches, tying up a leg, etc. It’s like when he tries to eat, her bag is so sore, and it’s too painful to let him continue. That’s what it looks like anyway. She does lose some milk before she foals. We then weaned him and fed him milk replacer.

At age 6 years of age, we forced her heat cycle and covered her once. She is pregnant and due in March 2002. Does anyone have any suggestions? Her last foal we did not see born. It came early and when we looked out, he was running around. We went out to make sure he had eaten and she wouldn’t let him near her. That’s when we began the drugs and tying up. We have always had her separated during her pregnancies. So this year, we’ve kept her with too sweet geldings, that she gets along with. We were thinking that maybe if she had the foal in the presence of others, she may feel a protective of the baby. Or should we drug her more? She still has the ability to kick when she’s drugged, but we’re afraid to drug her too much. Can her bag be so painful that it hurts to touch? She won’t even let us touch it. Do you think it’s physical or psychological? She definitely raised cane when we took her colts away. Like she didn’t want them to go, but didn’t want them to stay either. We’re really wondering about the udder, but any and all information is appreciated.

Posted on Tuesday, January 01, 2002 - 11:10 am:   Edit Post Delete Post    Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

My advise would be to STOP breeding her. Once a mare has rejected a foal chances are they will continue to. Since she has rejected 2 my guess is she will NEVER be a good mother.
Her bag most likely is painful. BUT mares learn that letting the foal nurse makes it feel better. It sounds to me like she just doesn't want to be a mother. Having her turned out with geldings when she foals is a VERY dangerous idea. There is a good chance that the geldings may seriously injure or even kill the foal. Especially if the mare rejects it.

Posted on Tuesday, January 01, 2002 - 11:12 am:   Edit Post Delete Post    Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Also not letting you touch her bag should NOT be an option. You need to be able to touch the bag on ANY mare.

Julie Parker (
Posted on Wednesday, January 02, 2002 - 08:45 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post    Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

I would appreciate any other suggestions, FOR CURRENT THE PROBLEM AT HAND, from anyone else out there. (
Posted on Thursday, January 03, 2002 - 12:20 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post    Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

The way you have described it certainly suggests that it is her udder that is the problem. Is she sensitive about it when not pregnant? Can you desensitize her by handling it regularly? If possible, I would try that.

Personally I don't think the geldings are necessarily a bad idea. Yes, geldings have been known to kill foals. Geldings have also been great uncles. You know your horses. Were you planning on having them there for the birth, or just afterwards? I would pick the latter, so the mare has a chance to -be- defensive, instead of lying prone.

My mare has had two foals in a herd of mixed genders before I owned her. I will "play it safe" this time - she will be separated before the birth, and mostly until weaning, but I can't help feeling that I am depriving her of her best friends and denying the foal proper social interaction.
In this situation, it seems like nursing is the problem, though, and the geldings may not be of any help.

kgeorge172 (
Posted on Saturday, January 05, 2002 - 01:24 am:   Edit Post Delete Post    Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

I would suggest getting a nurse mare prior to her foaling. You know that she is most likely going to reject the foal, and these foals are obviously worth something to you since you keep breeding her. This time just be ready! Many horses are raised as orphans, check with a vet school closest to you and see if they have an orphan program. A friend of mine saved a day old colt from slaughter and sent it to the local college that raised it until it was eating well enough to come home. I personally think a nurse mare would be the second most natural way for a foal to grow up. You will either way, most likely unless she becomes a great mother, have to drug her long enough to either let the foal drink the colosterum or milk it off her once she is born. Good luck with your upcoming foal! I'm expecting two foals this year!! Although both mares are maiden, so they have me worried!

Sabine Marino (
Posted on Monday, February 18, 2002 - 07:46 am:   Edit Post Delete Post    Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Hm, Julie:

Looks like there are a lot of problems to solve. Because things and attitudes change, I wouldn't take a chance of letting her foal around the geldings. Why take a chance as the situation is already difficult at best. I had a foal'
's leg broken in half 2 years ago when my stallion got out of his stall when the dam came into season, and all I can think of is that he must have kicked the baby in the shin, or was it the mom herself trying to ward off the stallion? Guess I will never know. Foal was lost, of course and what a shame. This was a freak accidents, but they do, unfortunately, happen.

I would be prepared for the mare to reject her foal. Chances are pretty good, but maybe she will change her mind this time. How did you feed the baby as it will desperately need that first colostrum? I would do anything, short of hurting the mare to get her to allow the baby to nurse at least through the first night and then, if the mare hasn't accepted the baby yet, you can always go to a milk replacer, but leave the baby in an annex stall, so it will be still close to mama, but she can't kick it.
A nurse mare would be ideal, yes, but you would have to get an experienced one. Otherwise, you'd have another big problem on your hand and another mouth to feed. Sounds complicated to me, and you would probably have to remove MOm to have her and the baby forget about each other. I don't know if the baby would nurse from the nurse mare with its real Mom within sight. After all, it is not an orphant.
If you can't steady the mare well enough so the baby can nurse safely and sufficiently, try to milk the mare with a syringe. Get a 66 cc syringe, cut the top off and make the edge smooth, then put the plunger down to about 1cc, put the opening over the teat and press gently against the mare's udder, then pull and push against the udder again, etc. If you take a good bit of milk out, it may relieve the mare enough to get over her squirmishness. She obviously wants to love her baby but she is too sensitive, and it does hurt, I guarantee you, but not for long. Of course, give that pumped out milk to the baby at once and get some piece of mind that the baby has gotten the best protection that it can possibly get. I'm afraid you'll have to do this quite often the first 24 hours, then graduate the baby to drinking milk out of a bucket. They DO have a strong survival instinct, and hunger will make them curious and searching. Make sure any milk replacer is warm like Mom's milk.
Whether or not you want to continue breeding this mare is up to you and how much trouble you are willing to cope with. It's doable and maybe this time, the mare will turn around and accept the baby. The more frequently you allow the baby to nurse or pump the milk out, the easier it will get for the mare.

Best of luck and let us know or write me an email as I don't come here often.

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