“Born wild, the only thread to survival, a wily and wise momma, the will to take one’s place in the world, and millions of years of instinct.” ~Unknown
Seeing a brand new foal for the first time is a magical moment. On wobbly new legs the tiny foal follows its mother, taking the first steps toward what we hope is a long and happy life. The mare reaches around to nuzzle her foal, and we see the power and determination in her eyes as she defends her newborn when a curious member of her band gets too close. It is awe-inspiring to watch the instincts of the foal kick in and see it search for its mother’s milk. Each new foal is a celebration of life and hope.
As we celebrate the miracle of life, make sure to keep in mind the reality of nature and just how delicate the balance between life and death is. The first 24 hours (and especially the first 8 hours) of a newborn foal’s life are critical in determining the survival and health of the foal for the rest of its life. There are many important components that must come together between a mare and her foal, and the disruption of any one of them could result in an unhealthy foal, the death of the foal, or even the death of the mare. In wild horses especially it is very important to keep a respectful distance from the mare and foal, to allow a smooth bonding and let the new mother give all of her attention to the care of her foal. From outward appearances things may seem straightforward as the instincts of both mother and foal are highly attuned to the foal’s survival, but there is so much more going on in their physiology. It is a fascinating chain of events! The foal must nurse within the first few hours of birth in order to receive the colostrum from its mother, which then must be absorbed, which in turn helps kick start the immune and digestive systems and set the foal on a path to a long, healthy life.