Miniature horses are a joy to own, although breeding them takes a significant amount of time and dedication. Miniature horses come into season at approximately 2 years of age and gestate for 11 months, giving birth to one foal at a time. Miniatures are normally healthy and develop few gestational or birthing complications, and generally foal in warm or cold weather with ease. Minis are spunky and feisty from birth, giving your family years of fun and enjoyment.
Things You'll Need
- Clean straw or shavings
- Lysol concentrate
- Pump sprayer
- Foaling stall with fenced pasture
- Flexible, self-adherent wrap
- Cotton balls
- Foal blanket
Prepare the foaling stall. Rake out soiled bedding, and spray the walls with a solution of 1 ounce of Lysol disinfectant diluted in 1 gallon of water. Spray the walls thoroughly, air dry and repeat. Bed the stall with a 6-inch thick layer of clean straw or shavings. Even though miniature horses are much shorter than full-size horses, a soft landing spot is necessary to cushion the small foal.
Move the pregnant mare to the foaling stall approximately 310 days into gestation. Miniature horse mares normally carry for an average of 340 days, but acclimating her to the stall in advance will keep her calm during birth.
Watch for signs that the mini mare is ready to foal. Her abdomen will appear distended and have a pronounced point towards her hindquarters. Her udders will also be full and firm to the touch, with a thin coating of liquid over the nipples. Wrap the upper portion of the mare’s tail with flexible, self-adhering wrap to keep it clean during foaling.
Stay nearby as the mare begins to foal. She will be restless, pacing and getting up and down as the contractions intensify. The mini mare will lie down and begin to push once the water breaks. She may sweat and grunt, but this is normal as she pushes the foal out. The foal’s front legs should emerge first, with the nose resting just above the knees. The mare should break the placenta once the baby is completely out, but if she has never foaled before, you may have to step in and gently pull the sac away from the foal’s muzzle to allow it to breathe.
Leave the mare alone with the new foal so she can clean it and give the miniature foal time to nurse. The mare’s first milk is loaded with colostrum, which contains essential antibodies that keep the foal healthy until it can produce its own. It can take anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours for the first nursing session.
Coat the foal’s umbilical stump in a layer of iodine as soon as the mare is comfortable with you entering the stall. Soak a cotton ball in iodine and dab it over the stump to kill bacteria that could sicken the foal. If the mare paws at you or comes toward you with her teeth bared, leave her alone for a couple of hours and try again.
Spend time with the foal once the mare is comfortable with your presence. Imprinting, or acclimating the foal to human contact soon after birth, teaches the foal that humans are not predators and will not harm them. Gently stroke the foal from head to toe, lifting the tail and picking up the feet. Speak to the foal in a calm voice as you touch it, so that it becomes familiar with your voice. Place a soft nylon halter on the foal to make it easier to catch him (although many people choose to wait until the foal is 2 weeks old before doing this). Handle the foal every time you go to the barn to further strengthen the bond between you and the foal.
Cover the mini foal with a foal blanket. Miniature horse foals are extremely susceptible to drafts and cold weather, and will fall into hypothermia very quickly. The foal should be blanketed when the temperature drops below 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
Call your veterinarian to examine the new mini foal once it is nursing and warm. The vet will give both mare and foal a thorough examination, making sure the mare has passed the placenta and the foal is nursing properly.
Provide the foal with plenty of fresh hay and clean water. At approximately 2 weeks of age, miniature horse foals begin to show an interest in solid food and may nibble bits of hay. As the foal reaches 8 weeks of age, it will be eating around 1 percent of its body weight in solid food each day.
Worm the mini foal at 8 weeks old. Your veterinarian will provide you with worming paste specifically designed for miniature horses. Place the tip of the tube on the foal’s tongue, and squeeze the medication into the mouth. Repeat worming every 8 weeks.
Wean the foal when the mare’s milk begins to dry up. Turn them out together to allow the foal to nurse during the day, then place the mare and foal in adjoining paddocks at dusk, so they can see each other but the foal cannot nurse. The mare’s milk will begin to dry up in approximately a week, and then you move them to separate paddocks when they cannot see each other. Provide the foal with copious amounts of clean hay and fresh water during weaning. Both mare and foal may call out to each other, but weaning is essential for proper growth and development of your mini horse foal.