Last Updated on July 26, 2022
Have you ever wondered do horses give birth standing up or laying down? Seeing a foal being born is a miraculous process that not many people are lucky enough to witness, so the process of giving birth in horses is somewhat of a mystery! Let’s find out everything you need to know about do horses give birth standing up!
Do Horses Give Birth Standing Up?
The vast majority of horses give birth laying down, but will sometimes have their foal whilst stood up. Most mares will stay standing for the first stage of labor, then lay down for the second stage during which the foal is born. She will stay laid down for a short period after the birth to recover alongside her foal.
There are two reasons why horses normally give birth laid down. Firstly, laying down ensures that the foal is as close to the floor as possible when it is born.
If the mare is standing up at the moment when the foal is born, it has further to fall before it reaches the ground. This could put the newborn foal at risk of injury, particularly if the mare gives birth on hard ground.
The second reason is that the foal is still attached to the umbilical cord at the point when it is born. This should stay attached for a short period after the birth, which is why the mare and foal normally stay laid next to each other. If the mare gives birth standing up, the likelihood of the umbilical cord being torn prematurely is increased, and the foal may not receive vital nutrients.
How Do Horses Give Birth?
Horses give birth in three separate stages:
The first stage of parturition in mares is the longest and can last for hours or even days if the mare does not feel safe to give birth. During this stage, changes are occurring within the birth canal to prepare for the birth, which can be uncomfortable for the mare. She will appear restless and uncomfortable, and may start sweating and refuse to eat.
Throughout stage one the foal is also moving into position, rotating around so that it is positioned with the front feet and nose in the birthing canal. The end of stage one is marked by the breaking of the uterine waters, which may not always be obvious.
Stage two of labor in horses is the section where active labor occurs, ending with the birth of the foal. This stage of labor is relatively short, and should not last longer than around 30 minutes. The mare will start active abdominal contractions, which rapidly increase in frequency and strength.
During stage two of labor, the foal is gradually pushed through the birth canal. You will see a white membrane appear at the vulva, which will contain the front feet of the foal. These will be immediately followed by the forelimbs and the nose.
The mare will lay down and stand up frequently during this stage, but the final part of labor normally happens while the mare is laid down. Strong contractions will push the shoulders of the foal through the birth canal, followed by the hindquarters. The hindlimbs slip out easily, and the mare and foal will lie down for several minutes afterwards, still connected by the umbilical cord.
The final stage of labor in mares occurs after the foal has been born, and is where the placenta is expelled from the uterus. First, the mare and foal will both attempt to stand, tearing the umbilical cord apart. The mare will experience gentle contractions as the uterus gradually returns to its normal size, and the placenta is pushed out.
It is vital to ensure that the placenta is passed in its entirety, as retained placental tissue is a cause of major health problems in post-partum mares. It should be checked carefully to ensure that no part has torn off and remained inside the mare.
During stage three the foal will also begin to move around and may attempt to suckle.
So, as we have learned, the answer to the question of do horses give birth standing up is that they normally give birth laying down, but will sometimes have their foal whilst stood up. Most mares will stay standing for the first stage of labor, then lay down for the second stage during which the foal is born. She will stay laid down for a short period after the birth to recover alongside her foal.
We’d love to hear your thoughts on do horses give birth standing up! Have you ever been lucky enough to witness a horse giving birth? Or maybe you have a mare that is due to give birth and you’ve got some questions about what to expect? Leave a comment below and we’ll get back to you!
How Do You Know When A Horse Is About To Give Birth?
The initial signs that a horse is about to give birth can be quite subtle, and include changes in behavior and waxing up of the teats. As the birth becomes imminent, the mare will start pacing and show signs of discomfort which resemble the symptoms of mild colic.
Is It Painful For A Horse To Give Birth?
Giving birth is painful for horses, but some changes occur within the body to keep the discomfort to a minimum. Tendons and muscles relax to allow the foal to pass through the pelvis, and high levels of adrenaline will provide short-term pain relief to the mare.
What Position Do Horses Give Birth In?
Horses normally assume a recumbent position as they give birth. Most foals are born with the mare laid on her side, with the foal sliding out behind her.
Can A Mare Give Birth Standing Up?
Although most mares give birth lying down, however, some mares will give birth standing up. This is not ideal for the foal, as it can sustain injuries as it drops onto the ground. For this reason, the mare should be allowed to give birth in a foaling box with a deep, soft bed.
Kate Chalmers is a qualified veterinary nurse who has specialized in horse care for the vast majority of her career. She has been around horses since she was a child, starting out riding ponies and helping out at the local stables before going on to college to study Horse Care & Management. She has backed and trained many horses during her lifetime and competed in various equestrian sports at different levels.
After Kate qualified as a veterinary nurse, she provided nursing care to the patients of a large equine veterinary hospital for many years. She then went on to teach horse care and veterinary nursing at one of the top colleges in the country. This has led to an in-depth knowledge of the care needs of horses and their various medical ailments, as well as a life-long passion for educating horse owners on how to provide the best possible care for their four-legged friends.
Kate Chalmers BSc (Hons) CVN, Dip AVN (Equine) Dip HE CVN EVN VN A1 PGCE