Ask The Experts #22

Photo by Alys Emson/Lane's End

Zenyatta in her paddock earlier this week. Photo by Alys Emson/Lane’s End


I am wondering how often the mares are able to deliver the foals without any assistance from the staff. All of the foaling videos that I’ve seen show considerable help being provided. I know that horses foal in the wild without any help – are special precautions in order for TBs?

Sandy Wyper

South Euclid, OH

A:A month from foaling mares are brought to the foaling barn, and until they foal they are watched 24/7. They are turned out in the daytime so they can move around freely and exercise, which is very important for heavily pregnant mares. Someone from the barn will patrol the fields frequently to make sure no one has decided to go off and foal outside on their own. Late afternoon the mares will be brought in and fed and have their bags (udders) checked for any changes. Wax on the teats or dripping milk gives us a good indication that the mare is getting close to giving birth.

The foaling barn. Photo by Alys Emson

The foaling barn. Photo by Alys Emson

Inside the foaling barn. Photo by Alys Emson

Inside the foaling barn. Photo by Alys Emson

We have a night watchman stay in the barn at night and keep an eye on everybody. Once a mare starts to show signs of foaling he will alert whom ever is on call that evening for assistance. We typically have at least three people present at each foaling in case of an emergency.

I know some of you are worried about the pain Zenyatta will go through during the foaling process but you needn’t worry! The birthing process is far quicker than that of humans. Once they break water, as long as the presentation is correct, it is all over in a matter of minutes. Horses have to be able to give birth and recover quickly in the wild, as they need to be able to protect their newborns from potential predators.

Once the mare has broken water we check the presentation is correct with the nose and forelimbs coming first. The mare will typically lie down to foal, although very occasionally we will get an “airmail” when a mare foals standing. This can happen with maidens that haven’t quite got the process figured out yet! Provided the mare is comfortable with our presence we will help guide the foal out gently. Normally a mare will rest for a few minutes post foaling and then get up, which is usually when the cord breaks.

The foals are usually up within an hour and nursing and getting that much needed colostrum that helps boost their immune systems. They are designed to keep up with their mothers almost immediately, so provided they are strong enough we like to get them out into a paddock or a round pen on day one for a few hours and let them begin their new lives.

Our Expert

Alys Emson

Client Management, Lane’s End

Alys has been at Lane’s End for fourteen years. She has worked in every division of the farm and is now in charge of client management, keeping owners up to speed about the lives of their horses.


  1. Dear Judy B
    Thank you for your Kentucky Derby favs. I appreciate the input.

    1. Zenyatta has the good fortune to have all kinds of help available to her while she is in foal. We know her foals will be in good hands.

  2. Hay List placed 4th in the Challenge – just nosed out by Howmuchdoyouloveme. He jumped well, and led from about the halfway mark, but I suspect his lack of race fitness was against him. One brave horse. Haven’t heard from John McNair or the connections at this point, so am hoping he pulled up okay.

  3. Lauren news (MOL/Barbie jockey).

    She had five rides at Oakbank in South Australia today: took 2nd in the first, 3rd in the fifth, 5th in the sixth, unplaced in race seven and rode the winner (aptly named Wise and Happy) in the last. This ride was for another trainer, B.C. Mueller, and only the first ride was for her usual stable, so maybe things are starting to look up for her. It’s a tough game both mentally and physically.

  4. A bit of a rough and abrupt introduction into the world to be delievered via airmail. Although that did make me laugh a bit. Thanks for sharing.

    1. There was another new post yesterday guys – most folks have migrated over to that one.

      1. Thanks, Sandy. Wondered where everybody was.

  5. Hi!

    That was great information to impart to the fans of Zenyatta.

    I hope that her delivery is a safe one.

    Thank you!

  6. Zenny looks ready-I would be too.
    All our thoughts and prayers are with her.
    Thanks for all the great photos and videos Alys!
    Zenyatta remains close to our hearts and it is a privilege and joy to be in touch with how she is doing at Lanes’ End.
    We look forward to good news in the coming weeks!

  7. Zenny:
    I am thinking of you. The pace has begun. I am sure you are due any moment now.


    – Linda

  8. Zenny, we are all waiting for your new arrival. Wishing a safe foaling.

  9. Hi
    Thanks for the information. I have an issue with my mare she wants to stay outside and not go in her stall. So, is it better for her to birth outside or inside where she is upset, pawing and going in circles. We have two other horses and they do not like going in the barn and are not expecting and so with them outside and her going inside she is very upset. Currently we have all three in the same field, should they be seperated or are they ok in the same field with the mom and baby. When leading the mother in and out of the barn, do you put a halter and lead the foal or is it better to leave the foal running at her side? If you could email me with your advice that would be amazing. Zenyatta’s baby is so beautiful and her next breeding sounds exciting too, I can not wait :D
    Love from one of her biggest fans!

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