Mare and Foal
After the birth of the foal is a critical time for the mare and foal to bond, and
most mare owners step back to allow mare and newborn foal ample time to forge that
bond. This bonding is done with the mare using her eyes, but more importantly using
her sense of smell and taste. The bonding process is sometimes enhanced by the mare
licking the amniotic fluid on the foal’s coat. Initially the newborn’s vision is
rather blurry and the foal relies primarily on scent.
Assuming all goes well, in the first few hours following the birth the foal stands
and suckles from the dam to acquire adequate colostrum, the mare cleans out the afterbirth,
and the foal demonstrates the ability to pass manure. (First feces is called meconium.)
Meanwhile, mare and foal are continuing to bond.
Even normally quiet or submissive mares can become more aggressive if they perceive a threat to their foal. This may include efforts to drive off another horse or human handlers. A halter and lead rope with the mare in the control of a second person is a safety precaution some people use routinely. With a more aggressive / protective mare, moving between mare and foal or even attempting to enter the stall may be dangerous.
Mares who have respect for the handler and a trusting relationship are normally not a problem, but it is always wise to keep an eye on the mare when attempting to handle the new foal, particularly for the first few days while the mare adjusts to her new status of being a mother. Some mares are more protective than others, and some hover protectively for months. Other mares are fairly relaxed and even appear “casual” in how they monitor their new foal.