Stage Two Labour in the Mare

From the Horse Midwife

Foaling season has rolled around pretty quickly and a lot of studs already have their first foal on the ground. A couple of studs even had a foal before the official racehorse birth date of 1st August. Fortunately these days, so long as you can prove that the mare wasn’t mated before the 1st of September. Back in the day you would have had a horse born on 31st July officially turning one the next day!

Last month we talked about Stage One Labour in the mare. To recap, Stage One Labour begins when the foal starts moving in to position and ends when the mare’s water breaks. It can last anywhere from hours to days.

This month focuses on Stage Two Labour. Unlike Stage On Labour, which can vary greatly in length, Stage Two Labour has a very narrow timeframe.


Stage Two Labour begins when the mare’s water breaks and ends with the delivery of the foal. In humans, once a woman’s water breaks it is not uncommon for it to be a long time before the baby is actually delivered.

The opposite is true in horses. Stage Two Labour is referred to as the ‘explosive’ stage, not because anything explodes, but because of the quick timeframe. Normal Stage Two Labour should see the foal delivered very quickly; between 20 – 30 minutes from when the water breaks.

Once the mare’s water has broken the ‘white bag’ (amniotic sac) should appear at the entrance to the vulva. Absence of the white bag after the water has broken may be indicative of a problem.

Position of the Foal

The foal will normally be positioned like ‘superman’ with its front legs stretched out in front and its head resting upright on the knees. It is normal for one leg to be slightly in front of the other, with the base of the hooves facing down.

The position of the foal is checked by the foaling assistant at this point to ensure that all the right limbs are present and in the right orientation. If this is not the case then an experienced foaling assistant may be able to correct minor problems, however most bigger problems are likely to require vet intervention.

It is not uncommon for the foal to feel slightly upside down if the presentation (position) of the foal is checked too soon after the waters break. As mentioned in last month’s Stage One Labour post, the foal spends the majority of the pregnancy upside down on its back and then rotates into the correct position for foaling. The foal may still be moving itself into this position if the waters have just broken. Often, leaving the mare to roll will correct this.

Assisting with Foaling

Once the mare begins pushing the foal should be delivered very quickly. Significant pushes should result in the foal progressing and being delivered shortly after. Absence of pushing, or pushing with no progress, may be a sign that something is not right.

In a previous blog post on ‘The Golden Rule of Foaling’ we talked about the 5:30 Rule. More than five minutes of pushing with no progress, OR the foal not being delivered 30 minutes after foaling may mean that there is a problem with the foaling.

If you need to assist in pulling the foal out due to a large or slightly mis-presented foal, foaling straps can be fixed around the foal’s cannon bone above the fetlock joint. Closing the strap between the fetlock and pastern is likely to result in an injury to the foal’s foot.

Pulling should be in time with the contractions and at a downwards angle – not directly out the back of the mare due to the shape of the foal and the mare’s birth canal.

Once the foal has been delivered the mare is officially in Stage Three Labour, which we will look at in more detail next month.

In other exciting news we are very excited to announce that our Online Intro to Foaling Course will be available in October. To be the first to know the details (and special launch price) you can waitlist yourself to be notified at

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Picture 1: Mare beginning Stage Two Labour – water breaking

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Picture 2: Mare delivering her foal in Stage Two Labour

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Picture 3: Completion of Stage Two Labour, delivery of the foal (beginning of Stage Three)



Until then, happy foaling all!

The Horse Midwife

P.S. please feel free to check out our Website ( or Facebook Support Group (


What does your mare’s Stage Two labour look like? Is she consistent? I’d love to hear about your experience from you so feel free to get in touch at  and remember – if there’s something you want to see just let me know!

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