Maiden mare hates nursing

Hi all, turning to this forum in a last ditch effort for any ideas we haven’t already covered.

My maiden mare gave birth to a healthy filly one week ago. The birth was uncomplicated, and the mare responded lovingly to the foal immediately after, cleaning her and nickering. The foal was slow to get up because of very lax hind flexor tendons. We milked the mare to get colostrum in the foal, and the foal took it via bottle no problem, fortunately. Once the foal was able to get up and nurse a few hours later, my mare had very little to no milk and resented nursing efforts. We started her on Dom immediately. Her maternal instincts seemed very minimal as well, so we fed her placenta and put her on an oxytocin regimen, all at the advice of the vet. We supplemented with milk replacer via bottle under the mare as needed for four days while waiting for milk to come in. The mare required constant supervision during that time because she’d run laps around her stall when the foal tried to nurse. We tried verbal corrections as well as praise and treats when she did allow nursing. Once her milk came in well on day 4, we hoped for substantial improvement but she still barely tolerates nursing in her stall and doesn’t allow it outside in the paddock at all. In her stall, she tries to move away, swishes her tail at the foal, lifts her hind legs before eventually allowing her to nurse. In a small paddock, she walks endlessly until a person intervenes and holds her to allow the foal to get to her.

The filly is lovely and is bright and happy despite the struggles with nursing. But they cannot be left unattended for fear that the foal won’t be able to nurse or the mare will escalate. She generally seems to like the foal but is not a very attentive or loving mother in other ways.

The mare is healthy and happy otherwise. Her udder and teats are normal and not sensitive - she actually likes people handling them, just not the foal. In terms of potential next steps, the mare does not tie well. The foal really prefers mom and does not want to take a bottle now. The foal has not taken to a bucket yet, since she will try for the mare for as long as it takes or until someone comes to hold the mare, but we admittedly haven’t tried super hard with a bucket setup. But at this point, we are very close to getting a nurse mare, as I’m worried about the foal’s health and safety in this stressful situation. I have very experienced breeders and vets helping, but I figured I’d throw this out there and see if there are any ideas that we’ve overlooked? Thank you!

No experience, so no advice to give. Just wanted to say I’m sorry you’re having to deal with this. I’m sure some experienced voices will chime in with some ideas. Hang in there.


In a similar situation, we gave a mare Reserpine, a long acting sedative (commonly used in hunter showing until a test was developed for it) in the hopes that the mare would settle enough for the foal to nurse.

It bought us another week or so, but the mare actually started being aggressive toward the foal and we had to separate them and bottle and bucket feed.

If a nurse mare is viable option, I’d have that teed up and ready to go. There’s lots of downside to bottled feeding a rejected foal, but not any that I’m aware of putting a foal on a nurse mare.


The joys of breeding a maiden mare. Not everyone has the desire to be a mother, and with a horse it’s hard to tell in advance.
And if she doesn’t seem to be coming around to it, not becoming interested in being a mother, give up and do something else before she actually does hurt the foal. Because that’s a possibility. One kick is all it takes. It happens.
Mothering skills are extremely important in selecting breeding stock. And with a maiden, it’s always an unknown in advance. The safest option is to use a nurse mare, if you have access to one and can afford it. Another local breeder may have a mare with stellar mothering skills who has recently lost her foal and might accept another, but there is a risk there if she hasn’t proven in the past that she will accept another foal. The the next best option is to bucket feed the foal as an orphan. The last option is to tranquilize the mare and hope she doesn’t hurt the foal as she develops whatever mothering skills she may develop in time.

Good luck.


Re: nurse mares.

We had a rejected foal and a neighboring farm had an experienced brood mare who had lost a foal. We made extensive preparations for introducing the mare and foal, some of which do not need detailing.

It was all unnecessary. The brood mare was led into the barn, heard the foal whinny, and just about ran us down to get to the baby. There wasn’t any confusion, she absolutely knew it wasn’t her foal. She didn’t care. It was A FOAL, and it needed her.

We put them together, the mare was wuffling and licking the foal and the foal nursed immediately.

So if there’s a nurse mare available, DO IT.


Have they tried the love drug protocol? It may need to be repeated more than once.

10 cc banamine
2 cc lutalyse. wipe mares sweat over the baby, wait 10 minutes
2 cc oxytocin

My maiden mare was very similar but after the 2nd day she did accept the foal with the above protocol. Sometimes I don’t think maiden mares know what to do with the new baby, or what to expect. I would keep having someone with her to hold her and see if she improves. She really could just be a very nervous mother and it’s hard for them to stand still when they are nervous.

Try the love drug protocol and if it doesn’t work the first time, repeat it a second time the next day.


We did banamine and oxytocin – repeatedly – along with the Dom for her milk production, but did not do prostglandin (lutalyse) because we thought we were making progress as her milk came in and I was concerned with the colic risk with prostglandin after discussing with the vet.

Thanks for all the responses. I have decided to get a nurse mare, and she will be arriving in the morning.


I hope the nurse mare works out! This is my biggest fear with my maiden mare due this year, besides of course all the risks of foaling. So hard to know if they’ll be good moms until you try it! And I’ve heard stories of maidens having a hard time or rejecting their first foal, but then going on to be fine broodmares in the future.


Animals are animals so what I do to get a reluctant goat to nurse and " take " her youngsters is just restrain her for a set schedule of feeding times every day/ night until she eventually takes her kids.

It can take several days to several weeks depending on the doe but it has worked in 98% of the times I have tried. As long as the mare is not aggressive I would leave them together and restrain her for scheduled nursing.

Chances are you will go out to eventually find her nursing the foal.

1 Like

Young foals are supposed to nurse on average every 30 minutes. Not sure that OP has all day to spend with mare and baby to make sure foal gets to nurse often enough. Also, although I’m sure you have lovely goats, the value of a foal is often much higher and risk of serious injury greater. OP said they have already tried for one week and mare is still not really accepting foal. I don’t blame them for not wanting to risk injury or illness to their foal.


Please keep us posted after nurse mare arrives. Sending jingles and prayers for a successful meeting. :link: :link: :pray:


Unfortunately lutalyse is pretty important in the love drug protocol.

Is lutalyse normally used on nurse mares as well?

Moot point now but in case others read in the future (god knows I was doing a lot of googling while I’ve been spending nights in the barn!): I was told there were potential drug interactions from what she was already on (domperidone, banamine, oxytocin, omeprazole — not sure which of those it was), that the most important part was getting milk in and the rest should resolve, and that there was colic risk from lutalyse that made it something I wanted to avoid if possible.

Interestingly, my mare has already started to decline in milk production since we took her off Dom (which we had been tapering) after confirming the nurse mare yesterday. Between that and most of the responses on here, I feel confident I made the right choice for these girls. Thanks for the help.


Photo of the pretty filly, btw!


She is too cute! I’m so glad you’re able to work out a nurse mare for her.


Hobbles & tie her to a wall. Port beer in her mash, that will help with her milk.
I do realize you’re now fine.
We had 2 this year that needed time-outs. They weren’t given an option & they both caved. We have 24hr caregiver coverage though.


Are they bottle feeding the foal every 30 minutes? I doubt it.

Goat kids also nurse in small amounts and very frequently but we get by with a larger volume every 3-4 hours.

I have bred mares and raised plenty of foals of my own so know the risks to a baby.

Since it was posted that the mare will allow the foal to nurse if held and asked for suggestions , I gave mine.

Reading again it might be safer to to keep mare and foal penned side by side and just bring her to the mare for nursing . If nothing else mare can feed her foal and save the cost of replacer. Bottle feeding is never desired no matter what breed of livestock, just takes self sacrifice for 6 months.


Happy update: the nurse mare arrived and executed her job perfectly. The baby didn’t know what to do with so much available milk and love :heart: My mare is back out in a herd and seems to be adjusting quickly as well.


That’s terrific! She is adorable and I can’t wait to see a pic of her with her hero.


I have been taught that you need to feed a foal every 2 hours or they will get ulcers. It is better to have a team, a human does not do well on that timetable.

It is better to get a nurse mare that happened here.

So does this mean that this mare, back out with the herd, will do the same thing next time or is it better not to breed from her again?

Do you now own the nurse mare or does she go back home later?