A New World

For a newborn foal, the first few moments are monumental. They leave the protective world of placental breathing, nutrition and body temperature regulation. Thrust into their new environment, they must immediately switch over to life outside of the womb. This means major adaptations in circulation, for one. The lungs adapt to breaths of air and the circulatory system suddenly has to manage receiving oxygen and increased blood supply and releasing carbon dioxide into the blood stream. Previously, this was accommodated through the mare’s blood from the placenta, the lungs having received minimal blood supply during fetal growth. Also, body temperature regulation comes into play as does the sudden exposure to light, sound and touch. Extremes in temperature, wet or dry conditions, dirt, dust, foliage and all the nearby living things all demand attention and comprehension. The miracle of a successful birth continues into the first hours when the newborn awakens balance, muscle control and digestion. Attempts at standing, walking, (or in the case of wild foals, running) and nursing preoccupy the baby. It’s no wonder that newborn foals often travel, for security, in close, often touching proximity, to their mothers for the first several days. The foal’s physiological transition to independent life is one of my greatest contemplations during foaling season.

wild horse photography of a newborn leaning into his mother for confidence
The large size of this newborn foal does not exclude him from requiring the security of his mother; he leans in close while moving from place to place, relying on her for confidence.

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