What is a Nurse Mare Foal?
and how they are produced
Every year, tens of thousands of horses are born in the US. The most common need for nurse mares is if the mare dies or does not produce milk or simply rejects the foal then a nurse mare will be used.
In order for the nurse mare to have milk, she must have given birth or be induced into lactation by the use of hormones. Bringing a mare into milk without breeding her is substantially more expensive than breeding her to whomever and bringing a life into the world. That life is a nurse mare foal. There are farms that specialize in leasing nurse mares to breeding facilities. The foals are considered a byproduct of the industry, and once it is born; its purpose has been served. The nurse mare foal is then disposed of several different ways. Foal meat is considered a delicacy in some places, and pony-skin has become quite popular in Europe. Many nurse mare foals are born and are simply destroyed, not necessarily using humane methods. Whether or not it is legal does not matter- it still goes on. If the nurse mare farm gets a call for a mare and they do not have one ready inducing a labor, although illegal, is common practice.
The Last Chance Corral rescues between 150-200 foals every year. The biggest year was 2008 when 207 foals were rescued! January through June is known as “foal season”, and for good reason. The foal barn is its own intensive care unit where a small team works to save the helpless foals twenty-four hours a day. Once the foals are stabilized and drinking milk well, they are put up for adoption. Then we try to save more. The summer and fall is the preparation time for next foal season, both financially and mentally. It is a never ending cycle.
People ask why we do not go after the nurse mare farms and try to shut them down. Nurse mares have been used for as long a humans have owned and bred horses. We really do not see this practice ending any time soon. As long as there are nurse mare foals in need we will be here to give them a chance at having a good life.