Can a Newborn Horse Walk?

can-newborn-horse-walk Credit: Ian McDonnell/CC-BY-2.0

While newborn horses typically cannot walk immediately after birth, they can walk relatively quickly, and are typically on their feet and moving within a half hour of being born. These newborns, also known as foals, are born with extremely long and spindly legs that are nearly the same length as a fully matured adult horse. Pregnant female horses gestate for about 11 months and give birth quickly; this and the fact that the foal stands up and walks relatively quickly are traits that are evolutionarily consistent with other prey animals.

In addition to being able to stand and walk quickly, newborn foals are also quick to nurse and even to trot, factors which are part of the horse's survival instincts as a prey animal that needs to be able to quickly retreat from predators, even immediately after birth. The foal will nurse within an hour of being born, an act that is accomplished while both the mother and the foal are standing. Most horses are seen as having four gates, which are, in ascending speed order: walk, trot, canter and gallop. The typical foal will be able to move as quickly as a canter on its first day of life, and it may even be able to gallop within the first 48 hours.