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foal-sitting2

Foal Sitting Volunteer Program


For 30 years, New Bolton Center has invited volunteers to assist clinicians and staff in caring for mares and foals during the busy foaling season. These “foal sitters” are vital to the functioning of the NICU, making it possible to provide the highest quality of care to patients by ensuring there is enough help to deliver the labor-intensive treatment around the clock.

New Bolton Center currently enlists 100 “foal sitters", about half of them returning volunteers.

Want to be a Foal Sitter?

For more information about the program, send an email to foalsitters@nicuvet.com


About Our Foal Sitters

New Bolton Center Foal SitterSome foal sitters have participated for years, and include local horse owners and enthusiasts, volunteers from many local universities including West Chester University, Villanova University and the University of Delaware, retired individuals, high school students, and even a group of registered nurses from the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. In addition second-year Penn Vet students are required to foal sit for five shifts of six hours each as part of their curriculum.

“The foal sitters are essential,” said Dr. Jonathan Palmer, VMD, Chief of New Bolton Center’s NICU, and Director of Perinatal/Neonatal Programs. “To deliver the level of intensive care that we do, we need more help. Foal sitters are vital to our operation.”

Two foal sitters are assigned to each of the three shifts: 7 am to 3 pm, 3 pm to 11 pm, and 11 pm to 7 am. Foal sitting volunteer shifts start in February and go through June. 

“Most mares foal between 11 at night and 6 in the morning,” Dr. Palmer said. “It is much more active at night. If you want to see the birth of foal, that’s when you want to be around.”

Possible Foal Sitter Duties

  • Holding foals that are lying down in various positions, depending on the foal’s needs
  • Assisting staff as they stand and turn foals as required
  • Changing bedding as needed, to keep patients clean and dry
  • Catching urine when required
  • Milking mares and storing the milk
  • Monitoring proper placement and attachment of patient fluid and oxygen lines, urinary catheters, and nasogastric tubes
  • Monitoring infusion pumps and other equipment for alarms and notifying a nurse, patient attendant, or clinician of any alarms
  • Restraining foals for a variety of therapeutic and diagnostic procedures, including blood drawing, catheter placement, and tube-feeding
  • Restocking treatment areas and treatment carts
  • Cleaning equipment and hospital areas
  • Assisting with set-up for incoming patients

The Details

  • Foal sitting registration takes place in December, with an orientation to follow in January.
  • Foal sitters are needed from January through June.
  • Foal sitters must be at least 16 years old.
  • For more information about the program, send an email to foalsitters@nicuvet.com.

See What It's Like

Interested in foal-sitting?