Foal Handling & Weaning

Breeding a foal comes with huge responsibilities including how the foal will be handled, educated and weaned. These events will shape the young horse’s life and often play a vital role in the home they go to if they are to be sold.

I have been breeding horses for most of my life (the past 40 years anyway) and continue to learn from past experiences and most of all, the horses.

The ‘blank canvas’ of a foal, gives us the opportunity to paint a pretty picture with a friendly, well educated foal as the result, and I hope the following articles help you with your ‘masterpiece’.


Rosie and her newborn colt.

It’s a warm summer evening and the sun has just dropped behind the hill, allowing the coolness of shade to bring relief to a hot day.

The new colt, only 2 days old, is released into the round yard with his mum, Rosie.
He immediately tries out his wobbly legs, stretching those tight tendons as he canters and bucks and skips around.

His doting first time mum follows his every move, constantly touching him to say “I’m here to look after you” and casting a severe warning to the rest of the herd who are hanging over the fence, to not even think about touching her baby.

Her nuzzle on his neck with a look of such serene love in her eyes is the most beautiful thing to behold.

The colt’s running, bucking and leaping is interspersed with the inquisitive investigation of his surroundings. He chews the plastic covered fence wire and curls his nostrils at the strange taste.
Everything is sampled by mouth – the feed bucket, the grass growing around the edge that he can barely reach with such a short neck and those long lanky legs.

He runs and skips to a stop, spins and is off again with his glowing palomino mum trotting to keep up with every move.
Then its’ drink time – she lifts her leg off the ground to his determined nudges to get the milk to let down, too gentle to try a kick or a nip just yet.
She stands in perfect stillness with her belly sucked up to allow him to drink his fill.

His little tail flaps with contentment and a bright pink tongue licks his lips when he’s finished. Then he finds the water bucket and has his first attempt at drinking.
Swishing and slurping, then snorting at this strange new substance.

He tries to scratch an impossible to reach itch – with a neck not long enough and a leg that isn’t coordinated yet. But he persists, bending his body, splaying those legs and finally reaching his target briefly.

Then after another burst of play, another drink and a wee, he’s looking sleepy and finds a spot to crumple up those awkward legs to lie down for a nap.
Rosie relaxes and munches on hay, glad that her first baby is quiet now. Happy and content to be surrounded by her herd who are still resting by the fence.

It’s been a wonderful way to enjoy dinner, out on the deck, watching the most beautiful bond between mare and new foal – who would want to be anywhere else?

Foal Handling

Welcome to the World - A Non-Invasive and Loving Approach to Imprinting a foal by Liz Mitten Ryan De-sensitization and imprinting are found in every trainer’s tool box. Their importance to our efficient handling of horses is invaluable. From a human perspective our interaction with horses from handling to riding is safer and less stressful. Its value to a trusting […]
Foal Training – The Positive Way - Foal training is such an important beginning to your foal’s future and good training will establish a relationship while also teaching your foal the basics to cope with the domestic life of a horse. Since my interest in training using positive reinforcement has been so successful with my older horses, I decided to start with […]
Educating the Foal - by Cynthia Cooper Fortunately, many horse breeders now recognise the pay-off for spending time with the foal in the early days. And many like myself have also realised that socialisation and education is the most important part of human interaction, not the imprinting. Although imprinting helps initially and forms a much stronger bond between foal […]
Progressive Weaning of Foals - By Cynthia Cooper Weaning a foal in a progressive way more closely imitates nature and is proven to be reduce stress and future separation anxiety. I get a lot of people asking, “What is the best age and way to wean a horse”? I think if you can look to nature you have the answers […]
New Ways for Weaning Foals - The time for weaning foals is approaching and thus begins a very stressful event for both the mare her foal. But it needn’t be if we consider how horses naturally wean their foals. Family structure is an incredibly important part of a horse’s life – young horses need role models and teachers they can trust. […]
Weaning problems in horses - Traditional Weaning practices can result in behavioural and social problems. Hearing of horses with social issues – usually aggression towards other horses, has widened my search for proof that these problems can be caused by traditional weaning practices. For years now, I have seen the difference in my own horses by weaning them close to […]


The Mare’s Farewell


Roxy and son.

Come here, my son, come to my side,
There’s something I must say –
The words I’ve said to all my sons
Before they’ve gone away.

Tomorrow at the saleyards, son,
Your future life will start,
You’ve seen not yet the world of men
In which you’ll play a part.

Though I am but a cart horse, son,
And worn out now, and old,
I once was strong and proud, like you,
With head held high, step bold.

‘Twas men that made me like I am
Through thoughtless ways, and cruel,
To some you’re just a horse, my son,
A four-legged mute – a fool.

But son, remember when you’re tired
And heavy seems your load,
Among the cruel there are the kind
Who’ll help you walk the road.

This is your mother’s wish for you,
That life may bring no sorrow;
I hope, my son, you’ll find a friend
In your owner – come tomorrow.

All articles are authored by Cynthia Cooper (unless otherwise stated) and may be reprinted with written permission, aknowledgement and a link to my web site please.