Natural Horse World

Foal Handling & Weaning

Raising a young horse can be incredibly rewarding if approached with the right information.

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’

I hope the following articles I’ve written will guide you to create a happy, healthy, and well adjusted young horse for their best future. 

Foal Handling

A Reader’s Experience with her mare’s rejection of her foal - by Lindi My mare Zena rejected her foal, Jazira, two years ago and was extremely violent towards her. She was a maiden mare and foaled very quickly and wandered off before the foal could get up. Needless to say, she had foaled unexpectedly in the middle of the day whilst I made a quick visit …

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Orphan Foals - By Cynthia Cooper The dream of breeding and raising your own foal can very quickly become shattered when you are faced with an orphan foal. Whether the foal is orphaned through the mare’s death or rejection by the mare, the focus must be on keeping that foal alive for the first week or so, and …

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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 …

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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 training using positive reinforcement has been so successful with my older horses, I now training my foals that way. …

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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 …

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Progressive Weaning of Foals - By Cynthia Cooper Weaning a foal in a progressive way more closely imitates nature and is proven to 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 – …

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New Ways for Weaning Foals - The time for weaning foals is approaching and thus begins what can be 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 …

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Weaning problems in horses - Traditional Weaning practices can result in behavioral 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 …

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ROSIE’S COLT

Rosie and her newborn colt foal.

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?

The Mare’s Farewell

The bond between a mare and foal is essential to survival.

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 sale yards, 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, acknowledgement and a link to my web site, please.

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