new foal due in april- what to expect? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 24 Old 12-29-2012, 12:38 PM Thread Starter
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new foal due in april- what to expect?

our mare is due for a foal around april. this is our first foal we will be dealing with, and have no idea what to expect, from birth to after its born.

obviously leave the mare alone while shes giving birth or she will hold it in if she can i guess, but when its born...

how long until we can wean it?
how do you wean a foal?
does it only drink milk or do we feed it hay as well?

any suggestions or anything?

You've got to give something you've never gave,
To get something you've never had. - Pat Parelli
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post #2 of 24 Old 12-29-2012, 01:05 PM
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It is safe to wean foals after they are 4 months old. Most people keep the foal with its mom until they are six months old. I weaned my colt at 5 because his mother needed weight and he wasnt really spending much time with her anyways.

I just put my mare in one pasture and kept my colt in another. They had a joined side so they could see and talk but they couldnt BE together. The mare had to go up the pasture to get water and at feeding time and my colt went in the stall at night.

After the first few weeks (my colt started at a week old) the foal will start eating with mom. It will share her grain, attempt to eat hay and grass, ect. It will follow her lead. Make sure to keep out enough hay for the mare as she will be feeding two and will need lots of extra calories.

vitamins arent really necessary unless you feel the mare is deficient in something. Ask the vet.

Ask your farrier about feet. My farrier likes to handle and maybe rasp the foals feet a TINY bit at first to get the foal used to being handled by him. The farrier will know when the time is right to start doing the foals feet.
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post #3 of 24 Old 12-29-2012, 01:17 PM
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It is quite safe to wean a foal even at 2 months, although many people might disagree. the mother's milk loses a huge amount of nutritional value after the first few weeks, and once the foal's teeth come in and it begins to eat solid food, the mother's milk is more of a pacifier. The foal doesnt really need it but it is habit and also a comfort thing to drink.
I left my foals with their dam for 6 months, only because i was in no hurry to wean. The mother is a good security blanket for them as well as a teacher.
When you do wean, no matter what age, make sure your foal is put out with other horses. No horse has worse manners than one that has been brought up by humans alone.

As for the birth, some mares really dont mind if you are near. Some people recommend being near, just incase something goes wrong.
Make sure you remove the sack & afterbirth when the foal is born (we threw ours down into the septic holes by our house) Some people drag them out for the wild critters or even let their dogs have them.
It's always good to be there after the birth, just so the foal can get accustomed to you but also to make sure mother is feeding properly and doesnt accidentally step on the baby before it can get up.

Foals are rather terrible with fences at first, so if you have wire, do not be surprised to find baby on the otherside once in awhile. What tends to happen, is they fall asleep between mother & fence, stretch out, head & neck go under fence and when they go to stand up they pull themselves through onto the other side.

I helped out on a small breeding farm for a few years and saw a number of things happen with the babies.

I recommend getting the foal used to ropes and halters right from the off. I had a halter on the foal by 6-7 days. Didnt do any halter "breaking" until about a month, but i started early getting them used to the sight and feel of the halter & ropes around their faces so that they would not associate the halter with anything bad.
By the time i actually started teaching them to lead, they were already willingly accepting the halter being slipped on & off and ropes being around their neck, bum & legs.

As for feeding, your foal will eat whatever it's mother does be it grass, hay or grain & it is good to start supplementing him some as soon as he developes his teeth so that he can get a good start and does not have to rely on his mother so much. Just keep in mind that he wont require alot of food for the first few months but depending on how you feed & if they are on grass, he should have no problem getting what he needs.
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post #4 of 24 Old 12-29-2012, 02:03 PM
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I'm sorry but I TOTALLY disagree with weaning a foal at 2 months!!!!
I won't wean until 9 months. In the wild the foal is not weaned until the next foal is due to be born. You can cause serious complications mentally weaning at too young an age - Attachment disorder is common and this is a well documented problem. There is a brilliant article on natural weaning here
Equine Wellness Magazine - your natural resource for horses!

Also regarding feeding vitamins, I feed a high quality vitamin mineral supplement ALWAYS (Starting when the foal is conceived) as there is just not enough of the correct balance in the grass here in NZ or Australia - I don't know about the States but I suspect you have some similar problems. Salt is vital is the mare is on green growing grass. Great articles on feeding horses and the problems of incorrect mineral/vitamin balances here...
ProvideIt Vitamin Mineral mixes for horses.

If you work at developing a very close relationship with your mare LONG before the foal is born there is no reason you can not be at the birth, in fact my girl Merlot waited for me to be there and had her foal at the very convenient hour of 4.30 in the afternoon!

Foals start eating grass within days but as long as the mare is fully balanced minerally, he should get everything he needs from her.

Regarding hooves, right from the start I have got my boy Zephyr used to having his feet picked up - a couple of seconds at first and let go as soon as he relaxes. Now he is 1 1/2 months and I can rasp his little hooves (I actually am not doing this for real yet as he is wearing them down naturally at this stage but want him to get used to the feel of it) and tap them and pick them out with no problem. Remember that it is easier for him to pick up his back legs than the front at first. Also helps if you rub his legs when you pick them up rather than concentrate on the hooves at first. seems to be soothing. Do this over days don't try to do anything in one session!

But the key is SMALL amounts (no more than 5 minutes)EVERY day. Don't make training a mission. You always want to be able to walk away before he gets bored. Let him follow you. Also I only give an actual 'training session' once a day but I visit him frequently during the day just to give him a scratch, or even just to be in the paddock without doing anything with him (now he hates that!)

I've put pictures up of Zephyrs training here if you are interested
The Growth of Lord LubbaDuck AKA Zephyr Moo

and his birth and the pregnancy of Merlot is documented here
Merlot's Foaling Thread

Hope this helps
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post #5 of 24 Old 12-29-2012, 02:08 PM
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Oh my. I would never wean a foal at 2 months. That is just crazy. I probably wouldnt even wean one at six months unless the mare was under too much stress. I believe they should spend the better part 9-12 months with their dam whether they are paying a lot of attention to them or not they still learn from them each and every day. My 4 1/2yo was weaned to early and she thinks every horse is her mother still.

Shorty * N * Opie
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post #6 of 24 Old 12-29-2012, 02:12 PM
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I agree with Merlot 100%. :) Not only is being with the mother important for mental stability, it's also where the foal learns how to get along in horse society.
A foal still NEEDS the milk. Their systems are still immature and developing and they will not do as well if they are not allowed access to their mothers milk for at LEAST the first 6 months. The milk has everything they need and is readily digestible for the foal. Solid foods take a lot more energy for the foal to digest and their immature systems simply can not extract adequate nutrients from it.
Yes they sample and do begin to eat solids...they're learning what and how to eat from their mothers, but the bulk of their nutritional needs are met through mother's milk.
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Last edited by Red Cedar Farm; 12-29-2012 at 02:15 PM.
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post #7 of 24 Old 12-29-2012, 02:31 PM
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I wean between 9-12 months also. Unless the mare is bred back then I might wean at 7.
I have a mare here that is very protective of her foals and we have never seen her foal at anytime with the 5 she raised. Could not get near her foal for the first 2-3 days without being kicked either.
It is the only time she has shown any signs of "attitude" either.
My mares foal in a pasture with the other horses and we have never had a problem.
Makes going out to check them at night a hassle.
Mine also foal in pastures with barbed wire and we have yet to have one get caught in the fence or found one on the other side. We do use pasures that are 10-20 acres for foaling. We do not move thme into anything bigger until we can handle them. Shalom
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post #8 of 24 Old 12-29-2012, 03:18 PM
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All the mares we've ever had pretty much self weaned at 3-4 months. Never had an issue with babies being clingy or not growing enough. Mares milk loses almost all of its nutritional value after about 3 months, according to my repro vet.
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post #9 of 24 Old 12-29-2012, 03:26 PM
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By the 4th month, the mare's energy content of her milk drops to about 30%...this is because the foal, by now, is supplementing her milk with forage. That doesn't mean that the foal should be taken off momma's milk. He still needs that 30% which he's not able to glean from forage. Adding concentrates to his diet to try to compensate for the lack of milk can led to growth issues (particularly of the joints) and ulcers. Unless there's a medical reason to wean a foal that early, it's best not to.
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post #10 of 24 Old 12-29-2012, 03:35 PM
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5-6 months is a safe time to wean. Usually the mare is weaning the foal by now and the foal is pretty much eating on its own. Some people put in creep feeders for the foals. Be sure to treat the naval with Novalson. Get the foal used to handling as early as possible, that includes hooves.
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