People-shy mare foaling any day - tips? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 6 Old 04-12-2011, 12:06 PM Thread Starter
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People-shy mare foaling any day - tips?

I'm sorry if this is long! I'm trying to give you an idea of this mare's personality and what we know of her history. In November, a good friend that I ride with rescued two horses that appeared to have a lot of potential from the meat truck at an auction.

We found out afterward that one came off a rodeo truck because she had failed as a bucking horse. She is a beautiful red dun registered quarter horse with, as it turns out, exceptional training in cutting and western games. She's from a rodeo ranch and is 15 years old. She lived on the ranch most of her life and made a lot of money until she started bucking every time she was ridden. She was sold to someone else, who then sold her a month later to a rodeo as a bucking horse for rough stock.

The original ranch told us that she had been in a field with a yearling Friesian colt that they thought was not capable of impregnating her. They were wrong, and as far as we know she's carrying a QH/Friesian foal (she's definitely in foal, but who knows if it's Friesian). We don't know when she will foal, or if she has ever foaled before. The vet estimated March 29, but as of this morning she's still not showing any signs that it will be within the next week or so.

This mare has serious control issues and since November has been very difficult to catch and has repeatedly tried to kick anyone who gets too close, hard. She's also extremely head shy, but once you catch her she leads very well. If you ask her quietly to do something, she's extremely responsive, but reacts very badly to being told. I haven't had much to do with her until about a week ago, when my friend, the owner, was distraught that the girl who had been working with the mare wasn't making any progress. I decided to see if I could get her to trust me, and shortly afterward it was decided that the foal will be mine. Things have been going extraordinarily well and she will now consistently nicker at my approach, come right over and let me take her halter to walk her around, and I can rub her head. We're working toward haltering (she wears one 24/7 for now).

I know that her behaviour might change dramatically when she has this foal. But for now, I'm really concerned about her fears of people and her control issues rubbing off on the foal, and that she won't let us close enough to be able to work with the foal. There is nobody at the farm who is really experienced with troubled horses, but for lots of reasons moving her isn't an option until the foal is weaned. After weaning, the mare is going to a fantastic trainer who specializes in these types of horses.

Right now she trusts me and we're getting along well. I'm doing my best to keep building that trust before she foals. Does anyone have any tips or words of wisdom to help us make the best of this situation? I really want to do everything I can to make sure that this foal gets the best early education possible (especially because this foal will be my first horse), and I want to continue working with the mare. Any advice and dos or don'ts are very welcome!

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post #2 of 6 Old 04-12-2011, 06:03 PM
Join Date: Jul 2009
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Even the gentlest, frequently mannered mares can be "foal proud." All you can really do is handle the mare as much as possible, and hopefully she'll not protest too much when you handle her new baby. Just be careful - she can change her mind and be all over you in an instant if you make a move she doesn't like. It would be best if you didn't approach her without another adult present - preferably one with experience reading broody mares...

Plain Old Dee, horses Dancer and Rain

I believe in dragons, unicorns, good men and other mythical creatures!
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post #3 of 6 Old 04-13-2011, 05:27 AM Thread Starter
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Thanks for the info. I'll make sure I'm never alone with her, but even that is difficult since she currently trusts me but is wary if anyone else is nearby. I took my husband to visit last night and she remained perfectly calm and lovey, so I'm wondering if it's not just that she now has bad associations with most of the barn staff, which is possible but would be terrible. I'm looking forward to getting her moved to a barn with more experienced people.

I've now got her at the point where she nickers when I appear at her pen, and comes right over, and will follow me around inside the pen. I can also reach up and take hold of her halter as long as I don't move suddenly. I can only touch her head and neck though, and she will stand for brushing for a couple of minutes if she's tied. A suggestion from the training board is to now work on being able to touch her all over, so I think I'll start on that slowly.

I have a feeling the vet was way off when he estimated that the foal would be at the end of March - I don't think she's going to pop for another week or more, which gives me a little more time.
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post #4 of 6 Old 04-13-2011, 08:54 AM
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They foal only when they are darn good and ready, that's a fact! Dancer was a full two weeks past her estimated due date. A friend of mine that breeds a few Arabians had one mare go a full month past her breeding date - the foal was HUGE!

You don't necessarily have to have the other person right beside you - just close enough to keep an eye on the mare to watch for any change in behavior. You might want to consider having your husband go out there with you as much as possible, even if he doesn't interact with her much - that way even if she doesn't warm up to him, she'll feel less threatened by him - if that makes any sense.

We got lucky with Dancer, not only was she not "foal proud," but she taught Rain to behave properly toward humans. Don't know if that was deliberate or not - Rain took a kick at the daughter the day she was born. Dancer snapped her head around and practically knocked Rain off her feet - it was like she was saying "Stop it! Don't kick the hand that feeds me!" LOL Rain hasn't kicked at a human since then. Can't say she hasn't kicked at the other horses, though!

Plain Old Dee, horses Dancer and Rain

I believe in dragons, unicorns, good men and other mythical creatures!
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post #5 of 6 Old 04-13-2011, 09:46 AM Thread Starter
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Haha, that's so cute about Rain and Dancer! I'm so worried that this mare will teach her foal the opposite - fear all people!

I definitely understand about foaling when she's ready! When I saw her this morning though there was a definite difference from last night - her croup lowering, belly dropping, bags starting to fill. I feel like it will still be at least a few days, but I guess we'll see. The mare is also getting more and more distracted while I'm working with her and I can only keep her attention for maybe 10 minutes, which could mean something as well.

I hate waiting games. :)
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post #6 of 6 Old 04-13-2011, 04:11 PM
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Mare's udders take weeks to fill, normally. If she's just now starting her bag, then she probably has awhile yet. Do you have any pics?

Good luck with your mare's birth! Hope she isn't too protective of her could be a dangerous situation. Mares can and will attack humans after foaling....they can go into this different zone, a "mother bear protecting her cub" zone, that can be scary. Even perfectly calm, friendly horses can change drastically after foaling. It usually only lasts a couple weeks though. Pretty soon, they're like, "Eh, go ahead and pet my baby, he's not going anywhere." LOL

If your mare is already wary of humans, I would definitely be careful those first few weeks of handling the foal. If it's not safe, just wait it out til the mare calms down. You can always tame the foal later. Good luck!

A good horse is worth more than riches. ~ Spanish Proverb
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