Weaning age question - complicated situation - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 6 Old 04-22-2011, 01:27 PM Thread Starter
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Weaning age question - complicated situation

We have a mare that has real trust issues with people (bought at auction in November, rodeo background, bought from the meat man) and she's due to foal soon. The mare is not mine, but the foal is. There's a very good chance that she will not allow people anywhere near the foal, but we'll see. She trusts me to an extent right now, but she's completely unreliable.

The mare is also on a farm where care is meeting all the basic minimum needs for a pregnant mare, but it's not my ideal by any means and I have some serious concerns about the care and safety of the foal until weaning. Assuming I wind up with a healthy foal, of course, I'm planning to move the foal as soon as possible (hopefully the mare too if the farm owner decides she doesn't want her, as there's an excellent trainer willing to work with her at the new barn). The current farm owner has three small children allowed to do whatever they wish (running around the feet of 34 horses), and all summer the farm is overrun with camp children that are not well supervised. I'm concerned about the foal learning to hate stupid children, as well as the safety of the children that run into the pen to see baby - the mare would seriously injure them. It also drives me up the wall that bales of hay are left in the "foaling pen" still tied - which leaves blue plastic loops of bailing twine waiting to break the foal's legs. These are just examples.

If we determine that we cannot move the mare (the farm owner is still deciding whether or not we can have her), when would be the earliest I could wean the foal? There is also nowhere at the farm to wean gradually, it will likely have to be a clean break, so the foal will need to be in excellent condition and eating on his own.

We're hoping to move both mare and foal to the new trainer when the foal is a week or so old, so that the trainer can work with the mare with the foal at her side. But, I don't think that's going to happen, and we're trying to be prepared for all possible scenarios.

Thank you!
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post #2 of 6 Old 04-22-2011, 02:03 PM
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Originally Posted by lblagden View Post
If we determine that we cannot move the mare (the farm owner is still deciding whether or not we can have her), when would be the earliest I could wean the foal? There is also nowhere at the farm to wean gradually, it will likely have to be a clean break, so the foal will need to be in excellent condition and eating on his own.
Could and should - two very different scenarios. I've taken on foals at 4 weeks. Not ideal but it can be done. You could find a nurse mare and pull the foal after the first day.

Ideally 3-6 months - depending on how well the mare and foal are doing.
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post #3 of 6 Old 04-24-2011, 12:32 AM
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I weaned one of my babies at 4 months. She did absolutely fine, but I only did it once I knew she was eating well and would be ok. My mare was having troubles with keeping weight on while nursing, that's why I weaned early.
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post #4 of 6 Old 04-24-2011, 07:37 AM Thread Starter
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Thanks for the responses! It sounds like 3 months would be the minimum, but 4 months would be preferable.

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post #5 of 6 Old 04-24-2011, 08:57 AM
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I know some Mare Owners that have had to wean at 2+ months due to an injury or ill health of the mare and it was determined that the stall rest and/or medications the mare was on would adversely affect the foal and they did fine with this "forced" weaning as well

You also get cases where mares colic and go in for surgery weeks after foaling and it is also deemed in the best interest of all concerned that the foal is weaned at that time and they turn out fine as well

As mls said - "could" and "should" and now "have to" are 3 different scenarios and each one will be different. Foals rejected by their dams are weaned right at birth and they can grow up to be happy, healthy. well adjusted babies as well. Each situation is very very different and you simply have to do the best with what you are dealt ...

Good luck!

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post #6 of 6 Old 04-24-2011, 11:35 AM Thread Starter
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Thanks everyone for the feedback. There are just so many problems where the mare is now that I can't wait to get out of there and cut ties to that farm, but trying to determine the best possible outcome is difficult, particularly with so many unknowns.

The mare is currently sharing the pen with a mini that she gets along with well when hay is plentiful, but when the hay is gone, the mare is very abusive to the mini and keeps her relegated to the back corner. I'm very concerned about the mini's safety when the foal arrives, and I'm concerned that the temporary food shortage these horses experience every other day or so will cause the mare to worry that the foal is going to steal her food as well. Which would mean, for all intents and purposes, we'll have an orphaned foal.

I also am starting to suspect that the mare is having hoof issues from the mud, but I hope I'm wrong.

I think the way to go will just be to get our vet's opinion. I just have a really bad feeling about this - I feel that either the mare will go crazy protective of the foal, or reject him. I'm going to start reading up on orphan foal care, just in case we need it.
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