Over Protective Mare with new Foal
My wife and I have had horses for a few years, but just had a mare deliver our first foal Tuesday night. Of course it was a cold and windy night, but all went well....mom and her new baby girl are healthy and doing great. Sarah, the mare is a 5-year old Foxtrotter and this is her first foal. She has always been very people friendly and has an in-your-pocket personality.
We know the importance of imprinting at this early stage and how important it is to handle the new foal and get her to recongize our scent, etc. The first couple of times we approached mom and foal all was good. She would let us pet the foal and rub on her with no problems. Yesterday, Sarah started running interference anytime we tried to approach...putting herself aggresively between us and her foal. The foal is curious and wants to come to us, but mom will not let her. Our plan is to tie Sarah to a hitch rail while we pay some much needed and overdue attention to the new foal...making sure we allow Sarah to see what's going on. My concern is: when we tie Sarah up and limit her access to the foal, I'm worried that she's going to go bonkers and turn the session into a bad, if not dangerous, situation all around. Any suggestions on how to calm an over-protective new mom?
Some useful info.... The Bond Between Mare and Foal - HorseChannel.com
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Leave mom and foal alone for a few days or a week or so. If you tie mom, she is going to freak out and be an extreme handful. Your only going to make matters worse. Let her settle down, within a week, they are usually much better and hormones have settled.
If you tie her to the hitching rail, make sure it's good and sturdy. Nothing worse than she pulls back or otherwise yanks the whole rail out of the ground and runs off with it chasing her. Yep, BTDT.
If she throws a fit at the rail, I would seriously discipline her for acting up. It's just not acceptable. Work with the foal for 5 mins, let it go to mom and nurse for a while and you go away.
I have big foaling stalls and I like to do my first work in the stall with momma right there. She's not allowed to interfere but she can see everything. Once I have the baby coming up to me and getting petted, I start with picking up feet and haltering. All in the stall, outside in their yard is their time. If mom tries to interfere in the stall, she can either be held by another person or tied so you can work with baby. Most of the time they'll settle down pretty quick.
I've found that once you get things established inside, then if you need to handle the baby outside, it's not as big a deal. Again, if mom tries to interfere, I either tie her, corner her or have someone else hold her, while I do what I need to do.
Main thing is, you're in charge, not her and you need to forcefully remind her of that.
It is perfectly natural that many mares, especially maidens get what we in the UK call 'foal proud.'
It is not a problem I have often come across because my mares know me and know that what I say goes and that I would not hurt their foal.
If a mare is foal proud then I will leave them to get on with it and settle for the first two or three weeks. I will go into the stable or where ever and feed the mare and stand a few yards away whilst she is eating. Chances are that the foal will be curious and come to sniff at you. I make no move to touch the foal but will probably just walk away a tad further.
After a short while the mare will just accept that you are not going to do harm and be more relaxed with you.
I do not believe that it is vitally important to imprint a foal. They are just as fast to come to acceptance if properly handled, at later dates.
Personally I would rather have a never handled weaner than one that has been handled badly.
Wouldn't recommend fighting with her at all. You want to assure her, you are not going to hurt her or the foal.
This little method works well with a lot of them. Catch the mare, put a muzzle on her. It's her mouth that usually comes after you first. Then take her to the hitching rail, let baby follow. Don't tie her, just take a few wraps of the lead around the rail, so if she has a canary she doesn't hurt anyone if she pulls back hard. Let her and foal relax. Have one person handle the mare. Try to keep her with a 2 to 3 foot loose lead. The other person approaches the foal and gets the foal to go to the mares head. Try to get mare and foal comfy with the foal at her head. Then just keep working with the foal in this location. If the mare should try and bite, you are protected. Once the mare figures out you are not going to take her baby, nor hurt her, they usually settle into letting you mess with both of them.
If you get too aggressive disciplining the mare, you may start a battle you can not win, then everyone looses.
Now the best way of doing this. And this will sound really strange. Find a young child, less then about 15 and more than 3 or 4. Old enough to listen and young enough to follow directions. Put the 3 of them in a pen, about 50 dia, or there abouts. And leave them alone. There is not 1 mare in a million that will bother a child messing with their foal. If you have never seen it, it will absolutely petrify you the first time.
First time we realized this, our first daughter came up missing. She was about 3 or 4, just walking well. Found her out in the middle of the bull field, petting this really bad tempered bull on the nose. After we clean our britches, we, as calmly as possible asked her to come in for supper. She headed toward the house and mean bull walked calmly beside her all the way to the gait.
We've had many a foal that we could not even get close too mare or foal, then find the kids out in the pasture playing with both of them.
After the kids mess with them a dozen or so times, they don't seem to mind those bigger people coming close either.
Thank you all for the advice and input. Your experience and insight is appreciated. I will let you know how it goes with the mare.
*Subbing* - Our mare is very overprotective and becoming handy with her feet - she's never kicked before but just sees everyone as a threat to her baby! Her colt's 2 weeks old and refuses to leave the stable, she blocks our way - so we're calling in more experiences handlers in to help us. But please keep us informed and good luck xx
My mare had her first foal almost 4 yrs. ago, she was 7 at the time. I had her for 4 yrs. before that. I can't say that I had a problem with that LOL I had it the other way, Street (her colt) would come through the gate into the yard and Spice would be off in the pasture somewhere....she never worried about him when he was with me. Right from the first day I could take him out in the yard and he would come out with me, he would go back when he was ready to eat.
Maybe if you just spent time with the two of them doing nothing, other than spending time watching them....Mom would learn you weren't going to hurt her baby......I'm curious on how others would handle this.....
Update on Fox - we have a lovely sunny day here - she hasn't been out of her stable for 2 weeks (foal is 2 weeks old!) and today I put her feed outside - and after an hour and half, she walked out and started to eat! Teddy the foal whinnied and kicked up a fuss and at first she would run right back into him but after half an hour of her rushing back and forth, she left him to squeal whilst she calmly ate grass! If I went anywhere near the stable at first, she would rush back to see if what I was doing, head high and tail out - but when she saw there was no danger from me, she went back to eat - RESULT! Hopefully this afternoon, the process will be much quicker and Teddy might put a hoof outside too - his protests don't do much for Fox when she realises he's just creating and when there's grass to be ate. So that's my story after 2 weeks - and today we've climbed a mountain :D xx I have no experience of foaling either (and to be honest limited horse experience - this is my sons mare) but i'm going with what's right for Fox and time and patience seems to be working for us xx
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