Best mare/foal care methods
I know that this is fairly premature, but our mare is due to foal in April, and I have been "nesting" like crazy lately. I have been trying to make a checklist of things to do (minor changes to her pen, purchase of needed supplies, etc.)
I have been reading up on nutrition, training, gelding, and weaning. The sources seem to vary greatly depending on who wrote the article or book.
I would just like to hear from those of you out there about what you think is the best way to:
work with the foal from a training standpoint
house a foal (mare and foal alone, with group of horses, etc.)
There is another thread on here about gelding, so I won't ask about that.
But...I would also just love to hear any tidbits that those of you gained through experience. such as something that you didn't do with your first foal, but decided to add for future foals. Items that you feel are "must haves", favorite feeding program, training methods, etc.
Written sources conflict in so many of these areas, so I just want to hear what ingredients those of you with experience think makes the healthiest, happiest young horse. I am happy to hear opinions from those without personal experience as well.
I am currently leaning toward:
-a longer more gradual weaning (not sure on specifics yet)
-using a mix of nutrena youth, vitamins, salt, alfalfa, and grass hay for lactating mare and growing foal (specifics depend on stage)
-housing mare and foal in field with geldings (after foal gets around well)
-vaccinating/worming mare properly during pregnancy
-having vet check foal over after birth (will give proper vaccines/worming after birth according to vet - still haven't looked that up)
-pretty consitently (but not intensely) training foal from the beginning
-riding and working with mare fairly actively after foal gets around well (foal at side)
-possibly (not sure yet), showing foal in weanling halter
-haven't decided wether to seclude mare to stall for foaling yet or allow access to bedded stall in hopes that she will use it to foal (more research needed)
-doing a lot with imprinting, natural horsemanship training, and general exposure to "scary things" while foal still has mom for confidence.
-keeping vet on call for emergencies during foaling, but otherwise allowing it to occur naturally
...I am sure there are more pieces to the puzzle, but that is all I can think of at the moment...these plans are just ideas based on my current research, they are not set in stone yet...I am open to hearing better ideas and reasons why.
Having babys is so much fun! We have only had 3 at our place so not great experts. The only things I keep on hand is the vets # on speed dial, some betadine, an enema and a foal size halter. When the baby is born I check the afterbirth to make sure it is all there. Swab the ambilical with betadine and give the the foal an enema to help pass the meconium. I have only had to administer 1 enima out of the 3. Some people do it no matter what, it does help keep the baby from stressing trying to pass it. I try to get a halter on as soon as possible rub the baby all over including bottom of feet, take the halter off and leave them alone. I only spend about 10-15 min. doing all of this. Some mares (Sassafras) won't let you get anywhere near the baby for a few days. Don't be surprised if this happens. Vida was like "yes, please come in and see my baby" while Sassafras was a demon mother. Every one has been different but thankfully totally healthy. I know my first I was doing checks every hour but by the time the 3rd came I was checking every morning :wink:
I want to add I used Clinton Andersons "Handling foals, weanlings and yearlings" DVD's Its really great stuff and I get compliments all the time from the folks who bought my 2 year old on what a great job I did :)
I've had quite a bit of experience, but don't consider myself an expert. (we've had about 20 foals or so). This is what we do. Some may agree, some may not. There are many "right" ways to do things.
#1 find a vet and get a good rapport NOW. You're going to want to know and trust him/her. Some vets are great with horses, others not. With our first foal, as a total newbie we called out the nearest vet who would do a house call. (just to be sure mare and foal were ok after birthing.) This guy was an idiot! Was totally afraid of the mare, and she was GOOD! She have a problem with someone being there or anything.
We keep our mares pastured with the stallion until a couple of weeks before they deliver. Then we bring them up to the front pasture near the house and stall them at night so they are comfortable being in the stall. We let them out in the upper pasture in the daytime to graze and get exercise. *note* if continuously stalled, they can get "stocked up" in their legs and their "bag" (udder) will stay "falsely large" .
Once they deliver (hopefully in the stall, but some have surprized us and delivered in the daylight in the pasture.) We keep the mare and baby stalled for about a week or so, and then let them out in the daytime in a small paddock near the house, so they can "meet" the other horses over the fence. (We stall them at night, because we have coyotes in the area) After about a month of this, we let them out with the general horses. Mares and geldings. It's not a problem.
We do try to "imprint" all of the babies, and depending on the dam's personality (some will let you near the baby, others are more protective) we will "play" with them daily. (touch them all over, etc) I have found over the years that after weaning, even those that didn't get a lot of attention, they still are manageable.
Weaning - IMO there is no "gradual" weaningfor domestic horses. Unless you plan on letting the mare "naturally wean" then they will be on their mother until you decide to wean. (we usually do it around 4 months) Some dams will NOT wean their foals and have them suckling at 18mths-2 years. In the wild, dams will wean their foals because they are usually pregnant year after year and they HAVE to wean for the new foal. In domestic horses, they are not constantly pregnant, so they can leave them on indefinately.
This is a pretty long post, so I'll end for now. If you have any other questions please let me know. You can pm if you want
Thanks for the interesting responses. I will have to check out the foal handling DVD.
I am curious about something...I have read in more than one source that it is natural for foals to nurse for much longer naturally, and that 9-12 would be ideal, and that the mothers milk provides the correct balance of nutrients (very difficult to do with feeds)...So, why do we tend to wean domestic horses around 4-5 months? convinience? Up here, I hear that it is too hard to put a lactating mare through winter. Thoughts?
Also, TxHorseMom, all of what I have been reading about weaning says to take mom and foal out of earshot of eachother if weaning abruptly. I have about 12 acres...I don't think I could get them out of earshot of each other to wean. My thinking of gradual would be to separate them by a double fence so that they could see and spell each other, but not touch. Because this will be my first attempt at weaning though, I do not know if that will just create more stress. I could ask my neighbor (out of earshot) if our mare could stay there for a few weeks also. I don't/wont have other foals to keep baby with to make weaning less stressful either. What about separating mom and foal for increasing amounts of time each day (decreasing nursing time/increasing solid feed over time)?
Our vet access is limited: one vet that goes way overboard with tests/etc. and one who is the exact opposite and tends to overlook things. I have had both vets out trying to decide which to have around during foaling, but can't decide. Any suggestions?
Ak here is my $.02 We only have 10 acres so we couldn't do the out of ear shot either. I think we waited till 6-8 weeks. Thats about when I noticed the moms starting to nudge the babys away. We did a gradual weaning over a weeks time. Seperating them during the day and back together at night. We have the driveway between the 2 horse areas. We did start riding the mares out too. I put a watch on my saddle and started riding out 15 min. away and worked our way up to an hour or 2 before we started the weaning process. I think that helped a bunch when weaning time came.
I think you can wean whenever you feel comfortable (within reason). I just figure when mom starts squeeling and nudging them away its time to have a go.
Oops I meant months, I was thinking puppys :oops:
Other have pretty much covered what I usually do/been taught.
Pre-foaling I have a straw lined yard that I lock my girls in at night then let them out to graze during the day. I'd made sure there were no gaps or wholes that foaly could slip through accidentaly. Feather of course decided to foal at 9am, 1 1/2 hour after I 'd let her out.
I have two paddocks so for the first day Faith had to spend it away from Feather and Glory so that Feather wasn't spending all her time shooing her away and had time to bond. That night I brought them all up to their yards so that they had indirect contact with each other and in the morning they went out together. I only did this as I observed how Feather was reacting, very protective, and Faith was being quite respective of Feather. I would check on the all, each hour.
As for weaning I have only used the complete seperation technique, I tend to leave baby where they are, in Glory's case she will have faith for companionship, Feather will go to my neighbours house with her horses as company. They will be out of earshot and sight of each other.
Yes, the best (IMO) and easiest is to keep them out of earshot, but IMO the most necessary is to keep them out of sight of each other. Both mares and foals have been known to injure themselves trying to get back to each other if they see each other when they can see each other. The dam will usually be the one to first stop "crying" or "screaming" for her baby. The foal usually takes a little longer. This is expecially true if they can't see each other. IMO it is kinder to make it quick instead of drawing it out. I am afaid that a double fence is a disaster waiting to happen. It would be much better to put the foal in a small enclosure with a buddy of some sort. Often we use "babysitter" geldings if we don't have 2 or more foals weaned at the same time. And put the dam as far away as possible on your acreage. Or, if you have a friend that you can take your dam to for a couple of weeks. Once fully weaned, they can be put back in the same pasture.
You can wait longer than 3-5 months to wean if you desire. But after 3 months the mares milk starts losing nutritional value and they are suckling more for "emotional" reasons than for nutrition. It is very easy now with our technicology to make completely nutritional feeds for foals. I had an orphan foal, dam died from uterine prolapse. He was bottle fed for 3 months on formula and slowly switched over to nutrina's Mare and Foal feed. He is now 2.5 years old and almost 16 hands! He is a tank, and he was never on his mother. So, I'd say that his nutritional needs were met. :D
Thanks TxHorsemom for letting me know about the double fence issue. I will check with my neighbor about keeping mom there with her horses for a while during weaning. She knows the horses well, so that should be nicer for her.
Just out of curiosity, has anyone heard of "Eezy Wean" (sp?)...a device to go on mare that discourages mare and foal from nursing. It is supposed to allow for gradual weaning, without separating. I read about it somewhere...Is this bogus??
Further input on working with mare during/after pregnancy? advantages? disadvantages?
Must dos for imprinting?
Other pregnancy/baby must dos??
I am so excited about it :)
You can continue to work with a mare during pregnancy doing anything that she is already conditioned to do. I usually give them a break the last 2 months though and only do light hacking, bareback if anything at all.
I usually don't do anything with my mares right after they foal until the baby is weaned. It's hard on me, but it can upset the mare if she is seperated from her baby. Besides, I like to give them time to just be a "mom". :D
I have heard of a devise for weaning, but I have never tried it. I am skeptical as to whether or not it works. As I said before I personally feel that the abrupt weaning is the best method. But I am sure that there are others that work too.
For Imprinting, it is best (easiest) if you can start it immediately after birth, starting with drying off with a towel. Just touch him all over, in the nose, mouth tough and "tap" the feet with your hand (to get him used to the sensation of a farrier) Don't have real long sessions. A couple of 10-15min sessions are much better.
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