Mare and Foal Herd Dynamics - The Horse Forum
  • 1 Post By usandpets
  • 1 Post By SueNH
  • 1 Post By dbarabians
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post #1 of 5 Old 11-05-2013, 06:56 AM Thread Starter
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Mare and Foal Herd Dynamics

I was watching the cows and calves the other morning, observing the various relationships going on within the herd. I have no experience of mares and foals in such a group situation and I wondered whether there were any similarities?

Most of the cows are quite precious about their baby and will only feed their own offspring. Should another calf try to sneak a free meal the cow will, usually very gently, discourage it. One cow we have is extremely maternal and happily lets any calf suckle. Two cows, who have a very strong bond, will wash and suckle each other's calf but no others. Sometimes the mommas want a bit of "me time" and appear to elect a lower member of the herd to watch the babies while they disappear off down the pasture.

Long suffering Tania on baby-sitting duty:


So can you tell me, please, how do your horses behave?
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post #2 of 5 Old 11-05-2013, 07:29 AM
Green Broke
Join Date: Jan 2011
Location: North Dakota, USA
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We've only dealt with 2 mares with foals. The first, we didn't own the mare and they were separated from any herd. The second, we have now. Currently, they are separated from the other mares but one has been very protective from the beginning. When they are out with the mares, protective mare is right with the foal and babysits. She doesn't let him suckle but keeps him close and watches him. He has tried to suckle off the other mares but only momma has milk.
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post #3 of 5 Old 11-06-2013, 09:20 AM Thread Starter
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Thank you for your reply, Usandpets.

Any other musings, people? Or have I just outed myself as having WAAY too much time on my hands !
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post #4 of 5 Old 11-06-2013, 10:37 AM
Green Broke
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I love watching herd dynamics be it goats, cows, horses or a flock of hens.
I don't breed(except a few chickens), have only had one cow but I could watch my small herd of horses interact all day.

Used to have a QH gelding who was gelded at 5 or 6 yrs old, he remained kinda studly well into advanced old age. Pretty much anything except produce a foal. When a predator would approach his band of mares the pony would choose direction of travel and old King would bring up the rear making sure the fillies would continue out of harms way. Really the pony mare was in charge but he was the one that made a lot of show and bluster so you noticed him more. A late gelded donkey would also drop back and do a rather in-depth analysis of the situation. Sometimes he would stay and back up the QH, sometimes he would leave town with the mares (bears). If it was a coyote the donkey would command the attack. Either way the QH almost alway fell into the expendable position. Without him knowing it the donk would set him up as a distraction and swing in for what he meant to be a kill. Sometimes the donkey would intentionally run a young coyote into the electric fence. The donkey would obviously be smiling as the young canine went screaming back into the woods.

Since the donkey passed I've pretty much given up trying to keep goats and chickens. I had a goat taken out by coyotes a couple of years ago. Was a big dairy buck with huge recurving horns but very old. I could see where the QH actually attempted a rescue by the tracks in the mud and torn up grass but he was too late. Knowing old King it probably took him too long to work up real courage and dive in.

Not mare and foal but my pony mare raised a goat. Bambi was just barely weaned when I got her and the pony took to caring for her. Would groom and protect her like it was her own. I still had to do a little bottle feeding but the pony did the rest. Goat actually had an alpha position in my little horse herd because of it when she grew up. 2nd in command a nubian goat. That goat in turn raised a 4 day old jersey calf I was given. Sammy Sirloin didn't stick around long enough for an official position in the pack but I often wonder what would have happened. I actually sold him to somebody down the road. Knew I wouldn't have been able to use him for the original intended purpose. Plus he was still trying to nurse on the goat who had 2 kids of her own and he was getting way too big too fast. No more cows. Learned that real fast.
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post #5 of 5 Old 11-06-2013, 01:02 PM
Join Date: May 2011
Location: Texas
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All my mares foal in a herd and remain there.
The foals can eat at any pile of hay with any mare. When feeding grain they only dine with their dams. The other mares and geldings are quite protective of the foals and spend time playing with them.
I bad a mare adopt a foal two years ago. Only when he was nursing or eating was he near his dam. The rest of the time he was with my mare Krystal and she treated him like her own foal. Next year when she is open and the 7 foals arrive I want to see if she does this again. Shalom
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