1. Make sure your foal is ready – just because the calendar says it’s time doesn’t mean the mind is prepared. Know your baby well enough to recognize when he is independent enough to be able to handle separation.
  2. If you’re nursing mare is in foal (again), sometimes you need to step up the timeline to keep her healthy. Make sure you spend ample time with the foal from the onset to prepare him for an early separation. Pairing him with foals that are more independent and using them to help encourage behavior can help.
  3. Weaning foals on the same property where mares reside can be challenging, but this is often most easily done in the pastures (vs. stall confinement). If you have enough land, put the mares where the foals can’t see or hear them. The buddy system makes this a lot easier (often foals will bond with another – keep them together when you wean).
  4. If stall separating is your only option, sometimes it’s easier to put the foal in a stall adjacent to the mare. Make sure the walls are tall enough (this may require building them to the ceiling) so the baby cannot jump into the adjacent stall (or get hung up trying). With other foals (you should have a good read on their temperament by now), it’s necessary to get the mare as far away as possible from the foal. Sometimes, putting foals together in a stall can help all through the process for a couple of days.
  5. Keep an eye on the mare and watch her bag. Some absorb the milk quickly, others may have challenges. It’s important to give the mare ample daily exercise to ensure mastitis doesn’t set in.
  6. Teach babies to lead, accept human handling and get familiar with their intended new herd prior to weaning. The more familiar and comfortable they are with what will be required of them next (and don’t rule out the need for a possible vet visit from resulting injuries as a result of the weaning process), the easier it will be for both you and your foal.
  7. Ensure your foals trust, like and look to your for guidance and confidence. This can go a long way toward helping them make this tough transition.
  8. Start separate foal graining rations early. There are a number of feeds designed for foals (and this does not include mare & foal labelled products – look for those that include a milk supplement) to ensure your foal gets the nutrition he needs early. Mare’s milk starts deteriorating between months two and three and you should start addressing this with special and separate feed for your youngster at this time.  Suddenly throwing grain at them when weaned produces growth spurts that aren’t healthy.
  9. Check recently weaned foals daily for injuries and issues.
  10. Give your foals the trust, lead and confidence to see you as a  guide through this difficult transition. This needs to start early, but the benefits that result from your time and attention will pay considerable dividends in making this process easier for all.

4 Responses

  1. Or, why not wean at the mare + foal’s pace, gradually, by putting them next to each other, then letting them back in together *BEFORE* anyone gets upset, and keep increasing the time apart (and then the distance) each day, until one day (usually not very long – it only took 3 weeks with THE most bonded-“I want my mummy” sort of colt I’ve had) they don’t mind being away from each other permanently. No noise, no trying to escape, NO STRESS, NO injuries or chance of injuries or vet bills! Works wonderfully.

    1. I find it depends on the mare and foal – and the facility available to you. Ideally, the mare weans the foal so that when they are separated it’s no big deal for either. You need to be careful about separating and reintroducing mare and foal – some foals will react with more angst with this approach and there are health concerns with the mare who is still carrying a bag.

      You don’t always have a choice on weaning the foal (we had a very sick mare this year that was deteriorating with the foal’s drain – he needed a few more months even at five months old, and the mare needed him removed immediately).

      Really, the objective is to make it as easy as possible for all involved, which includes an ability to read your horses. Not all facilities are set up for personalized approaches to each mare and foal. Nor does the same approach work for every pair. If you can have some ideas to implement that make the process less stressful, I think this is always a good thing. Rarely, though, do pat solutions work all the time.

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