View Full Version : weaning a colt

Oct. 9, 2008, 10:46 AM
Ok, I know nothing about breeding, nor birthing or weaning.
I rescued a pony mare last fall, who according to 5 vets was absolutely not pregnant. Well, guess what, she was and I was surprised with a nice little colt. I have never even been around nor found any interest in this subject, since I never have had intentions of breeding. So, in this case, I am a total newbie.

He is coming 4 months, doing very well, has been out to pasture with mom and my oldest gelding. Halter trained and been handled and is a good colt.

I have no intentions of selling him, nor do I know any places where I could board him for weaning, nor do I want to. Mare was seriously abused and has no trust with people. In the year, she has come a huge long way, and is beginning to understand she will not be beaten and I actually believe she may turn around and really trust...I see signs that she is beginning to consider that. As a side note, I have made major efforts to not allow the colt to observe any fear based behavior in mom to rub off on him, and he is friendly, comes to you in the field, and a preety normal colt considering his dam and her trust issues.

So, can you folks share with me weaning 101, and if I can do this on farm.

I have three herds of horses here, one I would consider putting him in with. I could also put him in with my gelding who he's been with in their own separate pasture area.

Mom has never really given a hoot about the colt, no corrections, does her own thing, and if he wants to nurse, he has to come find her. So, I think/hope she will be fine with him being weaned. It is my elder gelding who is quite possesive of him in a very strong way. He is crazed if the colt is out of his site for a moment. Its quite strange, but thats another post! I worry more about the colt being weaned from my gelding(LOL).

If there are any good books out there too, I am more than happy to read.

I just would like how its done on farm, and also do mom's ever kick the baby off?

He is 4 months, and at what age should I consider doing this.
thanks for sharing your experiences and any good tips.

Oct. 9, 2008, 10:54 AM
The EASIEST weaning I've ever seen went this way:

Colt and momma had been out with a small herd since day one.
At about 5 months, colt came into the barn to be gelded.
When colt was knocked out, momma got on a trailer and went to another barn.
When colt woke up, he was put back out with his herd, minus momma.

It took him WELL over an hour to realize momma was missing. He called once or twice and then went back to eating with his herd. That was it. I was impressed.

Oct. 9, 2008, 10:56 AM
There is a "Sticky" on Sport Horse Breeding regarding weaning. :)

Oct. 9, 2008, 11:01 AM
We have three babies coming up on five months. They will be weaned in the next few weeks. Since we usually have more than one baby we place them in their own separate pasture together by themselves. They seem to go through a day of withdrawal calling for their mothers then settle down.

Since you are able to do so I would put him in with the gelding he is used to in their own pasture. There may be a day of calling but they should be fine. We also cut down the mares rations to a maintainance ration instead of a nursing mare ration. We usually start this a day or two before pulling the foals off.

If the colt has a buddy to go through weaning with it is so much better!

Oct. 9, 2008, 12:45 PM
what is a sticky, how do I find it, what is the title of the thread.
I went to sport horse breeding but could not find a topic or a sticky!

Oct. 9, 2008, 12:48 PM
It's at the very top of the forum--the second thread listed: http://www.chronicleforums.com/Forum/showthread.php?t=150240

Oct. 9, 2008, 12:59 PM
thanks...wow, I didn't know anything about 'signs' for weaning or blood in the feet...!

Anything on best time to geld?
Also, when is the best time to wean...age wise?

Oct. 10, 2008, 12:18 AM
I guess I'm just a wuss. I feel that cold turkey weaning is hard on everyone. I like to lessen the nursing by separating the mare and foal at night, then part of the day, and this depends on your set-up and other animals. It seems to me the foal's tummy can adjust to less milk and it is not such a shock to his system. Keep thinking of stress and ulcers and perfer to take precautions. Just less calling and adjustment in my view - I know lots of people just drive off with the mare and that's it.

Oct. 10, 2008, 01:08 AM
Foxtrot's, I'd be with you EXCEPT... the foals I've had have done a gradual SELF-weaning. Example: my colt was born 5/31. Chances of seeing him with his mom are slim. He is in a pasture with two weanling fillies, his mom, his BFF (a colt 4 days his senior), his BFF's dam, and a pregnant mare. I don't have the luxury of watching them for hours but I'm out by the pastures a lot, and haven't seen him nurse for WEEKS. In fact the last time I saw him nurse was when we put him and his mom in the llama pen for a day, and I think that was more for comfort ("What ARE those weird things?! Good heavens I need a drink!").

My colt and his buddy are definitely eating mostly grass now, maybe with a quick milk chaser here and there, and I doubt losing the milk would have a big effect. We are waiting for the early November wean-by-the-signs dates, and will just move the mares into the barn or to a different pasture. Then my poor pregnant mare will have FOUR weanlings to deal with! She does love them though.

I agree that the OP should let her colt stay with the attentive, attached gelding. You can worry about breaking up THAT tie later if necessary, right now it will be great for him.

Oct. 10, 2008, 09:11 AM
Hmmm, I was hoping to hear that a foal could self wean. Since his mom really doesn't seek him out, that sounds like it could work. Only problem is he is a pig and demanding.

Foxtrot, was it harder on the dam to sort of begin to dry up, to be reunited, etc?

What I am considering, is putting in gelding and colt in an adjacent pasture to the dam, but keeping the colt unable to nurse so the dam can dry up.

How long would they need to be separated so she can dry up?

When is the optimal time to wean? He is 4 months yesterday, I am in no hurry, just want to do it at a time good for him and mom and me.

Thanks for your input guys. This baby stuff is all new to me.

Oh, and last question, when do you start the babies on grain? He is quite vigorous, healthy, and on good pasture and quality hay. I just didn't feel it was critical to get him on grain. Am I incorrect?

This colt is out of a pony mare(12.2),a welsh/hackney like cross. He is at 4 months already almost as tall as mom, so she was bred to a horse obviously. She was a rescue, so no ideas on who the sire was. The dam is also an older horse(20+), and I highly doubt this is her first baby.

Oct. 10, 2008, 01:22 PM
Thinking as a person - milk comes by supply and demand. If the colt self-weans the mare makes less and less milk. In my case, where I don't have a herd for distraction, the young ones seem to stay glommed onto the mare for ever. So I separate for longer and longer periods of time. There again, I'm able to, with my set-up and my agenda. I think I am in the minority ???

Oct. 10, 2008, 01:49 PM
I was in a very similar position as you were fivehorses. An unexpected first foal and no place to seperate them for weaning. I had my colt gelded at 5 1/2 months when he was still with his mom. I didn't wean him until he was 7 months old and if I had left it up to his mom she would have nursed him forever!! Since he lived in a herd since he was young he was already used to the other horses so I just fenced their large paddock in half and seperated them. He could stand next to her but couldn't nurse. It took a month or so for her to completely dry up. When I put them back together he did still try to nurse but she had no milk. This was not an ideal way to do it but my only option at the time. When he was 2 1/2 he went off to training for a year and sadly since he had never been away from her it was like he had never been weaned and it was much harder for him at first. After a year he came back home and at the age of 3 1/2 he actually tried to nurse off her and she let him!!! He has finally stopped but they are very close and he rarely leaves her side.

My advice to you is to take one of them off the property if you can but if not seperate them as far away as possible.

Oct. 10, 2008, 03:07 PM
I did both of mine off property this year. First one we ended up taking the filly, and another filly/broodmare away (convenience thing, we were moving them all anyway, so this was a good time to move and wean).

Second we left the filly with her filly friend and old babysitter gelding friend and trailered mom off farm.

Both weanlings did great this way. Both mares...well the first mare galloped the fenceline a couple hours and called, but getting no response gave up. Second mare had to make her way into the pecking order of a strange herd of mares.

Honestly, next year I will probably try to do it on the farm, but what i have noticed 100% is that the freaking out stops when they are out of sight out of sound. Because of that I've been nervous to do on farm weanings as I have no way to keep them that far apart, but I know those on here that do it with success.

4-6 months is fine to wean, some wait longer. Sounds like yours are ready.

Oct. 10, 2008, 07:51 PM
Move the colt and gelding to a separate field, no other horses, for minimum of a month. You can then wean the colt from the gelding.

I do not like to put babies in large groups, as they will be picked on and tend to get hurt, sometimes very badly. I prefer 2 or 3 babies together, or 1 baby with a "C" personality horse. We have a 12 hand pony who has weaned almost all of our babies (one at a time, we haven't bred much recently) the past 3-4 years.

Oct. 10, 2008, 07:53 PM
I didn't read everyone's replies, to I might repeat. When I only had one foal to wean, I'd add another horse to mom and baby and once they were getting along, take mom out. It sounds like you've already got that situation. The thing I'd worry about is the gelding doting on him too much. I've read that the older baby sitter often isn't as great as one closer in age, as the baby needs to learn about herd dynamics. If he's always spoiled and looked after, it's going to be a rude awakening when he has to learn to respect another horse and get out of the way of flying hooves or barred teeth. But is sounds like your gelding will chase anything else off. You'll have to play with it a bit. If it were me, I might take the gelding out for a few days (you'll be weaning him!), then add one or 2 back that are kind, but not so over protective. Then if that mix is working, take mom out.

being a pony, she might not be getting any grain, but if she is, cut that out a few days before separation.
I've tried the slow weaning, but the mares get filled up with milk every day and I just think it was dragging it out and giving them more discomfort. I've been lucky in recent years to have more than one foal, or a very suitable baby sitter.

I had 4 this year. 3 of the mares I gave a half dose of banamine in the 2nd day to get them over the hump. The 4th ( with youngest baby) had very little discomfort even though the foal wasn't any older at weaning... but she (the foal) had been getting grain the longest (with other foals), so might have been drinking much less. I was able to separate them so they didn't have adjoining fences, but could still hear each other. The foals each worried a bit calling and running some for a day, but it was no big deal. with 4 of them, they had plenty of company.... and the last mare had all 4 kids with her for awhile. (she was so looking for adult conversation LOL)

Good luck!

Oct. 10, 2008, 08:43 PM
I'm with Foxtrot! I wean gradually and across the fence line. No screaming, no freaking, no meds! ;)
I start taking the mare out for short periods and then increase the length, leaving baby with the buddies he/she is used to and in the environment he/she is used to. The more changes you make the harder it is and weaning is already stressful enough. I would definitely not castrate him at the same time. I usually castrate my colts the next spring when they are about 10 months old!
Most people wean at 4-6 months, but 4 months is early and the earlier you wean the harder it is on mare and foal!
By the way, I find the gradual weaning is much easier on mom as well, since it gradually reduces her milk supply instead of going from high demand to nothing, which can lead to mastitis or in the least a very swollen and painful udder for a while.
Good luck and kudos for taking such good care of the mare and her surprise addition! :)

Oct. 11, 2008, 11:18 AM
Thank you everyone for your replies.

At this point, when I feel the time is right, I am going to put colt and older gelding in an adjacent pasture. Colt in a separate stall at night(yikes).

I think it should be easy enough, since mom isn't that interested in baby as long as he is in her sight(sometimes), and the colt and my gelding seem to graze together in the field with mom off somewhere else.

It may be very easy, prefer to do it on farm. I have enough paddocks/pastures to keep them next to each other, but not together.

I agree, putting baby and gelding in with gelding's old herd is a recipe for disaster. Putting mom in there is also an apple spoiler. So, they will be separated for a month and then rejoined.

I think I will wait till november or even december.

Now, what about mastitis or other issues I need to worry about for mom?
Mom is quite mistrustful and I highly doubt I could give her shots or handle her udder without being kicked across the barn. How do I avoid mastitis or any other mare type issues?

Oct. 11, 2008, 06:06 PM
First of all, one month is not long enough of a seperation! She probably won't be dried up that quickly and even if she is, the foal will go back to nursing and the milk will come right back!
The later you wean the baby the less likely that the mare will develop mastitis as the milk supply will have reduced naturally already! If you wean early (around 4 months) then weaning gradually will take care of that as well!
Why are you stalling the colt at night? He would probably be much happier staying where he is with his buddy!
Why can't mom go in with the rest of the herd?

Oct. 11, 2008, 06:56 PM
I thought folks mentioned separation was for one month to dry up the dam. If I need to, not a problem to keep them apart longer. How long?

I keep all my horses in stalls at night. Right now, mom and colt are in a big stall together. I meant, he needs to move out to his own stall and not share one with mom when I wean.

I am in no rush to wean. He is just 4 months, so I have a bit longer if I want. I also want to see signs from mom to say enough. I have a feeling this mare will 'know' when enough is enough.

When it comes to horses, I do not rush things, I did not rush imprinting as was advised. I know mom is mistrustful, and it was more important for me that the colt not see mom's angst, so I let him be the inquisitive one. He is totally fine, lift his legs, halter on and off, blankets on and off. I listened to my gut and felt if early on, mom sent non verbal signals indicating 'humans' are bad, that the colt would have more issues with handling.

As I op'd, I know nothing about breeding and weaning, but have owned horses for over 40 years, many of them weanlings, but someone else weaned them, I just got them as youngsters, so I am not totally ignorant when it comes to what my gut tells me. You know, the more you know, the less you know~so I seek other opinions.
I wanted to hear different perspectives and like we all do, kind of manage it with flexibility as we proceed, based on what works and what doesn't.

I prefer a less stressful approach since off farm isn't a possibility or desire. I have enough turnout paddocks to keep them separate.
I do wish I could expose him to more herd dynamics, but my 'safe' herd with least amount of issues is full of drafts, and this is pony colt. He does walk around the barns at night and goes and meets everyone, so he is not totally isolated from an exchange with other horses. Although, I think they would be kind, I am waiting till next year. I live in a winter wonderland and with ice and snow, it is not the best time to introduce horses to one another.

Anyhow, thats how I plan to proceed, but am very open to concerns, questions or issues people have. I certainly perked up when I read about mastitis, and want to avoid any problems for mom or colt.

My senior gelding will be a good teacher for this colt, and they are already established.

Oct. 12, 2008, 10:58 AM
Sorry, living in CA I sometimes forget that there are parts of the country that actually get cold! ;)
Sounds like you're doing great and I'm sure everything will go smooth! Continue to listen to your gut! Don't worry about mastitis if you're weaning at 6 months +, the chances will be very low of that happening. I do think you need to keep mom away from baby for a minimum of 3 months to ensure the baby doesn't go right back to nursing!

Oct. 14, 2008, 10:30 AM
Fivehorses............I think that seperating my mare and colt for only a month worked for us because he was already 7 months old and not nursing very much so she didn't have alot of milk anyway. Maybe wait a couple more months before you wean him. Given that his mom doesn't seem to attached to him she might just wean him for you!!

Good luck!

Oct. 14, 2008, 11:34 AM
Thanks. I am going to let them guide me within reason. I have no issues waiting longer, as long as mom holds her weight. We are going into winter, and the cold and nursing could be harder on her, so I am going to watch how it goes.
It seems he is only nursing when they first come in from the pasture or if he gets upset about something. Otherwise, he is eating hay and pasture and seems to be content.
Wouldn't it be the best if mom took care of this. Actually, it won't surprise me...she seems to have done this a few times(lol). Probably wondering why he hasn't been sold off yet based on her past.