Orphan at 3 months:(
I lost my mare to colic on Thursday. Anyway she had a foal at her side approaching 3 months. I was going to wean him early before he lost his mother but the situation forced my hand. The colt is eating/drinking normally and I've given him some ace the last couple days to ease the transition. Any other suggestions? I have an old pony broodmare that I was planning on turning him out with. She is a bit of a curmudgeon but so old I don't think she will hurt him. Any other thoughts or suggestions? I'm just so sad for the little guy. I'm naive to think this but I think he does know that she is gone.
So sorry...luckily I've never had to raise an orphan, but you will get plenty of good advice from here. The pony broodie sounds perfect, at least till he gets bigger. Colts tend to be more physical than fillies so he might start doing that as he gets bigger...but for now it will be perfect.
And obviously start slowly w/ bringing pony in a stall/pen next to him where they can get to know each other for afew days.
Just make sure pony can't get to babie's chow...not sure how to handle that...since pony could get below any creep feeder...maybe some of these smart COTHers can offer a good solution...
Again, I am so sorry for your loss. Good luck!
Sad part is I was boarding a plane to come home when vet/barn owner called to say mare had to be put down. I'm sure people on the plane thought I was crazy crying the entire 6 hours home. Good suggestion. I have to ship him home ( short 45 minute trip) to my farm. I do have a small paddock that is attached to barn. I plan to do a slow introduction over a few days. Maybe gastroguard?
Can't hurt...especially with all we know about ulcers in foals...again, I am so very, very sorry for your loss.
Originally Posted by kiwifruit
I've lost foals, and I even lost my treasured Akhal Teke stallion. But losing a broodie is one bullet I've managed to dodge...
So sorry, kiwi :( May I ask, did your mare have a torsion? I've dealt with that in a few mares after they foal. All of this extra space for things to slosh around with the baby gone. Ugh :(
Thankfully, he got 3 months with mom to learn the ropes and get her milk when it was most critical. He could go onto some Foal Lac pellets and whatever creep he has been eating. I've never fed the Progressive Foals First Starter & Creep feed, but it may be a good option if you can get it because it has some milk replacer incorporated with the grain. I do know some AQHA and APHA breeders that wean everything at 3-4 months, and they do fine. I think the biggest need are social, so to get him a buddy, and preferably someone who will remind him of his manners, is important. A low does of GastroGard/UlcerGard to get him settled after this episode may be a good idea too. I hope your pony mare works out and takes to him!
So sorry for the tragic loss of your mare.
I give preventative doses of gastroguard (10 days) to my foals when I wean them at 8 months; for a 3 month old in this higher stress situation it would be even more warranted, IMO.
As others have said a suitable companion will be highly beneficial to the foal. Since you are not sure of this pony mare's reaction to a foal, a gradual introduction via shared fence line would be best. It wouldn't hurt to reach out to friends in the local horse community to see if anyone has a proven "auntie" or "uncle" companion for youngsters in case your pony mare doesn't work out. Other breeders in particular may have proven "nannys".
Kiwi, I assume you are not in the US? Do you have some sort of foal milk pellet feed available? If so, that would be the best feed for your foal until he is at least 4-5 months old when he will be able to digest cereal based feed. At 4 months you can start mixing in a feed formulated for weanlings and switch to that completely by the end of month five.
Kyzteke, makes a good point that it wlll be very important to see that his pony companion cannot get into that food.
The pony will be adequate company, but it would be even better if you can give your baby another foal for company, though it certainly is not critical.
I would recommend preventive ulcergard or gastrogard. Being orphaned is pretty serious stress.
Good luck. Being orphaned at this age is a lot simpler to handle than at birth. As long as his social needs are addressed, your baby should grow up to be perfectly normal in every way.
I too am curious if the mare had a colon torsion. I lost a mare to that in 2005. Unfortunately, her foal was only 20 hours old. We got him through the loss of his mama. Losing a mare is so very hard hard. Few things are sadder.
I'm actually in the US:) right outside of Philly. Not sure what she actually had but vet thought it might have started at labor two months ago and just progressed to a twist and she deteriorated less than 6 hours. Just curious, when do most wean their babies? Before the mare died, vet said my foal was getting way too big, too fast and recommended weaning at 3 months. He is 10 days shy of the 3 month mark but he is chowing his cup of 10 percent feed twice a day and grazing normally. How important is socialization at this time? Mare did a nice job of keeping him in boundaries. I think pony mare is gonna do tough love with him since he like to be playful. When is it safe to turn him out with adult horses? I just hope this doesn't affect him too much.
Early weaning big babies is very old school. I was told the same thing when I had my first homebred filly. I wish that I had not listened to my vet. Weaning her at 3 months was not the best option and not something that I would repeat. Much better to keep the foal with the mare until 6 months and be sure to address any growth issues in other ways.
Though he may be eating a 10% feed readily, you would be much better off to get him either Progressive or Buckeye foal pellets that are milk based until he is at least 5 months old. Though he will survive on adult feed, he will not digest it well and it is not really fulfilling his needs nutritionally.
Any other equine companion that is safe with a foal will do. A kind older mare would be fine. I would be very careful introducing any other adult horse or pony, taking time to be sure that they will tolerate a foal, if you are not already certain that they will. Though he would benefit from an adult that will establish boundaries, he'd also benefit from a horse that will let him play a bit, or from a foal companion that will play with him.
Thanks home again! I will look into pellets today. May I ask why you would not wean early? I have no choice with my situation but wondering for the future, if I decide to breed again:)
I have since weaned many foals and all transitioned much more smoothly, both behaviorally (less obvious stress) and in regards to avoiding spurts and and falls in growth. Foals that are at least 6 months old will take the weaning more easily, their growth will remain more stable, their dams will be less stressed at weaning. I could go on and on. I am fairly sure that 90% or more of the breeders on this forum will agree.
You had no choice and your foal will do fine, if you see that he has companionship and good nutrition.
So terribly sorry about your loss, Kiwi. It's bad enough to have that happen, without being stuck somewhere like that, and not able to be with friends.
Lots of good advice given already. Just wanted to say that I was sorry for your loss, and to let you know that I have weaned as early as three months with no problems (though I too prefer keeping them on the mare at least a little longer, if possible). At that point, since they are usually eating gay/grain on their own, and since the nutritional value of the mare's milk has peaked already, it is more of a comfort/ psychological issue for the foal than a physical one (depending on the individual foal, of course).
He should be fine as long as he has a companion. Good luck and keep us posted! :-)
Thanks. Of course now I'm worried that his growth will be stunted because of the trama. Oh well. No sense in worrying over things out of my control. Thanks guys for the support.
Don't worry. If you address his nutrition and social needs, he will be perfectly normal. The filly I weaned early grew to over 17h. Your foal's mama fulfilled all his most vital needs.
I agree with Mary Lou, I'm sure your baby will be fine, and the old pony mare should be a good companion at least for a while.
Originally Posted by Home Again Farm
I'm so sorry about your loss of your mare. It is one of the saddest things I know. Best of luck with your baby.
Many breeders wean at three months of age so your foal will be fine.
My foundation WB broodmare was orphaned at 3 weeks. She was NEVER put with another horse and (apparently) never actually treated like an animal who was going to be over 1000 lbs when grown.
When she was 4 yrs old and over 17hh, she was a real terror on the ground (although, oddly, NOT u/s), rearing over top of people (never striking, but still...when a 17hh horse rears over your head, it gets your attention), walking over top of them and even (yes, they allowed this) chasing people out of her pen!!!
When she kicked through a metal barn wall and cut herself across the coronet band, her riding days were over and NO ONE wanted her (and she was 100% Hanoverian).
I paid $2500 for her.
The first time she was EVER turned out w/ another horse was the day I brought her home and tossed her out with my "herd". My (14.1hh) alpha mare Arab went straight for her, whipped around and starting double barreling her. WB mare ran like heck, with the Fat Arab in hot pursuit. After 2-3 turns around the (large) field, WB mare was properly subdued and spent the next 2 yrs trying to work her way up in the herd (that first year the only one she could boss around was a yearling).
Since I had handled quite afew racing TBs, this mare really was not a hard case. She only reared on me once, and when I whipped her hind legs while she was up, she looked at me with total shock.
Never did it again.
The point -- don't spoil this guy and don't feel sorry for him. The pony mare will be fine for the next month or so (again, don't let the pony eat all the food), but I would try pairing him up with an older and/or bigger horse. Sometimes yearlings are pretty good, because Home Again is right -- babies like to play and he should have someone to play with. But I also like a bossy adult in the herd who will help keep order.
And HA has given you great advice on nutrition -- a foal this young is not going to get all he needs from "grown up" food at this age. The early weaning stuff is old school; you can often control the growth of the foal by monitoring the mare's intake.
Either way, ALOT of folks on this board have successfully raised orphans younger than yours, so it's a good source of info.
Again, best of luck to you...and so very sorry about your mare...
So sorry for your loss.
Your colt should do ok at three months. I do agree with ulcer treatment.
In general, fillies are a lot more attached to mom and I would always wean late with a filly.
Colts are so much more independent so he will hopefully adjust quickly.
I am so sorry for the loss of your mare. I was vey lucky this year that my mare had a torsion 24 hours after foaling and did well through surgery. It was a long haul and I am still terrified about her having a colic bout again.
Having said that I always have one foal at a time due to logistics (manpower, finances, acreage, etc). I wean them about 6 months of age onto a little paint mare pony I have. She will play with them a little but mostly is really great at discipline. I do feel bad they don't have a playmate their age, but they all grow up fine, well adjusted, and nicely mannered. Frankly for me it is much easier as I can spend a lot of hands on time with one foal at a time. ALso, when I work with them from weaning age to 3 years of age I don't have to deal with a herd of youngsters screaming for their herd mate. My little paint mare is happy to get her "own time":)
So sorry for the loss of your mare. I lost my mare at only 4 years of age and her colt was just shy of 4 months. :-( I would not recommend doing this but her situation was critical, she needed to get to the hospital. I didn't want a relatively healthy foal to go with her when it was highly unlikely she was coming home so this is what I did: I loaded them both up in the trailer, got to the new home of my colt, unloaded him & put him in small pasture with another weanling and drove off with mare in trailer. It was the HARDEST thing imaginable to do, I still don't know how I drove that trailer away with the tears in my eyes. The colt made a few laps whinnying, which I saw in my rear view mirror (I did say this was HARD, right?!) but mare was quiet which should tell you what state she was in (not good). Off to the hospital we went. Momma never came home. When I went back to check on my colt later that day it was like nothing ever happened, he was fine. Eventually we moved him over to a bigger pasture with more little buddies and he grew up on that farm until he was 2. Then I put him out with a little 3 year old I had purchased and those guys were pasture buddies for another year. He's been out with other ponies/horses and is very well adjusted/socialized. He's now 4 and the most level headed, trainable little guy around. It can be done and end up ok....hugs to you though, this is so tough.