Oiy, I HATE WEANING!!!! Okay, now that is out of my system...
We have a small place and no way to wean on farm without mare/foal seeing and hearing eachother. Knowing that is not ideal, fence running and generally they just tend to freak out more if they can see eachother and hear eachothers cries.
Anyway, as such I took my mare off farm yesterday. The screaming stopped as soon as they were out of ear shot. Filly is doing okay, when she wants milk she cries a couple times and then gives up. She has another filly and a 21 year old appy gelding/babysitter she is smitten over so all is good from that side. The mare....I feel like such a jerk. She is at a farm down the road out with 4 unknown mares that wanted no parts of her. She was chased off and when I left standing in the far corner of the field while the other mares guarded the water and wouldn't let her drink. She is yanked from her baby, at a strange place with mean/strange mares, and I just feel so sad for her.
Anyway, I've only had her gone a day and I'm itching to get her home b/c I'm a paranoid worry wort. When she comes back she will be in a DIFFERENT field then her filly, but as I mentioned they CAN see and hear eachother.
So...how long do you think is good to keep them outta sight outta mind before I can bring her home without a melt down? Or is that just a total crap shoot? I was thinking 2 weeks to a month, but we had our others split for over a month and they had a couple melt down days when the mare came home and saw her filly across the way. Maybe that is inevitable...I don't know...
If you are going to put them back together, then at least three months. However, I have a small farm too, and although I can get them out of sight, I have never had trouble weaning with the mare/foal on opposite sides of the fence. Gradually they give up and walk away, and in many ways, I think it is a less stressful way to wean. I would be very stressed leaving my mare in with a herd of mares if she were just thrown in with them and was the low member on the totem pole. Weaning is stressful, I completely agree, but in the case of your mare, it could also be harmful.
I never wean off farm...it is just impossible for me to do it. I find weaning in adjoining pastures to be the least stressful way. There is a little worrying about why momma is in the wrong field but for the most part all are calm and in a week or so, they completely ignore each other. I did have one mare that would not stop worrying about her foal after a few weeks of separation and I had to move her to the other side of the farm for a week or so.
It is funny but they still do recognize each other even months later if I put them together but there is no attempt to nurse...just the mare and youngster greet each other warmly and then go about their business.
Yes I do it here on the farm as well. I have a retired OTTB gelding (Chocolate) who is a great weanling uncle and I turn baby out with him with mom out with her friends in the adjoining field. Here is a pic of Minx right after she was separated from her mother for the first time. Minx was running the fence and Chocolate decided to convince her to quit and settle down, so he would place himself half way down the fenceline and let her run into him! http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v1...inx0927072.jpg
and then a few minutes later, Minx and Chocolate were happily munching hay together and mom was enjoying her freedom out with her buddies. So, a minimum of stress for everyone, except maybe for Chocolate But he has done this for 5 foals now and really seems to understand that it is his job. He has never kicked or bitten a baby, but he finds ways by herding them with his much bigger body to teach them how they should behave. Makes them into good horse citizens who understand the dynamics of a mixed turnout situation. After about 3 months, everyone goes out together again.
We wean on farm as well - this year's Rosenthal baby was so independent she didn't even whimper ... We had turned her yearling older brother out with the pair of them about 6 weeks prior, and she bonded so strongly with him that it really wasn't an issue when momma was led away (momma was crying her head off, poor thing). It's really adorable to watch the siblings play
I don't wean off farm either. I would not be able to sleep at night if I did. I get a buddy for the foal and put the buddy next door - either my 28 yr. young retired hunter (he great with the babies - he keeps them in line and is very fair) or one of my fillies. Then put baby with the buddy(ies) and put mom with another mare that she gets along with. Usually the first day or two they fret a little, but each have their "friends" to console them and generally by the end of the week there is little to no fretting, but they might call each other once in awhile and generall a few weeks later they are both alright. I don't put them back with one another for a few months and believe that they know one another, and mom can still finish raising her baby, but just without the nursing. Good Luck with your mare and baby.
I would find some way to bring her home. Weaning across a fence can be very successful, as other posters have said, and would be much less stressful. If you need to put up some electric tape to reinforce the boundary, that's fine. But I would bring her home, let everybody calm down for a day or two, and then move her to an adjoining field.
I think something on the order of 6 months is a reasonable length of separation.
I also wean on the farm, but use a gradual method which I start by putting the mare and baby in adjoining stalls just for feeding, then add several minutes/day until they're apart 8 hours at a time, sometimes in adjoining stalls, sometimes in different (electric-taped) fields (baby always with his already-established buddy), always where they can see and hear each other if they wish.
I believe this gradual method is much less stressful than the traditional all at once approach-- and also easier on the mare's udder.
I also believe horses have very long memories and don't "forget" their babies, mothers or friends even after long separations.
That's how I did it, too. Mom and Baby had their own pasture and shed. Started feeding them on opposite sides of the fence. Then after they were comfortable with that, started feeding Mom in the barn and Baby in the field. Then introduced the Nanny. Then moved Mom to an adjoining field. Then took Mom off the farm. Absolutely zero dramatics from anyone.
As long as neither of them is calling for the other anymore, I too would find a way to bring her home. Your description sounds so heartbreaking, there has to be a way to work it out. I weaned on the farm with a small property. It wasn't perfect, but it went fine. The mare stayed in her stall and the foal was moved to a stall at the end of the row. I would have preferred to move the mare but we wanted the foal in the stall without a yoke in the door in case she tried to jump through the lower part. We alternated one of them in, one turned out for a couple of days and then turned them out at the same time in separate fields.
I wean off the farm. I lead the mare down the road to the neighbor's where she has a lot of other horses for company over the fences. The foal goes out with my aged pony. Mare is done screaming for the baby by the time we reach the neighbor's and becomes very interested in her new friends. The foal looks for awhile, calls a bit, and then goes about eating. This way is much easier and less stressful for me...and it seems less stressful on the mare and foal (not long drawn out, no pacing at the fenceline)...
I keep them apart for a minimum of a month, and then I do not put them back in the same pasture. I try to keep them as separate as possible in different pastures and stall them so one has the stall in the back of the barn, and the other in the aisle.
I don't like your situation where your mare was thrown in a pasture with "strangers." Is there a way she can have her own pasture or paddock? Maybe put a very undominant "friend" in with her if she can be in a separate paddock?
Next year, it will be easier because I'll have three foals (if all goes well), and the surrogate/recipient mares will all leave at the same time. Babies will have the buddies they've grown up with.
I also have a small farm - so small it's impossible to be out of sight or earshot from each other whichever side of the farm they're on. I used to always wean by sending the mare away for 4-6 weeks, then continue their separation once the mare returned -- for months.
NOW, I just gradually lengthen the times of separation - it's SO much less stressful for all - me included. I start by feeding the foal right outside the mare's stall in the barn aisle. As soon as the foal or mare gets antsy, I put foal back with mom. After a few days of this and everybody relaxes, I feed the foal in an adjoining stall, but leave the door open. (Of course, I'm always right there - NOTHING is unsupervised.) If the foal panics, she rushes out, sees mom, then eventually wanders back to the open stall and finishes eating. If mom calls, the foal is right there in a matter of seconds. After a couple of weeks of this, I close Junior's stall door. If anybody gets upset, I let them get back together, but just keep trying. Eventually the mare actually seems to ENJOY her time away from Junior. After a couple or 3 weeks of eating in adjoining stalls, I turn them out in adjoining pastures after their meals for short stents, but gradually lengthen the time they're on opposite sides of the fence - not by themselves but each with their own favorite buddy. Before long, voila, they're weaned.
This is the method I've used for many years now, and it's worked for me. The key is, there's no timeline - no rush - no trauma.
Honestly, the filly is doing GREAT! She is thriving, she has another filly friend she has been with since birth and an older gelding she has been with for a couple months. The gelding is SUCH a doll, now that he has the babies solo he watches and looks out for their every more, he really takes his surrogate mom job seriously.
The mare was better yesterday. She is "in" with 3 of the mares, it's just alpha that is still shooshing her off. I think at this point since I already committed I'll leave her there the 2-4 weeks unless they start fighting. The upside to her situation is that I think she is so confused by everything else going on she isn't really thinking about her filly, she isn't calling or crying, she is just trying to be accepted by her new companions (who were also just weaned by their foals, by the way). It's a bunch of grouchy kidless mares.
Next time I'll try on the farm, and see how it goes. It is nice to hear the success stories. Honestly, I'm surprised it works so well for you guys. I know the second I take them away from eachother they gallop the fenceline and scream in complete hysteria UNTIL they can't see eachother or hear eachother any more and then they totally settle down. I just assumed if I tried to do it on farm I'd have one trying to go over or into the fence and/or complete chaos.
They won't be going back out with eachother likely until next year, and that mainly has to do with our pasture set up, it just works better that way. I've got the old guy with the babes and my stud'muffin gelding with the adult gals.
Aren't the babysitter geldings just the most awesome horses? I loff this guy, I trust him 150% to take care of "his" kids and use gentle but firm discipline.
Considering how loud the mares can scream a farm would have to be enormous to really have the mare and foal be out of earshot, and sight for that matter. We wean on the farm and then sometimes a few days later may move the mare to another farm. It's not really necessary to move them off the farm at that point but I sometimes do just because I may be mixing up the herds a bit with the other pasture changes. I wean on the farm and have a paddock between them. Nobody climbs, jumps or gets hurt. In the past I have even weaned with only a fence between them but I prefer having more space between them if possible. If both the mare and the foal have friends they already know then the drama doesn't last that long. I think taking them off the farm to wean is really more to soothe our minds than anything because then we don't have to hear them calling.
Some mares and foals do much better with the off the farm weaning. I have done it both ways. I find they get over it much quicker off the farm. I also don't want any fence jumping which can happen if they are overly stressed by still seeing each other. I prefer to just remove them if I can. I find then they are over it in about 1 hour rather than a few days or more. Some mares make it easy to do it on the farm. I think you need to judge. If she were my mare I would leave her for at least a month and 2 or 3 would be ideal.
We do it off the farm, too, and it really works best for us. Mom leaves in the trailer about 10 AM to go to a farm a couple of miles away, and is usually over it in a hour or so, and baby stays in the stall until about 4 pm and then goes out as usual, with the others. Generally the babies stop screaming after the first night, when they come in for breakfast and Mom still isn't there. We do do them in pairs if possible, which makes it easier for the mares when they go to the other farm. This way there have been no jumpers and much less running than there was on farm. We usually wait at least a month to bring the mare back, and even then they don't go out together.
I weaned mine last week. Actually, they are now in stalls next to each other. No screaming or anything and they both settled in fine. Hailey was a bit uncertain when I turned her out with my gelding today and Aiden was in his stall, but after a while she wandered off and went grazing. Aiden is still on stall rest for one more week. When he can go out again I'll rotate his time out with my gelding.