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Advice needed on foal weaning when I intend to keep the foal

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  • Advice needed on foal weaning when I intend to keep the foal

    Hi. I bred my mare and now have a foal which I intend to keep. I board at a “smallish” farm that I LOVE and have no intention of leaving. My foal is the only foal on the farm that has about 2 mare pastures and 2 gelding pastures. There are also about 5 private paddocks available that are fenced with hot wire only.

    I have gotten opinions from several people, including my vet, a nearby trainer at a farm that has several foals annually, and other lay friends/associates. THE ONLY THING ALL THESE OPINIONS HAVE IN COMMON IS THAT NONE OF THEM HAVE ANYTHING IN COMMON. I’ve heard abrupt weaning at 3 months is best by moving the foal off the farm for 30 days and then bringing her back. I’ve heard 8 months weaning is best, using a “gradual” method and letting the mare reject the foal "naturally" and then separating them in different pastures. And I’ve hear everything in between these two examples.

    I would be grateful for advice based on others’ experience on smaller farms when the baby is not being sold and will eventually live on the farm with the mare. Thank you so much

  • #2
    Personally I like the gradual process, not as psychologically traumatic and also allowing the foal to reach a healthy weight

    and condition. Separating abruptly is VERY traumatic, especially for the foal, sometimes for the mare. But babies can

    lose a bit of weight and condition at weaning and become more immune stressed. If allowed to wait for weaning til foal is

    a little older, the mare begins the process of weaning by discouraging frequent nursing. She will, most times, help

    you in that regard. Do what's best for your animals, not what's most convenient for barn owners.
    Last edited by Marla 100; Apr. 20, 2019, 09:51 AM.
    "There is no fundamental difference between man and animals in their ability to feel pleasure and pain, happiness, and misery." - Charles Darwin

    Comment

    • Original Poster

      #3
      Originally posted by Marla 100 View Post
      Personally I like the gradual process, not as psychologically traumatic and also allowing the foal to reach a healthy weight

      and condition. Separating abruptly is VERY traumatic, especially for the foal, sometimes for the mare. But babies can

      lose a bit of weight and condition at foaling and become more immune stressed. If allowed to wait for weaning til foal is

      a little older, the mare begins the process of weaning by discouraging frequent nursing. She will, most times, help

      you in that regard. Do what's best for your animals, not what's most convenient for barn owners.
      Thank you Marla. My barn owner actually prefers keeping the foal on the farm and using a gradual method - she's really wonderful and has done everything she can to accommodate mom and baby. Have you had this situation wherein you've kept the foal? If so, did you have any difficulty after they separated? Thank you again.

      Comment


      • #4
        You never move the foal regardless of whether you do gradual or abrupt, you always leave the foal in his familiar environment and move the mare. No one I know has ever weaned at 3 months, that is way too early in my opinion. A month is not even close to long enough to keep them separated however. You need to do at least 3 months and if the foal is a colt you need to keep him separate from his dam or any other mares for at least a month after gelding.
        McDowell Racing Stables

        Home Away From Home

        Comment


        • #5
          I would never wean at three months unless there was a medical reason. I don't see any benefit otherwise.
          I like weaning around six months. I start feeding them separately as the foal gets older (closer to weaning age) and get them use to being apart for short periods. I don't take them out of sight and I do it gradually.
          I have weaned both gradually and by taking the mare and her best friend off of the farm. I always leave the foal home. Both ways have worked well. Taking the mare off of the farm has been easiest. I have weaned over 40 mares/foals.
          Do your mare and foal go out alone together?
          Accuracy is the twin brother of honesty; inaccuracy, of dishonesty.
          Nathaniel Hawthorne

          Comment


          • #6
            We have always done it cold turkey, at about 5-7 months depending on timing/ whether the mare is re-bred, etc. They are used to being in stalls during the hottest part of the day and out at night, so we take the mares away in the morning (and board them at a farm nearby for a month). Then the foal gets turned out that night with the remaining group. Usually they are upset for about half an hour in the stall and whinny a lot off and on. Then for 15 minutes or so in the field they really look for the mare and then they start to settle down. They all seem to be over it in about 48 hours (less for most of the mares) and back in the routine. We try to always do 5 days of ulcerguard, too. Whatever you choose, I would try to figure out a buddy for the foal in advance and I would not move the foal to another farm if you can help it-- the mare is much less likely to get hurt/ sick.

            Comment

            • Original Poster

              #7
              Originally posted by Laurierace View Post
              You never move the foal regardless of whether you do gradual or abrupt, you always leave the foal in his familiar environment and move the mare. No one I know has ever weaned at 3 months, that is way too early in my opinion. A month is not even close to long enough to keep them separated however. You need to do at least 3 months and if the foal is a colt you need to keep him separate from his dam or any other mares for at least a month after gelding.
              Thank you In your opinion, if I move the mare to a different pasture on the same "smallish" farm for three months or so, can they ever be together again or will they need to be permanently separated. The foal is a filly by the way I should have made that clear in my original post. Thanks!

              Comment

              • Original Poster

                #8
                Originally posted by bingbingbing View Post
                I would never wean at three months unless there was a medical reason. I don't see any benefit otherwise.
                I like weaning around six months. I start feeding them separately as the foal gets older (closer to weaning age) and get them use to being apart for short periods. I don't take them out of sight and I do it gradually.
                I have weaned both gradually and by taking the mare and her best friend off of the farm. I always leave the foal home. Both ways have worked well. Taking the mare off of the farm has been easiest. I have weaned over 40 mares/foals.
                Do your mare and foal go out alone together?
                Thank you. Thus far, they have been alone outside except that their stall is open at sightline (bars) to horses on both sides, one a best friend mare and the other a best friend mini. Barn owner and I thought it might work if we choose gradual to move the mare and her best friend mare to a farther away pasture and allow the minis (there are two) to herd with the filly.

                Comment

                • Original Poster

                  #9
                  Originally posted by Highflyer View Post
                  We have always done it cold turkey, at about 5-7 months depending on timing/ whether the mare is re-bred, etc. They are used to being in stalls during the hottest part of the day and out at night, so we take the mares away in the morning (and board them at a farm nearby for a month). Then the foal gets turned out that night with the remaining group. Usually they are upset for about half an hour in the stall and whinny a lot off and on. Then for 15 minutes or so in the field they really look for the mare and then they start to settle down. They all seem to be over it in about 48 hours (less for most of the mares) and back in the routine. We try to always do 5 days of ulcerguard, too. Whatever you choose, I would try to figure out a buddy for the foal in advance and I would not move the foal to another farm if you can help it-- the mare is much less likely to get hurt/ sick.
                  Thank you!

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by kimmielou01 View Post

                    Thank you In your opinion, if I move the mare to a different pasture on the same "smallish" farm for three months or so, can they ever be together again or will they need to be permanently separated. The foal is a filly by the way I should have made that clear in my original post. Thanks!
                    It depends but most of the time you can reintroduce them. My mare was always nasty to her foals after they were weaned so I never chanced it but many horses do live happily ever after once the mare is dried up. The biggest issue is a tolerant mare who lets the foal nurse after you reintroduce them. That can stimulate her to make milk again or cause her pain so watch for that. Best of luck to you all.
                    McDowell Racing Stables

                    Home Away From Home

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      As you can tell, there is no single best way, because a lot depends on the farm setup and the mare and foal temperaments.

                      My opinion, fwiw: gradual weaning, 6+ months.

                      By gradual, I mean start separating for meals - adjacent stalls if possible, or 1 in the stall the other right outside in a small paddock, maybe foal the in the stall and mare right outside, even tied if possible so she can't wander off too far, or someone hold her while she eats. Or vice versa. The details will vary based on how neurotic either of them are at being separated by a wall. This could start once the foal has his own little meal. But even long before then you can work on leading manners by leading the foal 1 step away from the mare, then back, and over the weeks, increasing the distance and time away as he gets more confident.

                      I increased the time they were in their separate stalls for meals until it was in the 1-2 hour range. At some point they spent a few nights in, separate stalls. He was totally cool with that, though of course raced to nurse first thing when they were let out LOL

                      At 8 months I fenceline weaned. I hadn't planned on waiting quite that long, but at 7 months the weather was uncooperative, wet and cold, so I waited. I don't regret it in the least. As Marla said, some bit of "weaning" was already happening. He was nursing way less, eating "grownup" food, drinking water, etc. She was more and more intolerance of rude foal behavior, and had more say in when she allowed him to nurse.

                      He had already been in with everyone else, which was 2 geldings in addition to his dam. This is an important piece of this puzzle - very familiar and comfortable with the horse(s) he will be with once mom is no longer with him. If the mare/foal are living with a group, then the foal would stay with the group and she'd come out. In my case, I put him with 1 of the geldings, and the mare with the other, and I rotated which gelding was with the foal every week or so.

                      How long it will be before they can be back together is just something you'll have to see. I've seen foals go back with their mom after 30 days and barely speak, and 90 days with the 2 of them very happy to have a nursing arrangement again LOL I've heard of them never being able to be back together again, though I think that's pretty uncommon.

                      I put mine back after 5 months. Weaned at Thanksgiving, back together mid-April. He did try to nurse once, Mom said "wait, really?" but begrudgingly let him. After a few seconds she kicked him off her. A bit later he tried again and she said NOPE, and that was that.

                      Definitely have the foal eating on his own for at least several weeks before weaning. Change as few things at a time as possible.

                      Given he was a he, he was gelded before going back with his dam, so that's something to consider at that point.
                      ______________________________
                      The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances. - ET

                      Comment

                      • Original Poster

                        #12
                        Originally posted by JB View Post
                        As you can tell, there is no single best way, because a lot depends on the farm setup and the mare and foal temperaments.

                        My opinion, fwiw: gradual weaning, 6+ months.

                        By gradual, I mean start separating for meals - adjacent stalls if possible, or 1 in the stall the other right outside in a small paddock, maybe foal the in the stall and mare right outside, even tied if possible so she can't wander off too far, or someone hold her while she eats. Or vice versa. The details will vary based on how neurotic either of them are at being separated by a wall. This could start once the foal has his own little meal. But even long before then you can work on leading manners by leading the foal 1 step away from the mare, then back, and over the weeks, increasing the distance and time away as he gets more confident.

                        I increased the time they were in their separate stalls for meals until it was in the 1-2 hour range. At some point they spent a few nights in, separate stalls. He was totally cool with that, though of course raced to nurse first thing when they were let out LOL

                        At 8 months I fenceline weaned. I hadn't planned on waiting quite that long, but at 7 months the weather was uncooperative, wet and cold, so I waited. I don't regret it in the least. As Marla said, some bit of "weaning" was already happening. He was nursing way less, eating "grownup" food, drinking water, etc. She was more and more intolerance of rude foal behavior, and had more say in when she allowed him to nurse.

                        He had already been in with everyone else, which was 2 geldings in addition to his dam. This is an important piece of this puzzle - very familiar and comfortable with the horse(s) he will be with once mom is no longer with him. If the mare/foal are living with a group, then the foal would stay with the group and she'd come out. In my case, I put him with 1 of the geldings, and the mare with the other, and I rotated which gelding was with the foal every week or so.

                        How long it will be before they can be back together is just something you'll have to see. I've seen foals go back with their mom after 30 days and barely speak, and 90 days with the 2 of them very happy to have a nursing arrangement again LOL I've heard of them never being able to be back together again, though I think that's pretty uncommon.

                        I put mine back after 5 months. Weaned at Thanksgiving, back together mid-April. He did try to nurse once, Mom said "wait, really?" but begrudgingly let him. After a few seconds she kicked him off her. A bit later he tried again and she said NOPE, and that was that.

                        Definitely have the foal eating on his own for at least several weeks before weaning. Change as few things at a time as possible.

                        Given he was a he, he was gelded before going back with his dam, so that's something to consider at that point.
                        Wow, this is SO HELPFUL. Thank you for taking the time to respond so comprehensively

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by kimmielou01 View Post

                          Thank you Marla. My barn owner actually prefers keeping the foal on the farm and using a gradual method - she's really wonderful and has done everything she can to accommodate mom and baby. Have you had this situation wherein you've kept the foal? If so, did you have any difficulty after they separated? Thank you again.
                          No problems that I can recall but what JB said about the foal's social group after weaning is very important. Baby should

                          be familiar with and accustomed to whomever will be the nanny or good uncle gelding. I personally think it's best to put

                          weanling in with patient, kind older horses rather than with other weanlings as the older horses teach the baby so much

                          about being a horse. Weanlings raised with other same age babies don't learn the basics of horsie behavior, imo.

                          So everything you do now will help mold the foals future behavior and personality.
                          "There is no fundamental difference between man and animals in their ability to feel pleasure and pain, happiness, and misery." - Charles Darwin

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            The least traumatic weaning I ever saw happened at 6-7 months. Colt foal and his momma had lived with a handful of other adult horses in a herd environment since he was born. One summer morning, he was sedated for his gelding, and while he was out, momma was loaded and hauled off the property. He woke up and was put back in with his herd. It was probably an hour before he even thought to look for momma, but he called once or twice and that was that. It was soooo trauma free.

                            What seems to be important: that they're old enough. At three months, they still really need their dam. At 6+, they don't. Ensure their "family" is well established prior to weaning. And make sure momma is far enough away that there's no frantic calling back and forth.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              My favorite weaning method is gradual. Mare can be placed in the pasture or stall next to the foal. My current mare ran with her mom until almost age 2 in a herd environment. She was still very much a baby if not nursing.

                              3 months is way too early for weaning. A friend tried that and her foal jumped the fence and ran down the street. Dangerous for everyone. They ended up locking him in a stall for months and he was very unhappy.

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                I weaned my 2018 colt at about 5 months. I wanted to wait for 6 months, but he was getting very obnoxious and momma mare was allowing him to be a pest. From 1 month on, mare and foal lived out with an older nanny mare. Mare and foal came in to eat twice a day, going to separate stalls around 4mo old. Colt was fine eating grain and hay by himself in the stall, worked up to three or four hours a day of separation over 4 weeks. On weaning day, I turned him out with his familiar nanny mare in his regular field, and his dam went to an adjoining paddock with an 8ft lane between them. There was a bit of pacing the fence and calling, but the stress was minimal. He settled quickly into his normal routine with the nanny mare, who was less tolerant of coltish shenanigans, and he became much easier to handle after weaning.

                                A month later, I moved him to a paddock with Uncle Gelding and put the two mares together in an adjoining field. There was a little bit of separation anxiety leaving his nanny mare (from her, too!), and I'm glad I didn't let him get any more attached. By 9 months, he needed a more active playmate than a 25yo gelding, so he went into the "big horse field" with a 17h 6yo gelding OTTB and a 16.2 5yo OTTB mare. The mare was pretty witchy to him, but it gave him great manners and social skills. He is best friends with the 17h gelding, they play and share hay and the big guy looks out for him.

                                Many different methods will work for weaning, but you have to know your animals and your situation. And be committed! Don't "give in" and put them back together after a day or two, it only drags out the process and increases stress later.
                                A clever person solves a problem. A wise person avoids it.
                                ? Albert Einstein

                                ~AJ~

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  Def wait until 6 or even 8 months, though you can wean sooner if the mare is loosing condition or the filly won’t tolerate being left alone when you want to ride. I weaned my last one by putting the mare on the other side of a fence and leaving baby out with his already established herd. No tears or fireworks. They hung out by the fence for about 2 days except when they were hungry.

                                  Baby should have a pasture mate they are already friends with before you move the mare. I would give them a month to settle, and then if it’s possible I would send your baby to go live with other babys. It’s important for horses to learn how to socialize and BE social. If there’s any way for your filly to spend a year with a weanling band it would be the best think for her.

                                  Comment

                                  • Original Poster

                                    #18
                                    [QUOTE=4horses;n10377240]My favorite weaning method is gradual. Mare can be placed in the pasture or stall next to the foal. My current mare ran with her mom until almost age 2 in a herd environment. She was still very much a baby if not nursing.

                                    3 months is way too early for weaning. A friend tried that and her foal jumped the fence and ran down the street. Dangerous for everyone. They ended up locking him in a stall for months and he was very unhappy.

                                    Thank you! For sure if there’s one thing I’ve taken away from everyone’s advice is that three months is way too early. I will definitely not attempt to wean until 6+ months.

                                    Comment

                                    • Original Poster

                                      #19
                                      Originally posted by Simkie View Post
                                      The least traumatic weaning I ever saw happened at 6-7 months. Colt foal and his momma had lived with a handful of other adult horses in a herd environment since he was born. One summer morning, he was sedated for his gelding, and while he was out, momma was loaded and hauled off the property. He woke up and was put back in with his herd. It was probably an hour before he even thought to look for momma, but he called once or twice and that was that. It was soooo trauma free.

                                      What seems to be important: that they're old enough. At three months, they still really need their dam. At 6+, they don't. Ensure their "family" is well established prior to weaning. And make sure momma is far enough away that there's no frantic calling back and forth.
                                      Thanks!

                                      Comment

                                      • Original Poster

                                        #20
                                        Originally posted by jonem004 View Post
                                        Def wait until 6 or even 8 months, though you can wean sooner if the mare is loosing condition or the filly won’t tolerate being left alone when you want to ride. I weaned my last one by putting the mare on the other side of a fence and leaving baby out with his already established herd. No tears or fireworks. They hung out by the fence for about 2 days except when they were hungry.

                                        Baby should have a pasture mate they are already friends with before you move the mare. I would give them a month to settle, and then if it’s possible I would send your baby to go live with other babys. It’s important for horses to learn how to socialize and BE social. If there’s any way for your filly to spend a year with a weanling band it would be the best think for her.
                                        This is great advice, thank you!

                                        Comment

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