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Advice for a newbie?

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  • Advice for a newbie?

    I run a rescue in South Dakota. We took in a mare last summer who ended up being pregnant. It's been a long time coming - foal was felt on palpation on May 30 but she finally delivered December 18! Did I mention it's South Dakota? *sigh*

    Baby is big and healthy, great winter coat. Mama came out looking good too, is keeping her weight on well. Baby is now 11 days old and is gaining, active, enjoying life. On our vet's advice we have only blanketed him once, instead we're limiting turnout and keeping them in a fully enclosed stall with lots of grass hay and alfalfa during the cold snaps. They are currently turned out together into our winter pen, while the other 4 horses go out to pasture during the day. The round bale is in that pen, so Mama and baby are locked up at night so the other four get access to the round bale.

    Anyway, we are obviously newbies to this whole foal raising thing. In rescue, we usually don't get babies before they are weanlings, and this is the first pregnant mare we've taken in. We've listened a lot to our vets, etc., but I have a question that I figured would be better answered here than calling our vet.

    That question is - when do I introduce them to other members of the herd?

    We don't technically have to do so, with our setup, and there is a chance that they will be adopted and moved in the next month or so. BUT baby is extremely interested in the other horses, and I can't help but think that at some point socializing would be good. Mama has been protective, of course. She is calming down, however. She still herds him away from the fence and/or gets grumpy with the two mares that poke their heads over - even disciplined him once when he wouldn't get away from them - BUT yesterday she started letting my 3 year old gelding "babysit" through the fence. I noticed several times where the baby and the gelding were just standing quietly side by side on either side of the panels, while Mama enjoyed some quiet time on the round bale. She is 19 and has had many other foals, and is very laid back in her parenting - she keeps an eye on him, but so far has let him explore on his own. The first couple of days she'd go herd him back pretty quickly, but now is more willing to let him wander and explore. Heck, he "escaped" the stall yesterday when we were filling her water bucket and feeding her morning grain and alfalfa, and she didn't even come out of the stall but instead just sat and watched as the morning person caught him and got him back in the stall!

    So ... what age is safe to introduce another horse? My instincts are saying when the time is right, to try it out with the 3 year old that Mama is already accepting, and just watch how she's acting towards the other horses to decide if it's safe to introduce them. This foal is very active, Mama almost seems relieved to have someone else "babysit" for a while.

    So, help a newbie? Thanks!

    Here's a picture of him from Christmas day: http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fb...type=3&theater

    and with Mama:
    If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude.
    ~ Maya Angelou

  • #2
    Hi TifAnn, Congrats on a healthy baby. I'll be bugging you next year about a donkey most likely.

    I wouldn't do it, and I really wouldn't do it with gelding(s). Totally just my personal opinion.

    My filly was raised with her mother on about two acres until weaning (where she was then with two other weanlings at a different farm) and was it ideal, no, but I believed it was the safest thing to do for the foal with our herd dynamics. I didn't even want the other mare with her (maiden boss mare with a mean double-barrel kick). They were separated by a 20 foot driveway from the gelding pasture, but did come into the barn at times in the night and saw horses accross the stall aisle. Now she is coming three, a social butterfly (mid to upper rank in the mare herd--a nice place to be), easiest horse at a show ground around and stalled next to strangers, and so on. Her BFF is Sandie's little mare Star (Star's "her" personal mare--it's quite cute).

    There are threads on here specificially about geldings and foals to search for. It's one of those things, imo, that is great until it goes really bad (sometimes through the fence).

    If you do want to introduce someone else, I would do it when she is still with mom, but closer to weaning. Your baby is still very young. I'd chose a big area the foal is familar with.

    Just my two cents. Hopefully you get more responses.
    DIY Journey of Remodeling the Farmette: http://weownblackacre.blogspot.com/


    • #3
      I leave my mare and foal alone in a paddock through weaning except for the few times I actually had two mares with foals at the same time. If the mare was out with another horse before she foaled you can try putting that horse back in with them if you want but keep the mare and the other horse on a lead for the introduction.
      McDowell Racing Stables

      Home Away From Home


      • Original Poster

        Thanks We'll find you a donkey when the time comes (we have an adorable little hinny right now ... will probably still be around when your fencing is done!)

        That's what I need - experienced voices. I've been waffling, because really, there's no need to introduce them at all, other than through the fence. Just seeing baby and my 3 year old so calm together, and Jackie able to eat more than 2 bites without having to chase down a foal, made me think that maybe we should consider it. Aries (the 3 year old) was pasture born and raised, with mares, studs, and other babies both his age and a year younger, when we rescued him as a coming 2 year old stud colt. He's still just a big baby himself, so I'm wondering if that factors in to why Jackie isn't threatened by him and lets Sheldon meet him. That and the fence between them, though like I said, she's still very protective around the other mares. She has let Sheldon sniff noses with both mares a couple times, but doesn't let him "hang out" with them, so to speak. The 4th pasture resident, a 2 year old QH gelding, couldn't care less that there is a foal in the pen, and ignores them both.
        If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude.
        ~ Maya Angelou


        • #5
          Click image for larger version

Name:	47213_10151181117605805_1624591934_n.jpg
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ID:	9135484The big question I'd ask is, do you know if the other horses have ever been with a baby and how they are with one?

          You will find, even with experience, everyone's opinions are going to differ on this one. There have been nightmare stories with foals and geldings as well as foals and mares, as well as any type of situation you can imagine, it is horses after all! We have a gelding that has been our babysitter since he was a baby, and I know MANY who have reliable gelding babysitters. The key is that I know he is foal/baby savvy - he's no stranger to their antics and is the best teacher anyone could hope for. All of our horses are acclimated to being turned out with youngsters at some point or another. Generally we limit who is out with the mare and foal(s) until closer to weaning age, and then at weaning we'll introduce a "friend" that the the baby(ies) will ultimately stay with, while the mares are seperated away.

          Right now we have two weanlings out with a yearling, a 4 year old mare, and a 7 year old gelding.

          I can't stress the fact enough, though, that we KNOW these horses and how they react to foals and they are used to babies year in and year out. If you truly aren't sure how any of yours would be, I would start with the one who is watching over the sleeping foal - and when he gets closer to weaning age, try the mare, foal and that horse out together in a large area - and be prepared to remove quickly if necessary. It is so much easier to wean if the foal has established another buddy that they can be with (aka they lose their mom but keep their bud).

          At this young age though, I'd just let them stay solo awhile longer.
          Last edited by okggo; Dec. 28, 2012, 04:08 PM.
          Celtic Pride Farm
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          • Original Poster

            Originally posted by okggo View Post
            I can't stress the fact enough, though, that we KNOW these horses and how they react to foals and they are used to babies year in and year out. If you truly aren't sure how any of yours would be, I would start with the one who is guarding the foal - and when he gets closer to weaning age, try the mare, foal and that horse out together - and be prepared to remove quickly if necessary. It is so much easier to wean if the foal has established another buddy that they can be with (aka they lose their mom but keep their bud).

            At this young age though, I'd just let them stay solo awhile longer.
            This is what I've been leaning towards, instinctually. I know 11 days old is way too young ... but looking for a guideline as to when is "old enough" to meet another horse. And my instincts were saying when that day comes, to let Mama and Baby meet with the horse that she accepts the most - right now my 3 year old - and no one else, especially if she's still protective over the fence towards the others. The 3 year old, as I mentioned, was pasture born and raised. When we rescued him as a coming two year old he was out with 10 weanlings, 11 mares, and 4 older studs, The majority of the yearlings (his age) had been sold to the Amish at weaning, but they didn't take him because of his color (he's a buckskin Morgan). So at that point his playmates and friends were all the foals a year younger.

            Either way, they are likely to be moved to a new home in a month or two, and my 3 year old doesn't actually live at home usually, I board him. If it was beneficial for Mama to have a babysitter, I would consider moving one of the rescue horses up to the boarding barn and leaving him home, so that's why it's on my mind, and why I'm seeking advice.
            If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude.
            ~ Maya Angelou


            • #7
              Well, you are already one step ahead - as in letting them meet across the fence.

              Our process, once they hit 3 months + is usually 1. Introduce mare/foal to babysitter(s) across fenceline 2. Turn (supervised) mare/foal out with ONE calm/reliable horse that they already "met" over the fence. 3. If all goes well, let them be a trio (or more if have more mares/foals) for another month or two. 4. At weaning, we remove the mares and leave the foals with that horse. 5. We'll gradually introduce the babysitter and foals to the rest of the "herd" in the same manner.

              Some times we tweak it, depending on the horses/situation - but generally that's the steps we take. I attached a couple photos - one is our 3 month colt meeting our gelding over the fence (did I mention, he's a SAINT?) prior to being turned out with him and his dam for awhile. The other is our yearling with the two weanlings.
              Attached Files
              Celtic Pride Farm
              Become a fan on Facebook!


              • #8
                I'm with okgo. . I always play it by ear as to when they get introduced to others and when etc. I have one mare who is very very alpha and is not able to go out with any of the other mares/foals. I don't think she would hurt a foal on purpose but she might on accident going after the other mare. I have other mares who want their buds around to help with babysitting duties. It all just depends on how the mare is and how her herd mates are. . As for geldings it is the same thing. I have an old guy who has ALWAYS been the type that is the boss but never hurts anything. He has been my babysitter and chief weaner for the last 10 years. He's taught the foals more than I ever could.

                Id start slow and in small groups. Use your head an instincts about what should happen and when. And as for age. I had one mare that foaled out with her pony mare friend. They stayed all together w/no issues (but both are broodmares and both were joined at hip). I've had others that calmed down after a few weeks and I've had others that I never put in groups.
                Emerald Acres standing the ATA, Trakehner Verband, sBs, RPSI, and ISR/OLD NA Approved Stallion, Tatendrang. Visit us at our Facebook Farm Page as well!