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The Weaning Part of a Horse's Life
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The Weaning Part of a Horse's Life

The weaning period in a horse's life can be very interesting and exciting for the owner. It is a time when the animal begins to show their personality and their potential but it can also be a very stressful time in its, and its owner's life.

A calendar isn't much help when it comes to choosing the weaning time for a foal but it is suggested that weaning is best done at the age of about four months. This gives the horse time to develop a strong immune system before leaving its mother's side. Weaning too early has negative effects on the functions of the immune system and on the weight gain of the foal. Stress can also be caused by a bad weaning plan. It is best to remove one broodmare from the foal herd at a time. This is better for individual foals than the sudden removal of them all. Move the mother to a place where the foal cannot see her.

Another method introduced by some French researchers in 2006 was that of putting unrelated mares in with the foals when they are being weaned. This seemed to reduce stress with the foals making less vocalizations and being less aggressive. They also had better social interaction. Less of the hormone cortisol was secreted by the adult-weaned foals. Cortisol can suppress the immune system during and after weaning.

New dieting changes can be introduced about a month before weaning begins. Flexibility here is important. When the nutritional value of the mare's milk has diminished and they have learned to eat solid food, it is time to begin the weaning process. But, if the foal is not developing strength and isn't developing at a normal pace then spending more time with the mare may be a good idea.

The weaning transition should be as peaceful as possible. The foal may realize what has happened and do some calling and running but this usually only goes on for a few days. The last mare to leave the foal's pasture should be a even tempered and calm mare and this will help the transition go more smoothly too.

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  1. Moocowlvr
    #2
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  2. nascarangel
    #7
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  3. Awan Cheyanne
    Awan Cheyanne
    Very interesting enjoyed reading your blog post.
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  4. jst4horses
    Horses are herd animals and live together their whole lives if left alone. Especially mares and foals. Go watch a few wild horse documentaries. No one weans the foals. The mares wean them when it is time to wean them. I considered myself really lucky to watch an abandoned mare we took in raise her foal. The Mom teaches her child so many things. I had always heard that the Mom poop was the first food of horses in the wild......that the enzymes, etc in the poop is especially processed by the hormones in the mare's body. I watched the mare push her foal towards a little pile of poops and nudge her to eat them, during her first day of life. I left a few poops every time I cleaned the stall. The Mom taught her to eat out of the feeders, and to eat mare and foal pellets out of their tub. Some of the things were funny. The foal watched her Mom rub her rear on a tree when we turned them out to play. She seemed to say "WHAT" then OK, whatever......and went and rubbed her rear end on the tree. It was so funny how her little face got it. She said in her little horsey way, THIS IS FUN and really liked it. She learned to go to the paddock fence and take carrot bits and cookies from the riders who came to visit her. She learned to play with the dogs, and the kids who loved to run back and forth and scream and laugh while she whinnied and played with them through the fence of the paddock. At about 18 months, her Mom just said, NOPE, and gave her a kick. So we moved her to her own big girl pen next door. She has done fine, with NO stress, no problems, and as I promised her Mom. gets to grow up with her Mom next door. I grew up on ranches and farms and around wild horses, even the dairy cows did not have their babies taken away from them. My Grandmother said, if I can't make a living without abusing a mom and her baby, shame on me. Her female cows grew up their whole lives with their mothers, who taught them about calving and getting milked............the little steers got neutered, and when the day came, usually around two to three years old, the butcher came when the cows went in to be milked and the steer they needed was cut into a little pen and slaughtered humanely and fast. The last of the Vikings were featured on a program, they are exclusive equine therapists..........and their horses range free. It was awesome to see, and it shows there really is no reason for us, as humans to "civilize" animals to our wants and needs and harm them. When those Vikings move to an new pasture area, they fold up their tents, and load up everything on pack saddles and loaded up old granny and the little kids on horses that were just loose and off they all rode, the herd.........to the new pasture area.
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    1. Eve Sherrill York
      Eve Sherrill York
      Very interesting. Thank you for your take on this subject.
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