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The Orphaned Foal: What Are My Options?
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The Orphaned Foal: What Are My Options?

An unfortunate fact of life is that sometimes a foal loses their dams. Sometimes it’s due to complication during foaling, and/or sometimes its due to colic after birth. Either way, it is important to know what to do in case of an emergency like this.

1.       Surrogate Dam

The owner of the dam and foal must choose how to raise the foal. If a surrogate can be found for the foal this is usually the best option. Both the surrogate and the orphan are grieving for a dam/foal. So, they could eventually bond to each other. As of late, I have heard of veterinarians inducing milk in a mare without foal if she bonds to the youngsters easy. However, this practice hasn’t completely take off.

2.       Mother Goat

A goat that is in milk can be purchased for the foal. Goat milk is a great replacer for mare’s milk. Sometimes the foal will bond with the goat and will drink milk right off the doe. However, this is not extremely common. Milk replacer is expensive, so this could be extremely cost-effective. This is also wise because a foal should always have a non-human companion.

3.       Raised by Hand

This is the most difficult way to raise a foal and typically is a last-ditch effort in raising the animal. Milk replacer will be fed through a bottle or by bucket (depending on what the foal takes too). Unfortunately, milk replacer never agrees with the colt or filly the way real milk does and improper feeding can cause a myriad of digestion issues in the animal. However, the benefit of raising a foal like this is that they get desensitized to humans and you can be very hands-on with them. However, orphan foals tend to develop behavioral problems later due to the isolation from horses. A baby always learns behaviors from their mom and are always a bit lost without them.

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