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.
Disclaimer: Of Horse! and sponsors do not endorse nor validate the accuracy of a blog post. Each article is the opinion of the blogger.