Weaning foals is an important task that has to be done. But it can be a very challenging task for horse owners who have little experience with weaning. You may (unintentionally) use methods that could be harmful to a foal, so it is very important to treat the weaning process with care.
Prepare your baby horse for the task by allowing her to stay with the dam for a period of time after birth (since her only source of food and optimum nutrition is from the mother’s milk). As she grows older however, she should be weaned from mom for her own physical and emotional well-being. Foal weaning can start as soon as three months from birth. Weaning beyond six months may be very difficult and emotionally damaging to a foal.
Since foals also have individual personalities, you might not want to wean them at the same time. You will know if the time is right if a foal is already comfortable with eating solid food and shows signs of independent socialization skills separate from its mother. Foals that are a bit timid may take longer to wean. And always make sure that your foal is in very good health before you begin the weaning process.
Rancher and expert in all things equine, Kevin Oliver says that sight and sound are two of the most important things about weaning. If the baby can hear or see the mare, it’s stressful on both, so the best policy is to wean out of sight and sound. See if you can take the mare off the property for a few days just to be safe.
Once a foal is able to eat solid food she will increasingly seek solids. A horse owner may choose between feeding the foal in a stable or on the pasture away from the mare. And feeding on the pasture allows foals better opportunities to socialize with other foals.
Wherever a horse owner chooses to keep foals, it is important to ensure that the area is safe and secure. Foals generally feel anxious when weaning and may run away or harm themselves. Think of everything, from securing fencing to removing anything your foal may hurt itself on like sharp nearby objects in case she becomes violent over the sudden change. If she does have a violent mood swing, don’t worry too much. It is temporary and she will calm down soon enough.
Socialization: human and horse
Human interaction is extremely important and you should teach your foal to get used to being handled by humans early which will also make weaning a bit easier. And if you have more than one to wean, the company of other weaning foals will also help to keep her calm.
Yes, this is quite the process that needs to be handled with care. But once your foal is weaned, she will soon grow into a healthy, happy horse.