Imprinting and Weaning

Refer to this article in Equus magazine by Dr. Jennifer Williams, president of Bluebonnet Equine Humane Society.

Key points:

  • Be an astute observer
  • Mares tend to foal late at night or early in the morning
  • They may delay foaling until they feel safe and comfortable
  • You may need to leave your mare alone
  • New mothers tend to be protective of their foals
  • A foal bonds with his dam in the first few hours of life

Item 5, Nursing, probably should include a remark about colostrum, the first milk a mom makes for her foal.  Essential for the baby, as it contains antibodies needed to fight infection.  If the foal does not get up and nurse within the first hour or two, you may have to get involved.

Conventional wisdom says wean the baby at four months.  A better time frame is seven to eight months, as the foal’s digestive system is not sufficiently developed to sustain him on solid food alone until then.

Here’s a list of things to do after the foal is born.

  1. Clean up the afterbirth
  2. Take a few photos
  3. Stay out of it

Avoid the temptation.  Let the mom care for the baby and teach it how to be a horse.

An exception would be the rescue of foals born in feedlots while their moms await shipment to slaughter.

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