So, your mare successfully delivered a new foal. Congratulations! As this adorable animal opens its eyes for the first time, it’s beautiful to think of all the wonderful things it will experience during its lifetime. Young foals need appropriate care to grow up happy and strong, so we collected some tips to get you started.
What to Expect During the First Months
After birth, make sure that the new foal is breathing. They will need iodine solution on their umbilical stump (don’t cut it immediately), and colostrum to avoid disease transfer. After this, observe the foal from a distance and let the mare bond with her offspring.
They will usually attempt (and eventually succeed) to stand up within the first 30 minutes.
Defecation of meconium also usually happens during the first half-hour. Within the next hour, instinct will kick in and it will likely seek to nurse from its mother and start to vocalize. Have a vet or horse health care professional examine your new foal within 12-24 hours post-birth.
The new foal will continue to nurse for the next few weeks, once or twice per hour. As they age, they will slowly wean off their mother’s milk and eat other horse feed. It’s recommended that the foal is weaned 5-7 months after birth.
New Foal Behavior
As the foal matures, it will spend the majority of its time napping, exploring, nursing, and playing. Socialization with other foals and mares is encouraged, as it stimulates them and gets them used to new surroundings and other people and animals.
Foals will be naturally curious about their surroundings, and often a bit awkward in their movements until they get the whole walking thing mastered. Allow them to explore safe environments with supervision.
Discourage potentially harmful behaviors such as biting and kicking, as these behaviors will not age well. It may be small and cute now, but a full grown horse is very strong and can do some real damage to itself and others if you aren’t careful. A gentle bop on the nose paired with stern vocalization will let the foal know not to do that action. Be consistent with your reprimanding, and not too harsh.
How to Train Your Foal
Exposure, in various aspects, are very important in the early stages of a horse’s life. As I mentioned earlier, having your new foal interact with people, objects, and other animals will discourage fear and aggression. There are many opportunities to train and get them used to their environment – let’s go through a few.
Picking up the new foal’s hoof will get them used to future horseshoe fittings, filing, and other important grooming practices. You can also fit a halter on the foal to get it used to the feel of it, but make sure you are always supervising your foal when it has this on so they do not get tangled or injure themselves by mistake.
Attaching a lead to the halter and practicing walking can also be done, but take your time with this. You can continue to train them as they age, so try not to over-work your new foal. Work in short sessions, pay attention to their body language, and remember to have fun!
Things to Keep in Mind
Phew, that was a lot of information. I know that caring for a foal may seem intimidating because of their fragile nature, but with the correct knowledge and preparation, you’ll have a handle on it in no time.
If you ever have any questions about training or anything related to horse health care, contact the team at BRD Vet Rx. We care for every horse and want to give them the best life that they can have (and have been for almost 100 years!).