Posted by on Dec 17, 2013 in Training Blog | No Comments

Weaning Time for Mares and Foals

This can be a stressful time for foals, mares and owners – but it doesn’t have to be!

Traditional weaning methods in my opinion are long outdated where the foal is taken away from the mare locked in a yard or a box /stable on its own. Taking the mare away from the foal to furthest point away on the property or away altogether to a different property.weaning foals images

This is stressful for all not to mention the complications or injuries that can occur – mares getting mastitis, foals jumping out of boxes or yards, stress colic and ulcers the list goes on.

Still this seems to be the method of choice today in Australia.
What if there was another way that would have an outcome that is beneficial to all involved!
Well there is – it’s using what is intrinsic to the horse and its herding instincts
Not to isolate and separate, did you know separation from the herd is the most stressful thing a horse can endure.

What if you could allow the herd to do the weaning for you?
Well that’s exactly how we do it here.
We designed our weaning area to fit the horse not the human (well it does really benefit us as we don’t have to worry).

We have not to date had a single injury or illness related to weaning from mare or foal.

We find our foals are more relaxed and keep that natural trusting curiosity mother nature has installed in them for a reason, the mares are relaxed and let their babies go to be big kids without any fuss.

To establish herd weaning – Fist you have to have a herd
Mares with other foals are ideal, but if you don’t have this you may have other horses you can create a herd with or take your mare and foal to a center where this service is offered.

We have at any time up to 10 mare with foals in a paddock of 30 -40 acres
Here at Saltriver we have developed a creep-feeding yard at one end of the paddock with a line of yards running parallel to that creep feeding yard.
When the foals are approx. 3 months of age we start creep feeding encouraging the foals to enter the yard as a group together
Foals naturally hang out with each other so it’s not too hard to achieve this.

We generally feed for 2 months prior to weaning so the foals are happy to be separated on their on own accord from their mothers and be in what we call the kindy group– during this time we introduce to the herd, 2 nanny mares older dry mares that are great for discipline and procedure.

The oldest foal will be weaned first – normally for us at 5 – 6 months of age
The mare is taken and put in the yard next to the creep feeding yard she is fed and watered and left there for the day – the foals can enter and exit the yard at their own volition, generally the foal that is being weaned, will head of with his buddy’s and come back to the yard if he feels he needs a bit of mummy support.

The mare is let back out at the end of the first day into the herd – then the next day she is removed and placed back into the yard adjoining the creep feeding yard this time she remains there for 48 hours – we find 99% of mares are comfortable with this after 48 hours she is moved up a yard so she is not adjoining the creep feeding yard and the next mare is brought into the yard adjacent for weaning, repeating the process.

After 5 days of moving up the yards the mare and foal are content and comfortable with the weaning. The weaned foal is out in the herd with his buddies and the weaned mares are in their herd in a separate paddock by now
(Not necessarily too far away or on the other side of the property).
The mares do not call out and walk fences when using this principle they are simply quite happy to be weaned of their foals and return to the life of a dry mare.

The nanny mares take over from the mothers and continue the education & disciplining – the foals are enjoying growing through the trials and tribulations of being juvenile and they are not stressed by the group but find comfort by being in the group.
After weaning has finished – weaner handling commences again we use the herd to diminish stress and use the natural curiosity and language of the horse to teach this process.

We have found in comparison -YES we did not know any better and we used to wean as the majority do – so being able to note the significant difference is something we can say the way we wean today is much less stressful on all involved and a much more desirable outcome for the foal leading to much more desirable beginning of life as a domesticated horse.

Benefits of weaning the Saltriver way

• Less stressful
• Less injuries
• Less stress colic
• Less mastitis
• Less stress ulcers in both mares and foals
• Less vices being created
• More trusting foals
• More curiosity from foals
• Much more balanced energy in the herds (mare and foal)
• Much more balanced foal to work with during the handling process

If you would love to learn more about weaning or weaner handling give us a call.

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