Horse­keep­ing

Gen­tle weaning means less stress for mare and foal.

Horse & Rider - - Contents -

Dif­fer­ent meth­ods of weaning can re­sult in markedly dif­fer­ent lev­els of stress for your foal. The abrupt, cold-tur­key ap­proach of the past is prob­a­bly most stress­ful for mare and foal alike. Pas­ture weaning, where dams are re­moved one at a time from a group of three or more nurs­ing mares and foals, is one low-stress method. Here, we’ll ex­plore two meth­ods that work with just one foal and can get the job done with min­i­mal men­tal an­guish—for you as well as your mare and foal.

Grad­ual Weaning

With this ap­proach, you re­move the mare for short amounts of time that grad­u­ally in­crease over a pe­riod of two weeks or more. The first sep­a­ra­tion may last just 15 min­utes or so. Even­tu­ally you re­move the mare com­pletely out of earshot for in­creas­ingly longer pe­ri­ods of time, un­til nei­ther foal nor mare ob­jects to the sep­a­ra­tion.

An ad­van­tage of this method is it en­ables the mare’s milk sup­ply to de­crease more nat­u­rally over time, thus avoid­ing the dis­com­fort of an overly full ud­der.

You’ll need a helper to mon­i­tor the foal in a safe stall or other en­clo­sure when­ever the mare is re­moved, es­pe­cially in the be­gin­ning.

Prox­im­ity Weaning

This method places the mare and foal on op­po­site sides of a safe di­vider, where they can see, hear, and touch one an­other, but the foal can’t nurse. One ex­am­ple would be ad­join­ing pens, with foal-safe fenc­ing di­vid­ing them.

Prox­im­ity weaning in­volves less man­age­ment than grad­ual weaning does, plus doesn’t re­quire an out-of-earshot lo­ca­tion for your mare when she’s sep­a­rated from her foal.

Bot­tom Line

The method you choose to wean your foal will de­pend on your in­di­vid­ual cir­cum­stances. For more in­for­ma­tion on meth­ods, see “Weaning Op­tions” at

Horse­andRider.com. For other safe­guards at weaning time, see “Stress-Free Weaning Tips.”

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