When To Wean A Foal? - Best Horse Rider (2022)

Last Updated on January 8, 2022 by Fabiola L.

One of the most difficult things to overcome when raising horses is knowing when to wean a foal. Weaning is the process of separating a foal from his mother after he no longer needs her milk to survive. There are many different schools of thought on weaning and how it should be properly done.

One of the hottest and most debated topics when it comes to weaning is what age a foal should be when it is weaned. Different trainers and breeders swear by different ages, and it’s hard for simple horse people and home-breeders to know what to make of it.

In this article, I’m going to take a holistic approach by discussing other factors that may contribute to an owner’s decision to wean at a particular age. I will cover what the most common ages for weaning are, and why, but I think it’s important to understand all of the factors that go into the decision, not just looking at the numbers.

Table of Contents

(Video) Ask the Vet - When to wean a foal

When To Wean A Foal- Factors to Consider

Besides just the age of the foal, there are many factors that contribute to an owner or breeder’s decision to wean a horse at a given time. Some of these include the extent of available facilities, the size of the foal, the temperament of the foal, and the vet work a foal has had done.

Available Facilities

Some facilities are more equipped to deal with weaning than others. Breeding farms, for example, are set up to care for foals regularly. The staff at breeding farms is trained to know how to handle foals, and they are used to weaning foals regularly. That’s because this is one of the primary functions of a breeding farm.

But, not every foal is born on a breeding farm. Lots of foals are born and raised at home farms and at normal boarding farms. Typically, these farms are equipped to care for normal, adult horses. Because of this, sometimes the methods of weaning will have to be restricted to whatever a particular facility can provide.

This could mean any number of things for every unique situation; it could mean that the mare and foal’s pastures are simply further apart, it could mean that the foal has to go out with other horses, it could mean that the foal has to wait to be weaned until there’s an available pasture for it to be turned out in and so on.

But, facility restrictions can affect when a foal is weaned.

Size of the Foal

The size of the foal can also affect when an owner or breeder decides to wean him. For example, if a foal is larger than other foals his age, the owner or breeder may decide to wean him earlier, for the safety of his mother or other horses he is turned out with.

Or, on the other hand, an owner or breeder may decide to wean a horse later, if he is small for his age. He may still need the nutrients from his mother’s milk if he hasn’t grown in the way he should. Vets should also help make this decision.

(Video) The Weaning Process

Temperament of the Foal

Another factor is the temperament of the foal. Sometimes, though rarely, foals will start weaning themselves. Some foals naturally become less dependent on their mothers earlier than expected. If they begin showing signs of this, there is nothing wrong with weaning a foal early.

When To Wean A Foal? - Best Horse Rider (1)

Sometimes foals show you that they’re ready before you even think of it. Some foals mature more quickly than others, though this definitely isn’t the norm. But, it’s always important to listen to your horse, even if your horse is a baby.

Vet Work Done on the Foal

Another factor that can affect when to wean a foal is the vet work a foal has had done. Some owners and breeders have certain things they want to have their vets do with their foals before they are weaned. And, if they haven’t had these things done yet, they will wait until the foal has had them done before weaning.

Some foals also struggle with health issues early on, and it is important that the foal is completely healthy before weaning him.

Read more aboutWhat Is The Difference Between A Colt And A Foal?

Average Ages for Weaning Foals

In the wild, foals are not “weaned” from their mothers until their mothers have another foal. This is typically not until a year or more after the foal has been born. A horse’s gestation period is a little bit over a year.

(Video) Weaning the foal & a visit from the horse dentist

Traditionally, foals are weaned between the ages of four and seven months. Though, it isn’t uncommon to see foals stay with their mother for longer than seven months.

When To Wean A Foal? - Best Horse Rider (2)

On the other hand, if an owner or breeder decides to wean a foal at four months, they must ensure that the foal is completely healthy. At four months, a foal should be able to get essential nutrients from foods other than his mother’s milk. But, if the foal has had any health issues at all, then this may not be the case.

Conclusion

So, it really depends on the situations and the philosophies of each owner and breeder. Deciding when to wean a foal will rest on many different factors. The most important thing to take into consideration is a foal’s health.

If weaning a foal at any given time will negatively affect his health, then it should not be done. Every foal is unique, and every situation is unique. Make informed decisions and always, always consult professionals!

I hope this article helped you learn more about when to wean a foal and what goes into making decisions about weaning. If so, please share this article, and share with us your experiences weaning foals!

FAQs

How long does weaning a foal take?

Weaning a foal should be done gradually. If weaned too quickly, the foal will likely experience health problems and digestive issues that often result in weight loss or other complications. Weaning is generally done when the horse is between six months and one year old. The process can take anywhere from two to four months. During weaning, the foal should still receive adequate nutrition through a feeding schedule that limits quantities of mother's milk while increasing levels of roughage.
Weaning is often done gradually by adding layers of weaning techniques to ensure the foal's physical and emotional needs are met while it adjusts to life without its mother. For example, it might start with weaning the foal from its mother's milk, then weaning it by keeping them physically separated. Eventually, it may also involve weaning the mare and foal emotionally so they are no longer bonded to each other.

How long does a foal need to stay with its mother?

A foal should remain with its mother for at least four to six months. During this time, different weaning techniques may be used to wean the foal from its mother's milk gradually.
It is important that foals stay with their mothers until the process is completed. When weaning is not done gradually, foals often develop digestive problems like bloating. Bloating occurs when too much gas builds up in the stomach of a horse, which can be caused by an improper balance of micro organisms in the gastrointestinal tract.
The weaning process should happen in intervals in order to ensure the foal is receiving adequate nutrition. This also helps to prevent any behavioural issues caused by weaning the foal too quickly.

For how long do mares remember their foals?

It is speculated that mare remember their baby foals for up to two years after weaning them, but this may depend on the individual mare.
Mares are able to recognize their babies' voices as well as their smell. They may also remember the size and shape of their foal. For example, a mare might react in a dominant way towards a foal that is smaller than her own offspring to prevent it from challenging her authority. Additionally, mares often become more protective of foals when another animal, such as a dog or another mare, approaches them. This is because mares may consider foals to be in their care, even after weaning process is complete.
There are also theories that during weaning, mares experience memory loss in order to help them cope with the process when separated from their babies. This means when geographically separated from their foals, mare may not remember them for longer than two years.

How do wild horses wean their foals?

Studies suggest that wild mares wean most of their foals when they are about one year old, but their weaning is complete when they are about two years old.
Wild horses wean their foals in three stages over the course of about two years. These stages are weaning the foals from nursing, weaning them from their mothers' milk, and weaning the mare and foal emotionally.
The process is not quick, but all necessary nutrients are supplied to foals so they continue to grow and thrive while weaning is underway.
The weaning process is generally more kind for wild horses because foals stay with their mothers and other members of the herd for much longer time. This allows foals to develop better social skills and become more independent.

(Video) WEANING MY FIRST FOAL AT HOME! 🏡

FAQs

What is the best age to wean a foal? ›

Weaning is usually done somewhere between 4 and 7 months of age, although some ranches leave their foals on the mares a bit longer. After 4 months of age, the foal's nutritional requirements exceed that provided by the mare's milk, and most foals are eating grain and forage on their own.

Will a foal self wean? ›

We found that most foals were weaned spontaneously between 9 and 10 months of age, and overall, that natural weaning induced no stress response in either partner and no sign of rejection from the dam.

How do I get my foal to stop breastfeeding? ›

There are two types of weaning: gradual and abrupt. With a gradual method, you begin separating mare and foal at feeding time with a safe fence between them for short periods of time each day. You gradually increase the length of time over the course of several days, until you no longer put them back together.

Can a foal be weaned at 3 months? ›

Typically, foals are weaned when they reach at least three months of age. However, for many foals, delaying weaning until they are four to six months old is recommended. At three months your foal has its own immune system starting to work. Prior to this age your foal relies on mum for immunity.

How long should mare and foal be separated for weaning? ›

If you need to board your mare elsewhere, plan to do so for at least two months. After that, you should be able to pasture her within sight of the weanling without the two calling out to each other. If, for practical reasons, you must reunite mother and foal in the same pasture, wait at least four months.

At what age do foals eat grain? ›

As early as one week of age your foal may start taking some interest in feed by nibbling at hay or grain.

What to feed a foal after weaning? ›

To support smooth, steady growth, suckling foals should be offered one pound of a properly-formulated foal feed per month of age per day. For example, a 3-month-old would ideally be eating about three pounds of feed per day, in addition to milk and free choice hay or pasture.

Will a mare naturally wean her foal? ›

“Spontaneous” weaning

“We found that most foals were weaned spontaneously between 9 and 10 months of age, and overall, that natural weaning induced no stress response in either partner and no sign of rejection from the dam.” Individual variations related mainly to the conception rate of mares, they said.

Do mares miss their foals? ›

Up to 30% of mares that conceive will lose the fetus before foaling. Most of these losses occur in the first 35 days of pregnancy and the embryo is resorbed, after which the mare may come back into heat at a longer interval after the last estrus.

How long should a foal nurse? ›

Foals receive their nutrition from the mare's milk exclusively for the first several weeks to one month of age.

How long does it take to wean a foal from its mother? ›

In free-roaming or feral horses, foals are naturally weaned around eight to nine months of age, while most management systems will wean foals between 4 months and 6 months of age. Foals will spend the first 4 months to 5 months by their dam's side, receiving nutrition from the mare's milk.

What can I feed my 4 month old foal? ›

FOAL FEEDING GUIDELINES
  1. Provide high-quality roughage (hay and pasture) free choice.
  2. Supplement with a high-quality, properly-balanced grain concentrate at weaning, or earlier if more rapid rates of gain are desired.

When should you geld a colt? ›

Choosing the best time to geld your colt is a fine line between a horse that is too young and too developed. The most common time to geld a colt is between six and twelve months of age.

How long does weaning take? ›

Go slowly.

Rosenfeld says you can never go too slowly, but be sure to drop only one feeding every three or four days so that it takes about two weeks for the entire process. Drop the least preferred feedings first, which likely means the morning and bedtime feedings will be the last to go.

How long do foals stay with their mothers in the wild? ›

(Naturally in the wild, foals will stay with their mothers and family bands, until they are approximately 2 years old. )

How do you dry up a mare's milk? ›

Many horsemen recommend taking the mare off grain completely, or significantly cutting back on the grain ration, for at least several days after weaning to help her “dry up.” Allow her to have free-choice grass hay or pasture during this time, along with salt, a vitamin/mineral supplement and unlimited clean, fresh ...

How long should a foal be on mare and foal feed? ›

Therefore, proper nutrition is paramount. Foals are typically weaned at four to six months of age. Prior to weaning, the foal should be accustomed to eating solid feed.

Can you wean a foal at 2 months? ›

For this reason, I would not recommend weaning prior to three months. Your veterinarian, who has had personal contact with both the mare and foal, will be able to advise you best on when to wean.

What is the best feed for a yearling colt? ›

Yearlings should be a fed high-quality hay and a grain ration, spread out into smaller meals throughout the day. Since yearlings don't have their adult teeth yet, it is best to feed processed grains or pellets instead of whole grains for proper digestion and utilization.

What do you feed a 6 month old foal? ›

6 months of age, feed up to 1# of foal ration per 100# body weight, plus at least 1# hay/100# weight. It is best to feed more hay, especially quality alfalfa hay. Overfeeding grain can cause a problem with the joints called epiphysitis; this occurs because of the low calcium and high energy in grains.

What is a good feed for foals? ›

Grass, the most natural of equine foods, should always be available when foals are turned out, and hay should be provided in the stall. Alfalfa (lucerne) or an alfalfa/grass mix will provide both energy and calcium for sound skeletal development. Water and salt should be accessible to mares and foals at all times.

How much should a 5 month old foal eat? ›

Make certain that the foal is consuming at least 1 pound of a feed per month of age of a feed designed for foals and weanlings. If a foal is 4 months of age, it should be consuming at least 4 pounds of feed per day. If a foal is 6 months of age, it should be consuming at least 6 pounds of feed per day.

Can foals have apples? ›

Horses are programmed to eat small amounts of food on a continuous basis, so your horse will ALWAYS want another treat, but for his well-being, learn to say no. What to offer as treats. Almost any fruits, and many vegetables, are safe treats for healthy horses. Apples and carrots are traditional favorites.

Why do we wean foals? ›

The reasons we wean the horse early

We often artificially wean because of these reasons: making sure the mare doesn't lose too much weight, especially if she's covered quickly after. making sure the foal eats enough solid food without the mother interfering.

When should I wean my foal UK? ›

Weaning should be done between 4-6 months of age. This can be a stressful time for both mare and foal, so it's important to make it as good a transition as possible.

How do you prevent mastitis in horses? ›

While the frequent monitoring of mares after weaning and reducing food intake should be part of common practices at weaning, cleaning of the udder, control of insect populations and frequent milking of mares with a foal unable to nurse can also aid in preventing mastitis.

Should I put a rug on my foal? ›

Many owners over rug their horses and are unaware that despite the fact it is done with the best intentions it is actually cruel. Heavy weight rugs should only be used in exceptional circumstances such as very sick foals or very thin geriatric horses.

Do horses remember their owners? ›

Many experts agree that horses do, in fact, remember their owners. Studies performed over the years suggest that horses do remember their owners similar to the way they would remember another horse. Past experiences, memories, and auditory cues provide the horse with information as to who an individual is.

Do horses know their offspring? ›

“And stallions absolutely do know their own foals and make a point of spending time with them. I've seen stallions take their offspring out on “patrol” with them.

How long does a foal need milk? ›

The foal can be weaned off the milk replacer at 3 months of age. Fresh water should be available to the foal at all times from birth. (Also see Perinatal Mare and Foal Care.

Why do foals shiver? ›

Is the foal shivering from the cold? Weak or premature foals are particularly susceptible to feeling the cold as they have fewer fat reserves, and therefore poor body insulation and energy reserves. As such they are not always able to regulate their body temperature.

How cold is too cold for a newborn foal? ›

The foal will get severely chilled. If you have a safe lot that's not slippery, babies will cope with the cold, as long as wind chill temperatures aren't 10 to 20 degrees below zero.”

What age are horses trained to be ridden? ›

For most breeds, this will occur when the horse is approximately 2 years old. Some trainers choose to start training when the horse is a late yearling, meaning he is between 18 and 24 months of age, while others will wait until a horse is 2 1/2 before training starts.

How do horses wean in the wild? ›

In the wild, horses are usually weaned for about a year, typically until their mothers are next about to give birth. Weaning takes place gradually -- the mothers discourage their young from suckling and do not produce as much milk -- and so the foals gradually come to rely on other sources of food.

How long does it take for a lactating mare to dry up? ›

Lactating mares tend to lose body condition during the first 120 days of milk production. Pregnant mares with a BCS of 4 should be managed differently from those with a BCS of 8 or above. It is possible to add one BCS unit to a mare in 30-45 days.

How long does it take to train a foal? ›

On average, it takes Clinton and his staff six weeks to take a foal through the entire Foal Training Series.

How fast do foals grow? ›

A healthy foal will grow rapidly, gaining in height, weight and strength almost before your very eyes. From birth to age two, a young horse will achieve 30 percent or more of its full adult size, sometimes putting on as many as 3 pounds per day.

How much protein does a weanling need? ›

We recommend an equine feed with a protein content between 14% and 16%, fed at a rate of 1 to 1.5 pounds a day for each month of age. For instance, at four months, a foal can receive between 4 and 6 pounds of equine feed per day. This should provide him sufficient calories and nutrients as he learns to eat feed.

Does gelding a colt stunt growth? ›

Sometimes owners worry that gelding at a young age will slow development and growth. Yes, this can happen when a colt is gelded during a growth spurt, usually between one and two years old, but if gelded before a year old, they often grow taller than expected.

At what age does a colt become a stallion? ›

Colt: A male horse under the age of four. Filly: A female horse under the age of four. Mare: A female horse four years old and older. Stallion: A non-castrated male horse four years old and older.

Do geldings grow taller than stallions? ›

We do know scientifically that geldings grow taller than stallions—the growth plates in their legs remain open longer when they are castrated early, thus allowing them to grow taller. Certainly, many people like to keep their horses intact for potential breeding purposes if they show aptitude in their sport.

What is the best way to wean a foal? ›

With a gradual method, you begin separating mare and foal at feeding time with a safe fence between them for short periods of time each day. You gradually increase the length of time over the course of several days, until you no longer put them back together.

How do I wean at night? ›

Here's how: Reduce the time your child feeds by 2-5 minutes every second night. For example, if your child usually feeds for 10 minutes, feed for 8 minutes for 2 nights, then 6 minutes for the next 2 nights, and so on. Re-settle your child after each shortened feed with the settling techniques of your choice.

How long should a mare and foal be separated after weaning? ›

If you need to board your mare elsewhere, plan to do so for at least two months. After that, you should be able to pasture her within sight of the weanling without the two calling out to each other. If, for practical reasons, you must reunite mother and foal in the same pasture, wait at least four months.

When can a foal be with other horses? ›

After your foal is a week or two old and your vet says it's safe for him to be with others, the best plan is to turn him out with other mares and foals of similar age, provided they get along. It's up to you to monitor how they're getting along and that the environment is safe for the young foal.

How long do horses remember you? ›

Horses also understand words better than expected, according to the research, and possess "excellent memories," allowing horses to not only recall their human friends after periods of separation, but also to remember complex, problem-solving strategies for ten years or more.

How long does it take to wean a foal from its mother? ›

Foals are usually weaned at approximately four months of age. Foals which spend a lot of their time exploring away from the mare and playing with other pasture mates will probably have little trouble during the weaning process. Sometimes, in the case of orphaned foals, weaning has to happen much earlier.

How long do foals stay with their mothers? ›

(Naturally in the wild, foals will stay with their mothers and family bands, until they are approximately 2 years old. )

What can I feed my 4 month old foal? ›

FOAL FEEDING GUIDELINES
  1. Provide high-quality roughage (hay and pasture) free choice.
  2. Supplement with a high-quality, properly-balanced grain concentrate at weaning, or earlier if more rapid rates of gain are desired.

What to feed a foal after weaning? ›

To support smooth, steady growth, suckling foals should be offered one pound of a properly-formulated foal feed per month of age per day. For example, a 3-month-old would ideally be eating about three pounds of feed per day, in addition to milk and free choice hay or pasture.

Do mares miss their foals? ›

Up to 30% of mares that conceive will lose the fetus before foaling. Most of these losses occur in the first 35 days of pregnancy and the embryo is resorbed, after which the mare may come back into heat at a longer interval after the last estrus.

When should you geld a colt? ›

Choosing the best time to geld your colt is a fine line between a horse that is too young and too developed. The most common time to geld a colt is between six and twelve months of age.

How old is a weanling? ›

A weanling is an animal that has just been weaned. The term is usually used to refer to a type of young horse, a foal that has been weaned, usually between six months and a year. Once it is a year old, the horse is referred to as a yearling.

How do wild horses wean their foals? ›

In free-roaming or feral horses, foals are naturally weaned around eight to nine months of age, while most management systems will wean foals between 4 months and 6 months of age. Foals will spend the first 4 months to 5 months by their dam's side, receiving nutrition from the mare's milk.

How long should a colt nurse? ›

Foals receive their nutrition from the mare's milk exclusively for the first several weeks to one month of age.

What is a foals father called? ›

A horse's father is the sire, and so is the horse's male parent. A foal's sire then is the stallion who was bred to the mare to produce that foal. A mare can't be a sire, as sire only refers to the male antecedents of a horse.

What is the best feed for a yearling colt? ›

Yearlings should be a fed high-quality hay and a grain ration, spread out into smaller meals throughout the day. Since yearlings don't have their adult teeth yet, it is best to feed processed grains or pellets instead of whole grains for proper digestion and utilization.

Can foals have apples? ›

Horses are programmed to eat small amounts of food on a continuous basis, so your horse will ALWAYS want another treat, but for his well-being, learn to say no. What to offer as treats. Almost any fruits, and many vegetables, are safe treats for healthy horses. Apples and carrots are traditional favorites.

What do you feed a 6 month old foal? ›

6 months of age, feed up to 1# of foal ration per 100# body weight, plus at least 1# hay/100# weight. It is best to feed more hay, especially quality alfalfa hay. Overfeeding grain can cause a problem with the joints called epiphysitis; this occurs because of the low calcium and high energy in grains.

How much should a 5 month old foal eat? ›

Make certain that the foal is consuming at least 1 pound of a feed per month of age of a feed designed for foals and weanlings. If a foal is 4 months of age, it should be consuming at least 4 pounds of feed per day. If a foal is 6 months of age, it should be consuming at least 6 pounds of feed per day.

How long do you feed mare and foal feed? ›

From three months, the nutrition in mare's milk will start decreasing ready for weaning, a significant transition in a foal's life, occurring around 4 to 6 months. Small amounts of a suitable complementary feed, based on the foal's growth and condition, can be introduced to coincide with this decline.

How long does it take to train a foal? ›

On average, it takes Clinton and his staff six weeks to take a foal through the entire Foal Training Series.

Videos

1. How to wean a foal
(Hordern Horses)
2. MARE & FOAL SEE EACH OTHER FOR THE 1ST TIME SINCE WEANING! (not the reaction I expected!)
(Han Equestrian)
3. Two weeks weaning in two minutes!
(Kitchwin Hills)
4. Weanlings and the Weaning Process
(Stonestreet Farm)
5. Feeding Foals from Birth to Weaning | Purina Animal Nutrition
(PurinaMillsTV)
6. Weaning Techniques for Foals
(Burwash Equine Services)

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