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While weaning can be stressful for young horses and their dams, if you take time to prepare the foal and mare, you can ensure that the experience goes as smoothly as possible.
“When I was breeding mares and raising foals, we always worked with the foals on a daily basis, teaching them the Fundamentals level of the Method. They became fairly independent by the time they were ready to be weaned, which made weaning almost a nonevent,” Clinton says.
Here are a few success tips to follow when weaning your foal. (You can view a full article on weaning in the summer 2010 No Worries Journal.)
Tip #1: Teach your foal the Fundamentals groundwork exercises.
The more time you spend working with your foal, teaching him how to move his feet and not fear you, the more independent he will become. The more confident he is in being away from his mother and looking to you for guidance, the easier the weaning process will be. Refer to the Foal Training Series for explanations and demonstrations of each exercise.
Tip #2: Plan ahead.
Start making plans for weaning a month or two in advance. Things to keep in mind are how you plan on weaning the foal and where you’ll keep both the mare and the foal when you start the process. If your property isn’t big enough to completely separate the mare and foal, you’ll have to find a boarding facility to board the mare. Think about what you’re going to do before you actually do it. The more prepared you are, the smoother the process will be.
Tip #3: Use a safe enclosure.
Be sure that the space you keep your foal in is a safe, small enclosure with solid walls. You don’t want the foal running frantically around a 10-acre field or trying to climb over a short stall wall. Before putting the foal in the stall, do a quick safety check – make sure there isn’t anything in the stall that could potentially injure him.
Tip #4: Try to make the mare and foal as comfortable as you can.
When I weaned my foals, it was during summertime and usually hot, so I always made sure I had some fans set up for them and that I turned the mares out in a pasture with shade. It’s important to make sure the mares and foals have access to clean, fresh water as well. Your main objective when weaning is to minimize stress as best as you can.