Weaning is a very important stepping stone in a horse life, and it has to be done gradually and carefully. Horses that are not weaned properly may carry the trauma of a brutal separation with their mother for the rest of their life, and might never be happy horses. The brutal practice of taking a foal from his mother, shove it in a trailer and take it away for ever is not acceptable.
There are two aspects to consider when weaning a foal: the nutritional and the emotional impact of the separation from its mother.
The most obvious aspect of weaning is that it entails a change of diet. As the foal will no longer have access to its mother’s milk, nutrients that were supplied by the milk must be made available in its diet. Consequently, foals should not be weaned too early. A foal younger that about four months is getting a very significant part of its nutritional requirements through sucking and therefore shouldn’t be weaned. Only when the foal has started grazing for significant amount of time can weaning be considered. If you are keeping the foal over the winter, it is probably best to wait until there’s not enough grazing and you start feeding the mare (by which time it is more economical to feed the foal).
Ciara and I looked at one another worriedly as Suzy cantered out of sight with Maude, our six year old daughter, on her back.
Uh oh, I thought, that wasn’t really the plan…
Things had been going well so far. Maude looked perfectly in control as she walked and trotted Suzy up and down the road. Their relationship had been developing slowly but steadily over the past year, and while Maude was still a bit apprehensive and generally refused to ride Suzy outside the arena, she always appeared in control of her mount. And that afternoon, she had seemed perfectly confident, and had asked herself to be let out on the road with Theo, her older brother, who was riding his own pony, Ginger. Read more