Horses before one year old are called foals and they are full of energy and very playful. Extremely dependent on their mothers mainly for feeding purposes, foals also learn from them everything regarding training for a horse’s life. Usually, young foals gather enough strength in the first hours after birth so that they keep up with the herd.
The term ‘foal’ is rather general for horse babies, as ‘filly’ can be used in case the baby horse is a female or ‘colt’ for male babies. As soon as the babies give up nursing and weaning take place, they all become weanlings, the next step being the term ‘yearling’ which, obviously, is used as soon as they celebrate one year of age.
Foals try and usually succeed to stand almost immediately and even start walking within minutes after being born, even if a bit hesitating at first. Nursing is a must so, in order for this to happen, the standing stage must be complete, or they won’t be able to reach. Having the legs almost adult size, the foals are able to run within hours after birth and in this way they manage to keep along with the herd.
Unlike nursing, which is easily learned, grazing is a bit more of a difficult task. While the legs are about the normal size, the neck is a bit slower in growth, so the foal barely manages to reach the grass while standing. Using higher feeders for the foals allows them to easier reach to the food provided and this is recommended even.
Learn how foals are feeding
The foals are totally dependent on their mothers and feed exclusively from them in the first couple of weeks. After that, they start feeding additionally with grass, but it is not until they are two or even three months that they are able to feed with extra nutrition they may receive and experience a big step in growth. As their mothers’ milk stops being produced at the same point in time, an adequate feeding needs to be provided to them and this is where a veterinarian should step in to provide advice. The foal should have access to a dedicated feeder to which the mare doesn’t. Depending on size and age, foals can eat up to three kilograms of food per day.
Twin baby horses usually means trouble
Among equines, the existence of twins usually means trouble, as a mother can usually carry out successfully the pregnancy with only one foal at a time, which means that when it does happen for a mare to have twin foals, one of them to be stillborn or die shortly after birth. In the cases when they both survive, they are usually premature and at least one of them smaller than normal. In order to avoid these problems, a veterinarian may extract one of the two embryos during pregnancy, if the ultrasounds reveal the existence of twins.
Training a horse as it grows up
Training horses is an activity which starts early, when they are foals. It is very important that training activities are undertaken with the mother always having her foal in sight. The training sessions should be brief to ensure a slow and effective start. Take the foal step by step at first, slowly; get him used with the activities and with being touched on his body. Later on, as the foal gets used with you or the trainer, he might accept a halter, but during a few sessions after that you should only put on and take off the halter. After that, the foal can be taken through the rest of the training and taught how to pick the feet and how to lead, etc. Training should be a positive experience for the foal.