Giving A Foal A Good Start
By Mark Woodcock
Having only been a horse owner for 10 months, to suddenly find myself with a foal to care for was quite a shock.
My horse is a traditional coloured cob, prone to be a bit on the large side anyway, so she hid the foal very well. So well in fact that it was not until we found her early one morning with a foal at her side that we realised!
A call to the vet advised me that as long as the foal was suckling and the mare was calm, everything was ok, but to keep an eye on them both for the first few hours.
Try stopping me ! Still in the clothes I had grabbed and thrown on at 7am I spent the whole day gazing in awe at my new and unexpected arrival and her clever mum.
I gave my mare a good feed with plenty of supplements to make sure that she started to produce the milk she would need and she allowed me to have a close look at her foal, who at only a couple of hours old was very sturdy.
My next thought was "what do I do now - how do I make sure that this little foal gets a good start in her life with people. " I knew that I would not be able to keep the foal as I could not afford 2 horses in livery, but I wanted to make sure that when she left me, she was happy that people were her friends.
I spoke to a natural horsemanship expert, who advised me to introduce the foal to as many different things as possible, and get her used to being handled as early as possible. Fortunately my horse had no problem with this and was happy for all the kids from the yard to come and adore her foal. The foal was happy to have her feet picked up once she had trusted me to support her until she found her balance on 3 legs. She loved being groomed and once we had a foal slip on, soon learnt to walk quietly with me on a lead rope, by being patient and letting her own curiosity encourage her to walk towards me.
This was particularly useful when I needed to bring mum and foal into the yard and pop her into a stable if the blacksmith or vet was coming.
As the foal got bigger I had to work on teaching her about "my space" as a boisterous foal at shoulder height could easily have knocked me over and she had to learn not to bump into me.
We had a lot of fun for the months that the foal was with me and although it broke my heart when I had to part with her, it gave me great pleasure when she trustingly trotted into the trailer to go back to the farm that my mare had come from. I am sure that the foal will take to all the other things she has to learn over the next couple of years with equal confidence and trust and be as kind and gentle as my horse is.
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