New foal owner flapping about weaning

This sounds like the best solution with the least amount of drama. Since barn owner is willing, I would do it.


Short spurts of separation as the foal’s owner is doing goes against all current best recommended practices for reducing stress in the weaning process. The poor foal has no idea that the humans expect him to view these sessions as an opportunity to bond with the old gelding and learn to be apart from his dam. All the foal experiences here is being separated from the safety of his bonded social group. It’s a repetitive traumatic event for the foal. If anything it may cultivate an association of being stressed with the presence of the gelding – the opposite of what the foal’s owner intends. It’s also not a great way to cultivate trust between the foal and the handler who is repeatedly putting him in this stressful situation.


The gradual separation used in this study seems to have been designed to not be as traumatic as OPs current gradual separation system so that’s a fairly big difference.

I used fence line weaning on my own horse and it was a non event but I’m not sure that’s possible for OP due to boarding constraints

What’s confusing me about this situation is why the foal owner has so much say. Did you already sell the foal? I understand that the barn owner has a say, but the mare owner should be calling the shots, along with whoever owns the yard. The foal owner needs to sit back and relax. They’ll have plenty of time with the foal later. If you don’t like the stress of separation, and you think it’s putting the foal at risk of injury, possibly requiring a vet (which would be paid for by?) you can stop this and decide on the best practices. Backup your wishes with the information listed above and show it to the yard owner. Fence line weaning and letting the foal bond with buddies, and stay with buddies post weaning, are generally accepted best practices. A panicked foal on a lead is not. What sort of leading training is she giving that foal? “This dang thing on my face means I leave the security of all the horses I know, and my sole source of food and comfort”. That’s a heck of an association.


This study also pre-dated the “nanny” group studies. In the nanny method the separation of the foal from the dam is “abrupt”, but the foals still have the security of their stable adult nanny companions. In this 1987 study the weaned foals were placed in paddocks with other just weaned foals which is not just an abrupt removal from the dam, but also an abrupt transition to an entirely new social situation with other stressed weanlings as the source of “comfort”.


Yeah, my thoughts exactly. Wherever I put the mare, the foal should stay in the auntie herd for a while longer. Even if it means moving her a different yard but it looks like I won’t have to resort to that.

The fenceline method won’t work due to the layout of the yard. Are you guys suggesting that the next best thing is the ‘abrupt’ method, but leaving the baby in his established auntie herd? Combined with waiting until he’s a bit older? He’s been living with those horses since he was six weeks old, so he’s very much a part of their group.


Yep. There will be a point in the not too distant future (next few months) where mom is just not terribly important to him, and removing her from his group won’t be much of an event.

It’ll be best if she can be far enough away that they can’t hear each other call. If they can hear each other, they’ll both fret.


Ok? And that invalidates the concept that gradual separation can reduce stress?

I agree it’s sensible to leave the foal with its current herd post weaning as that’s gonna be less stressful than chucking him out with strangers.

This is a little newer. Of interest to the OP maybe the proposed later timing of weaning. The natural focus is probably not terribly applicable.

Situation resolved. Foal owner has agreed to no more separation practice. Of course, there are other potential spanners in the works, like his balls not dropping before spring, and some turn-out-related faff, but those are problems for future us.


Has the ball situation been checked by a veterinarian? The balls may be very small, and may not be easily seen, but can be palpated if they have migrated through the body wall, and the ring that they came through is closed. And if they are through, and the ring is closed, he CAN be gelded now, or when this happens. If the ring is closed and they are not on the outside of the body cavity (where they are supposed to be), then it’s going to be major surgery to go get them, and expensive. If the ring is still open and they are not descended, there is still time and hope that they will show up as planned. But they can be hard to find by a layman if they are small, even if they are there and available to remove.

Gelding when young is easiest on the horse. I’ve had those whose future is as a gelding, gelded around at 5 months of age, weaned or not. I prefer them done standing, no general anesthetic, just tranquilizer and freezing. But it seems to be more difficult these day to be able to find a vet who knows how to do this adquately, everyone lays them down with a general. Which is a lot to ask of a baby, IMO, for no reason. Done standing, it takes 20 minutes, easy on everyone.

The vet saw him at three months old for microchipping, registration faff, etc., but hasn’t seen him since. The practice won’t touch a colt until he’s six months old (don’t know if that’s their thing or a UK thing), so I figured I would have the vet assess him next month.

They might be there and available at that time.

I hope so!! Doing the happy testicle dance.

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