Early Foal Handling

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Well-Known Member
Nov 15, 2003
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Topaz Ranch, Nevada
Last weekend, I went to pick up two weanling colts for myself and a friend. By the grace of God, Donna Herold (Qtr Raes) came with me to pick them up. Sadly, these poor babies had never been handled and were confined in a small area with other mares/foals. Feeling just awful for their dilemma, I purchased a mare from the herd (beautiful black/white) to help them make the transition and returned to Donna's for the night.

When we tried to halter (catch) one of the colts, you'd think he was running for his very life.....just awful. Fortunately, it only took a minute to "catch" him, but he struggled so fiercely while I held him and Donna tried to halter him, that my footing slipped, we fell and broke my right arm.

Same thing happened this week for Donna.....a woman couldn't care for her minis and gave a mare and two foals to her. The foals have NEVER been touched by human hands and are scared to death. Thank God they are in gentle, loving hands or they'd end up with ulcers and a lifetime of fear of humans.

PLEASE, FOR THE EMOTIONAL HEALTH OF FOALS.......play, brush, pet or just spend time with foals from the moment you see them. I know this is a very controversial subject, but if these precious horses will be entrusted to the care of "humans", they MUST BE COMFORTABLE WITH HUMAN CONTACT. There are two reasons.....and a third, if folks are raising minis for the sole purpose of the "business of making a buck".

1. What happens if a foal gets sick and requires medical assistance? If the foal has not been handled, the stress of being messed with will compromise its immune system and healing will be prolonged.

2. Emotionally, foals are happier and better adjusted if they know humans are there to help/care for them. Our colt is so friendly, that he could've been sold many times.....but he's a keeper. His mama, in all of her four years, has had six recorded owners and is a real handful, but getting better.

3. BUSINESS.....friendly foals will sell faster and for more money.

Frankly, I don't subscribe to all the intracacies of foal handling of Dr. Miller. However, it's my humble opinion that taking 30 minutes a few times a day in the first three days of a foal's life (while still in the stall with mama until his vision is 100%) is a GOOD INVESTMENT OF TIME to ensure it's emotional well being.

Now, I'll step down from my soapbox and brace for some flaming!


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Sorry about your arm. Hope it heals fast. I bet those little ones will calm down fast for you with a bunch of attention.
Cindy, I so completely agree with you!

I'm sorry to hear about your arm; hope you heal soon!
I couldn't agree with you more!!!!

My foals are all "pocket pets"....and will pretty much crawl into my lap when I sit down with them. I handle them from day one so they are very much used to human contact. They grow up to be calm, loving adults who accept hoof trimming, clipping, vet work with little problems. The only horses I have every had here who were a problem to work with, are the ones I've bought from big farms where they were not handled as babies.
I dont understand why any one would have foals and NOT be all over them. The best time for them to learn is while there young, and how could you not play with them?! There to dang cute to leave alone for a minute!

Sorry to hear about your arm, sounds like the person with the horses shouldnt have any horses.
Cindy, Hats off to you! You put it short and sweet, and right to the point! It doesn't take that much effort to spend this "early" time with the babies. And boy, does it pay off. I imprinted our 2 foals this year , and spend alot of time with them (I'd rather be with the horses than in the house anyway) It makes their entire life easier down the road . So sorry to hear that you broke your arm
Hoping for a fast healing for you
I must add a HUGE THANK YOU to Corrine (Meadowridge) for taking the two foals and getting them gentled. With my arm, there's no way I could handle the situation.....and this old gal is not one to ask for favors!

Corrine has a wonderful way of gentling the most frightened equines from any situation and is to be commended. These boys have a long road ahead of them, but they're in loving, gentle hands right now!

They don't have to be spoiled...no...but handled...yes!

It was so funny the other night, when my Farrier was out to trim their feeties. As he was trimming one, the others would literally swarm him with inquisitive little nudges. We ended up having to take the one he was working with, into the other paddock so he could actually get the trimming done...lil poops!

And you should just see the Parade when I go out with the wheel barrow full of hay.

Sorry about your broken arm too! Poor poor you; and lucky horses, to be out of their former homes.

Sorry about your arm. I am sorry for the horses too for living in that environment.

I want to mess with mine everyday. Lets just say mine are spoilt rotten.

We have mares that will not let you near the baby for the first month of their life. I have tried and it made the colt even wilder. Her next colt we waited until she was less stressed with anything being around it and then would sit out and wait for it to come to us. The baby would not leave you alone after that. The mother was calm about it then too.

I have too mares that just had colts one will let you mess with the baby with no problems. The other one we messed with him while in the stall but she was extremely nervous and has made the colt nervous around us. She is just now settling down to allow him to roam from her side so I will get to tame him down now.

The second mare is one of the friendliest mares that we have. Just not when she has a foal. This is her third and we have had to do all three this way. Now you can't mess with anyone else without them knocking you over to get to you and be the center of your attention.

I have two horses that someone messed with as foals and now I am having to slowly win their trust that humans are not all that bad. We have come a long way. The first one tried to go through a fence and kill herself everytime you went out there. Now she eats out of my hand but doesn't want to be caught. It has something to do with the halter.

The second one is the same way. However, I clipped that one without a halter if that tell you how much she trust me know, but don't bring a halter out their or she goes crazy.
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Great post, Marion!

Our colt's mama is the one with six previous "recorded" owners and was just nasty when we bought her in early spring (bred). Call me weird, but I brought that mare and her buddy into the barn at night for a few weeks and slept in the adjoining stall on an air mattress. The way I figured it, we were just having a girlie slumber party and she'd just have to get used to my presence.

When Dazzle foaled, it was textbook and QUICK! The problem came when her post partum contractions were so intense that she just laid down and the foal couldn't nurse for nearly three hours. Even though I gave her Banamine, it was still painful for this poor mare. Truth be told, I was scared being in the stall (12x12) with her newborn, as she's so unpredictable. However, I saw a genuine sense of gratitude in her eyes.

Regarding the mare that doesn't allow anyone to get near the foal, I had an experience like that.......when the local vet called and needed help. Go figure! Seems an elderly couple's mare foaled and would not let them near the baby (they had no clue about dipping the navel, etc.....and the vet on call is just out of "school" and scared of horses). Sure enough, that mama who is all of three years old and it was her SECOND BABY (go figure?) was extremely protective. However, for the sake of the foal's health and emotional well being, I removed the mare from the stall (pipe railing so she could see her baby), dipped the naval, fussed with it, put a blanket on her (after wiping the blanket over the mama so her scent would be on it and not reject the baby). Amazingly, the mama relaxed because she knew her baby was being cared for and saw it with her own two eyes. Today, this little filly is just the most precious, friendly little thing.

Having an autistic child that doctors told us would never go to a high school prom, hold down a job, etc. (at four years of age), I've learned to think creatively and advocate on the side of vulnerables. In a case of a naughty, protective mare, I figured she'd get over her "hormones" and the baby's health and emotional well being was more important. Maybe I'm wrong, but I just followed my heart. By the way, our son aspires to be a chiropractor for both humans and equines and is a darned good business partner!
well the good thing with foals is it doesnt take much to bring them around shouldnt be more then a couple of weeks of work and attention and they should be right there next to you
I am so gald Cindy was able to get these 2 little fellows out of the situation. I am glad to say I have now purchased both of these boys from her ..I couldnt bare the thought of separating the two of them. I have been spending plenty of time each day with them, and one is coming along very nicely, the other will take some "extra" love and attention! I dont understand how some people just dont bond to there foals, mine are all pocket pests, and you cant get away from them if you try! They will run along side of me just to be close to me, even my zedonk who I had been forwarned about with there training, now comes running to the pasture gate whenever he hears my voice, he follows me like a puppy. I have absoutely NO use for farms who only breed to have the foals and SELL...SELL...SELL...without stopping to think about any time or love that could be given to these babies. mountain_waif.. I guess I will be darned, because there would be no way in He.l that I would leave a foal behind if I knew I could help it, but you are so right in saying what you did. So no flames here! Corinne
I wholeheartedly agree!

I try to make sure mine are good at leading, standing tied, and relatively easy to catch, etc. and comfortable w/all the grooming stuff entailed in everyday as well as showing by the time they are weaned, for sure, but usually by two months.

That being said, I ended up getting a mare and foal here that the foal had never been caught and handled, was over two months old, and boy, she is STILL fighting me though I work with her every other day.

I think this would have gone easier had she been socialized earlier. This from a person who should have known better, too.

I am sorry about your arm and I do hope you heal quickly!

Liz M.
I'm sorry to hear about your arm.

I have to say with our foal this year, we spent alot of time out there the first few weeks, now she'll coming running to be scritched...but she still does NOT car for restraint!! Hopefully come weaning she will, cause her mother is quite protective and not really a 'people horse'...I'm hoping her filly doesn't get to many of her traits.

You are so right, those poor babies are the ones to suffer because no one took the time to teach them to trust. I was just so upset to see how frightened they were of everything and everyone. The irony of it all is that this place only had 4 foals - now why in the world wouldn't you want to spend time with those adorable babies??

The mare that I bought this weekend with the 2 foals is the same type of situation - I know I should have just walked away and never looked back but I could NOT bear to leave this very, very, very thin mare and those 2 babies in that environment.

And then when I get home to my own precious "home-grown" babies I am thankful that they are so well adjusted and loving!!
Cindy, I couldn't believe it when Donna told me about your arm, you poor thing and then to have to drive way across the state by yourself, you're definately a trooper. Did you tell her (the former owner) what happened? I'm just curious, I think she should know, I wonder too why with only a few foals, why she wouldn't do something with them, seems odd to me. I'm so glad you and Corrine have them now, bless you for helping them in such a time of need. Good thread.
We visited a mini breeding farm (welL several but this one stood out) There we many minis, I am guessing close to a hundred or so and not a one of them had had a hand on them in several years. The owner herded them in a catch pen for their simi annual hoof trimming and rabies shot. I doubt they ever got anything beyond that. They were fed no grain and large bales of hay. All the breeding was in the pasture and I doubt if he really knew which of the stallions was responsable. Those foals we mostly sold as weanlings and yearlings and they never had a hand on them . I do know that they did settle down once out of that enviroment but when there are wonderful tame minis around why would a person go there to buy. We certainly didn`t even though some of them were plenty cute enough to bring home.
Cindy - so sorry about your arm!

You're post is correct though regarding handling foals.

We have both here, the Mom's that are pocket pets and/or easy to handle, their babies are total spoiled brats. While the few Mom's that think humans are evil slaves good only for feeding them - well their foals we try to discourage from picking up their dams bad behaviors, (running away, playing the chase game), so we wait until weaning time where their natural curiousity plays in our favor. The babies see the friendly ones getting scratches, brushed, and they watch, and get closer until they're right in there too!

I should mention all are handled at birth and the first few days, as well as at their monthly trimming/de-worming, but being off with their dam they do take cues from them! I don't want reinforce bad behavior or ideas, so we make everything as positive as possible until we get them away from their dams!
So sorry to hear about this Cindy! Hope your arm heals well and quickly!

We had 2 foals this year and how can you do anything but LOVE them!? i cannot imagine NOT spending alot of time with them. ours are also pocket pets and follow us around....

we have, hopefully, 2 foals due next year (will find out wednesday). this is such a nice small number for us (my sister, daughter, and i all work full time) and i would hate to have so many i could not have them be pocket pets!

so glad they are in happy loving arms now! jennifer

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