Mares and weaning

Miniature Horse Talk Forums

Help Support Miniature Horse Talk Forums:

This site may earn a commission from merchant affiliate links, including eBay, Amazon, and others.


Well-Known Member
Aug 18, 2003
Reaction score
The BEAUTIFUL Pacific Northwest
I may have mentioned a time or two
that I hate weaning.

I put if off and put it off.

Zoolii, born last August, is 8 months old today and we just started

weaning her 10 days ago.

Zoe is not rebred for this season as we felt she needed a year

off after having 4 babies in 4 years.

Zoe is really having a hard time with it. They are separated by a

fence during the days and in separate stalls at night.

She grazes the fenceline, if her body language is any indication,

she has serious intent when she runs off anyone that dares approach

that fenceline.

At dinner times Zoolii and her Dad come in first and Zoe has fits

running and screaming until she is brought into her stall and can

see Zoolii again.

Have you had mares that had a difficult time being weaned from

a particular baby?

Our farrier thought that maybe it was because this baby looks so

much like her and the sisters look like Daddy?

Or could it be because she isn't bred?

Or because when Zita, the previous seasons baby, was weaned she

went off to live with our farrier and didn't come back?

My heart breaks for her sadness.

Do our mares have these kinds of emotions or am I just projecting

my dislike for weaning time on her?

aww, I know I haven't weaned my baby yet and he's 8 months. Eek. His mother has done most of the weaning, but she still allows him to nurse. I just feel so bad he literally throws temper tanturms when mama doesn't let him nurse. When she first started to wean him he wouldn't go near her. Was quiet and just stood by the goat pen and basically pouted for a week. Now, oh boy he gets mad. I watched him just 2 nights ago get so mad he started to bite and bother his mother until she finally gave in!! I know I need to seperate them from time to time, but they are just soo sweet together. She really loves her babies and well when she does back to our friends house, as we don't own her, she's probley never going to get to hang on to her babies like this again.
First, you have to stop "hurting" for your mare and foal. Because you are stressing over their feelings, you are prolonging the pain. I find that weaning around 3-4 months is best. There is very little, if any, nutritional value, to any mare milk following 3 months. At this point, it is strictly an emotional bond and need. Is the mare alone or pastured with others? If she's pastured with others, does she have a buddy? The foal may simply be her buddy now.

The last 3 foals I've weaned, I've simply brought them up to the barn and stalled them next to a baby sitter leaving the mare out in the pasture (our mares do not come into the barn). Since the mares have friends and the baby is making a new one, I usually don't have a problem. The mare may walk the fence line for a couple days but once she figures out I'm not bringing the foal back she usually moves on. In one incidence, we bought a mare with her 2 yr old daughter who wasn't weaned
. We had to move the daughter to an entirely different facility to break that bond.

In your case, if the mare is that attached, I would remove one or the other from the property for a few months. It's not healthy physically or emotionally for a foal to stay on a dam for 8 months. They need to learn some independence so they don't become buddy sour later in life.

My biggest pet peeve is buddy or herd sour horses. They can make situations very dangerous (running through fences, jumping out of trailers) very quickly when trying to rejoin their friends and they aren't any fun to show!
All the foals we have had, over the years, have been weaned at 4 months and mom and baby have taken it in stride very well. I have noticed that the ones who leave their foals on the mares for a longer time often have more problems with separation anxiety. I Know, I know, sometimes us humans have more of a problem with the weaning than the mare and foal! I would suggest you sometime try the earlier weaning and see if you have less problems. JMHO Mary
Zoe has 5 acres to roam and is with her 2004, 2005 daughters, the new

mare we just brought and a babysitter gelding.

She seldom leaves the fencleine....and does not want any of the others

to approach it.

I had thought last fall of moving the baby away for a bit but we live in a

new community and I didn't have anywhere to move her to...

But I think you're right, I may have to see if I could move her back

with friends where we used to live, if Zoe doesn't settle down, soon.

I do have to say that the baby is adjusting much faster than Zoe is.

I do wonder if we'd bred her back if she'd still be like this, as it wasn't

an issue in previous years.
I'm afraid I differ from those who have posted here. We leave our mares and foals together as long as possible. At least 6 months. I have the advantage of a large herd of mares, who some time in Sept/Oct will get joined by various yearlings and 2 and 3 year olds (females of course), some of whom are related to the mares. The whole lot then live together as a herd until after Christmas, or whenever after that we decide to wean. This gives the foals a chance to fall in line with herd 'etiquette', and they sure do get put into place by their elders and betters.

When we are ready to wean, we take a couple of the not in foal mares plus their foals to another field at the opposite end of the farm, and from then on simply lead a couple of mares and their foals,at a time, up to join the first two, turning the foals into the field and leading the mares away back to their original field. Each set of 'new arrival' foals are so pleased to see their friends, they never bother about the fact that their mothers have 'turned back'. And the mares are only too happy to return to their friends for a bit of peace and quiet without their pesky children.

IMO you simply cannot wean a foal successfully within earshot or sight of it's dam. It is not fair to either them or you. And I'm afraid I dont support early weaning either. A foal needs to go on learning about respect for others and it will learn this from the adults within a 'herd' situation, not from being weaned and run with just other foals. It is good, tho, that some people that early wean, do add a nursemaid or two to the collection of foals, as this will help with the respectful side of things.

Anna and M
I agree with what has been posted already. It is easier to wean a bit earlier and you should try to get more distance between mom and baby. Out of sight is out of mind and Mom will move on much quicker if she can't see her foal and fret over trying to get to him. Good luck.
I agree also..........You are probably prolonging the agony. Your foal is ready, so separate them totally. We just make sure that both of them have a companion or companions when the final break happens.

Weaning is never pleasant......and expect some calling for a day or two.
I have to say I agree with separating them entirely for a while. I used to think like many others that weaning them was way too hard by pulling them off their moms and then I would pull them apart during the day and then put them back side by side at night. That turned out to be much more stressful since you had the whole goodbye thing to do all over again every day. We now pull them apart at around 5 months, we have one mare that we have to pull the foal off of at 4 months since they start to pull her down then. We have them where they are not at the fence line with each other, but our place is not big enough that they can not hear each other. After the second day most of the moaning and groaning is just about all over, the worst of it anyway.
We wean cold turkey around here we are so heartless. When the youngest is just past 3 months they all go on the other side of the fence with a couple of the senior mares who don't breed anymore and they are together over the winter. Moms sometimes cry for the weaners but never more then about 2/3 days and then they disappear from the fenceline. l always yell out babies are fine every time l am out there for those few days and they can see they are and l know the older mares know the routine. Ours can smell kiss or just stand with moms but not drink..once we didn't wean for about a half year because l was told it was better that way but it wasn't for here anyway and the boys had a harder time that year being seperated from moms fillies were a lot better about it. l hate weaning time l know l suffer more then the mares but it's better here to just pick a nice day put in ear plugs and do it..
Interesting, everyone has various opinions on this subject. I am afraid I am a softie, I like the gradual weaning and it has always worked well here. However, we don't wean until 4-5 months old. I separate the mares/foals in the daytime and put them back together for the nights.......(at least I can sleep better). This only goes on for a week or so, then the mares are generally glad to get rid of baby permanently.

I would like to add, that every mare/foal is a different situation. One mare got my attention a couple of years ago, she was not impressed that I sold her six month old filly and it left the property, well she went into such anxiety, that she aborted her fetus. So I will never sell her foals as weanlings again............this mare just needs to be able to see her baby from a distance. Yes, my mares rule here!!
I agree with Anna.

We used to wean by four months, but after reading a study in The Horse two years ago on milk production and foal needs we asked ourselves "What is the rush". I know some of the horses are sold and you need to get them to new owners, but usually these people do not mind the extra care you take giving them a few more weeks before a big trip. We do prefer shipping two horses together vs one when they are foals if possible.

We do a "soft wean" here where we start by seperating the moms from their foals during the day and letting them back in at night. Then do a side by side if possible where they are on the other side of the fence from the mare. The foals are kept where they have been so they do not have the change and can still see mom. They may sleep next to the fence for a few days, but after that one or the other moves on. The mom can still reasure the foal that she is nearby.

We are now weaning at 5-6 months if possible. I think this is especially important for those born late in the year to winter over with their dams and learn the ropes. The foals are more confident and happy. We are asking that of people we buy foals from too. I would rather have them with their dams longer before they are shipped to us.
Last May when I weaned my little filly, I put mom in the paddock with the other mares, and the little filly in a paddock by them, At first mom would kick at the other mares if they went near the baby and would kick at them, I got another little weanling which I put in with her, The mom started to go out with the other mares and baby had company, it worked out great, hardley missed each other, At night I would put the baby and her buddy in a stall next to her mom's stall and we cut a window in the wall between them and put wire on the window, they could see each other and they did great, Today the little filly is running with her mom and the rest of the mares, and does she think she is something, at first she tried to get a drink from the bar but mom put a stop to that. By the way we weaned her at 4 months.
Thanks to everyone for your responses.

I can see this is about individual as can be.

I do think maybe my 8 months was a bit over

long this time. I will work on that.

I am happy to report that after 2 weeks Zoe,

yesterday, decided join her older daughters

and the rest of the gang. She has joined

them in grazing away from the fenceline and

her 2005 baby girl was mutually grooming

with her yesterday afternoon....

This baby is special to her and I hope in a month

or so I'll be able to let them all hang out together.

She is not bred for this year and we may rebreed

her this July and that will probably help her, she

seems to love being a Mom.

Latest posts