How to Wean a Horse

Watch your mare for signs that she is ready to wean her foal.
Watch your mare for signs that she is ready to wean her foal. (Image: Jupiterimages/ Images)

Raising a foal can be a real adventure. Foals can be difficult to work with at times; for instance, when being weaned. Many mares will wean their foals on their own, but other mares are more tolerant and will continue to allow their foals to nurse long after they should be eating only hay, grain and grass. If your foal is more than 3 or 4 months old and still nursing, expedite the process and start to wean the baby from its milk-based diet.

Things You'll Need

  • Foal feeder
  • Sweet feed

Hang a foal feeder close to the feeder you use for your mare. The foal feeder should be hung at a height that allows the young foal to eat comfortably. Foal feeders have evenly spaced bars that prevent older horses from eating while allowing the foal's smaller muzzle to reach through.

Place a small amount of grain the foal feeder each time you feed your mare. Let the feed in the dish overnight, then remove any uneaten grain.

Choose a safe spot to place the foal when you separate him from his dam. That safe spot can be a small paddock or a section of the pasture that is fenced off from other horses. Check the fencing carefully for any sharp edges and make sure the boards are close enough together so that the foal cannot try to squeeze through them.

Place the foal in the chosen spot and the mare in a spot within the visual range of the foal. Do not be surprised when the two whinny back and forth at each other; this behavior is perfectly normal. Just watch the foal and the mare for any signs of dangerous behavior, like trying to jump the fence or run through barriers to get at one another. If the mare or the foal displays any of these behaviors, you may have to delay weaning for a little while.

Provide plenty of hay, grain and grass to the foal, as well as lots of fresh clean water. Work with the foal on a daily basis, working on basic ground manners like having his feet picked up, standing to be groomed and generally being handled. This daily interaction provides the basis for further training, but it also helps to keep his mind off the fact that he can no longer nurse.

Tips & Warnings

  • Avoid weaning the foal until he is eating grain, grass and hay on a regular basis. Most foals begin to eat solid foods within a few weeks of birth, and by 3 or 4 months most are ready to start the weaning process.

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