Foals are baby horses that are less than 1 year old. There are a number of terms that can be used to further distinguish between foals. A colt is a male foal. A filly is a female foal. A weanling is a foal that is being weaned off of the dam's milk and is eating and drinking on its own. There are a number of different facts horse lovers should know about foals.
Foals versus Ponies
A pony can be a foal, but a foal is not necessarily a pony. This is a mistake made by many people who are not familiar with horses and assume that small ponies are foals. Horses that are less than 14 hands tall at the wither are considered to be ponies. There are a number of pony breeds. Ponies will be ponies whether they are a month old or 30 years old. A foal is a young horse or pony that is less than 1 year old. It will grow out of being a foal, whether it is a pony foal or a horse foal.
Newborn foals can often stand and walk within minutes of their birth and almost all healthy foals are able to run within a couple of hours. New foals have to be able to stand and walk in order to be able to nurse from their dams, as horses do not nurse their young while lying down. Foals typically weigh between 70 and 90 lbs. at birth, though it may be more or less depending on the breed of the horse. Twins are very rare in horses; almost all foals are individual births.
A foal's legs are almost as long at birth as they will be when the horse is full grown. It is estimated that most foals' legs are already between 80 to 90 percent as long as they will be in adulthood. This, along with genetics, can help horse owners predict a foal's adult appearance and build.
Feeding and Nutrition
Immediately after birth, foals nurse on their mother's milk, which is called colostrum. Colostrum is extremely beneficial for foals and helps protect them from disease during the earliest parts of their lives. Foals cannot eat grass, hay or grain for several months after birth. As foals mature and their digestive system becomes able to handle solid foods, foals can be weaned from their dams. Most weaning takes place between the ages of 6 and 12 months.