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Franklin Levinson's

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Dealing with Mares (and foals)

I have been trying to find answers to my horsy problems by searching on the web and I recently came across you site. Here are my 2 issues:

Issue 1
I recently bought a 12 year old brood mare and her filly (she is now 9 months old)....I keep them apart when I put them outside because if I don't and I take the filly out to lead train her, the mare bolts through the fence to get to her baby (I weaned the filly at 6 months) . I try to be consistent, and lead train the filly the same time everyday, but lately even if they are put out in separate pastures...the mare ends up running about the pasture until I am done. By this time she has worked up such a sweat...and I feel bad because she just does not relax when I take the baby away. Just to let you know....the mare can see her baby, I just take her up and down the driveway....the mare calls the baby, sometime the baby responds, sometime she doesn't....How can I train the filly without upsetting her mother? Is buying another horse (gelding) the answer? What am I doing wrong?

Issue 2
My 12 year old mare is moody...I have never owned mares before and I just can't figure her out. Sometimes she is pleasant, and sometimes she has her ears back and her nostrils are flared, quite a scene. Recently it was a nice day and as I always do, I go to her stall with halter and lead in hand to put her out...I always put the mare out before her filly....this time, when I got to the stall, her ears went way back and she looked like she was going to bite me....I took this as a sign and backed away....I decided that I would just put baby out.....but when I did this....the mare got all upset and started to pace the stall and call after her baby...who was calling back and just outside....I had them separated for 10 to 15 minutes...then I brought the filly back, to which the mare eventually calmed down.....I then thought I would try and take her out too....but again she did not let me get close to her....What is wrong? I usually never have any troubles.....? Is she in heat? Is it the clothes I am wearing?.....I try to keep the same routine every morning....why all of a sudden is she being this way? Looking forward to your answers....Thank you, Kerrie

Hi Kerrie,

Thank you for your question. Just moving a foal off the mother does not always mean the weaning is completed (as you have noticed). Breeding farms have many other horses around and generally put weaned foals out together. The mares go out with other mares or back onto pasture with a herd. In absence of other horses around, the foal and her mom are the only 'game in town' for each other. Not being a horse yourself, you are, as yet, not a suitable substitute. Do you have other horses around? This is significant. You may continue to have this 'weaning' problem a long time until you are able to put the baby with other horses and the mare too. Please give me the specifics of your stable set up.

As far as dealing with the temperament of a mare, they are very different than geldings as you have begun to experience. I guarantee it is not your clothes (lol). Much of what is happening now is still related to the incomplete weaning process. There are natural advantages and disadvantages to having mares. It is true that when they are in 'heat' they will definitely be moodier, more prone to snippiness (pinning the ears, irritable and the like). Not all mares are like this, but most. There are natural medications that can assist in the mellowing of a mare during her heat. Inquire about them with your veterinarian. If she is fine some mornings and sometimes not, it is probably attributed to her estrus cycle. But they are moodier in general and a bit like 'a box of chocolates' on any one day. Consider how people can be. They can be feeling good one day and really off the next. Perhaps something has disturbed their sleep and they are grumpy. Maybe something upset them and they bring that 'upset' to the rest of the family in the way of being somewhat short tempered or even rude or nasty. Children are like that all the time and can change their moods from day to day. Geldings, on the other hand, have a tendency to be much steadier in their temperament. They don't have the hormonal balances to deal with. Stallions are much moodier than geldings and can have really off days.

It sounds like you have only these two horses around I believe and that is part of your problem. When I have weaned my foals in the past, I take them off the property to a place that has other foals for them to be with. First I imprint them, halter break, get them leading and easily handled before they are weaned. It is easier that way. Then when weaning time comes, I do a gradual process of longer and longer separations from the mare until they just leave the property for 6 months or so. It’s much more peaceful and less traumatic that way. When I bring them back, it is no big deal for either. It really helps to have other babies around to keep the foal’s interest and other adult horses for the mare. As long as they are still in close proximity of each other, I think it will be a problem. Consider letting the baby go somewhere with other babies for a while, somewhere you could go and continue training her. Consider bringing another horse or two around for the mare to be with as you gradually move the baby away. She'll be upset for a few days, but will get over it much quicker if you do it this way. The baby will get involved with its peers really fast and not give the mare another thought.

Please let me know your stable set up, if there are other horses around and anything else that may be relevant. I am very interested and would love to hear how things go. Weaning time is traumatic no matter what. But, I think considering the options I have mentioned will ease this trauma. Thank you for your questions and I hope I have been able to help.

Aloha, Franklin

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