California MPHA foal.

Question: What age does the foal need to be before I can start riding the mare and taking him along?

This next question is not exactly a training question, and may sound a little stupid, but this is my first foal, and I am most curious.  At what age do they lose their foal coat? 



From Panelists Annette

I have ridden mares the day after foaling, but usually will not take them
out on trail until the foal is three weeks old or more. The rules are
simple: Don't go so far and over such rough terrain as to tucker the little
feller out. Stay away from roads, barbed wire fences, gopher holed
landscapes, and other hazards. I find that my foals from 4 weeks on can
handle about 2 hours of riding, taken slowly, at a trail walk, with a few
bursts of higher speed, and with frequent nursing breaks, depending on the
age of the foal. Don't get the mare hot, or the milk will be affected and
give the little one stomach cramps. Carry a crop, because foals seem to
think that a mare moving along means play time and will often rear and buck
at the mare, which means you could catch a whack from a very sharp little
hoof. Mom can't discipline the little twerp, she's busy working, so a couple
of swats with a crop can do wonders for a foal being a brat. A nice long
crop with a handle to slip over the wrist, or over the horn of a saddle,
with a popper at the end, one of those flat pieces of leather that makes a
lot of racket but doesn't hurt as much as one of the little stinging pieces
of leather, works great at discouraging "cute" but dangerous behavior.

Foals seem to start shedding out around the muzzle and head and work their
way from there at anywhere from 2 to 4 months. The color change can be
marked, particularly in Mtn Horses, since they carry three distinct color
dilutes in the population. The interaction of two or more of the dilutes can
produce some very strange colors in young horses. I had a foal born this
year that I advertised as black, as he was born a mousy color that in my
past experience has always turned black. By the time he was three months
old, it became apparent that this one is a chocolate. It is the dilutes in
the Mtn Horse population that usually produce the really marked color
changes, as in this case, where the silver dapple gene was at work. The
color dilutes are the well known creme gene, a dilute of sorrel, producing
the lightening of the coat that we call palomino, the silver dapple gene,
the dilute of black that produces the chocolate with flax mane and tail, and
a very strange gene that is not well known by most folks, the pangare gene,
that produces the mottled palomino like highlighting on the heads, legs and
underbellies of almost all of the chocolates, and many of the other colors
as well, including the color mistakenly called seal bay, which is not a bay
at all, but a black horse with the pangare dilute. The pangare in
interaction with the creme and/or silver dapple can produce horses that
change from very light to very dark seasonally throughout their lives, or
sometimes just when they are young. And I do mean markedly. I had one horse
that was a dark uniform shade of chocolate, mane and tail included, in the
winter, that in the summer turned into a magnificent silver dapple buckskin,
with darker golden dapples the size of tea saucers on the body. Very
beautiful, but he sure didn't match the chocolate color stated on his
registrations! He was out of a palomino mare sired by a chocolate-pangare
stallion, and he had all three dilutes, perhaps even in double doses, the
source of the very dramatic seasonal color changes. Add into the three
dilutes three other color variations also present in Mtn Horses, dun factor,
smutty (black hairs interspersed in the coat, or sometimes, each hair is
lighter at the top, and black at the base), and roan, and you can get some
pretty baffling colors. There was a lovely filly in Wisconsin that as a two
year old was pink! With a white mane and tail. Turned out she was a roan
chocolate with flax mane and tail, and the pangare gene. Took us awhile to
figure that one out!

Annette

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