Foals - The Future

The First Days

1. Observe a foal’s attitude. If it is depressed, dopey or does not want to nurse, a veterinarian should be called immediately to evaluate the foal. 

2. Watch for signs of swollen, painful joints. This can be a sign of joint ill, a serious infectious condition which should be assessed by a veterinarian. 

3. Watch for limb deformities. Newborn foals are often a little over at the knees or down on their fetlocks at birth. These conditions usually correct themselves over the first few days of life. If the legs don't straighten in a few days or if there is any inward or outward (sideways) deviation of the limb, especially at the knee, a veterinarian should be called to evaluate the foal. The earlier limb deviations are treated, the easier they are to correct 

4) Imprint Training.  There are substantial benefits to imprint training. Articles are available from several sources. The book and tape from Robert Miller DVM,  "Imprint Training the Foal" it is excellent 

The Suckling

Foals of light horse breeds weight only 8-10 % of their mature body weight at birth.. That weight should  double in the first three to four months . At the withers, a foal will be 60% of its mature height at birth. In contrast, mature height at the hock is reached by six months of age. 

The goal of the breeder is optimal growth (not maximal - foals have a capacity to grow too quickly) at a consistent rate through the first year. It is important to avoid growth spurts and setbacks. Excessive energy intake and too little exercise, as well as an imbalanced ration, can be factors leading to developmental orthopedic disease (DOD or crooked legs). 

If the mares fed adequately during  pregnancy the foal will have ample supplies of trace minerals stored in their liver. This is important because the mare's milk will not provide the suckling foal with adequate amounts of mineral necessary for proper bone development.  Some mares are capable of producing as much as 35-40 lb. of milk/day during peak lactation, while others may  produce only 20-25lbs per day, insufficient for optimal growth. It is recommended that foals as young as 15 days of age be provided with a commercial creep feed or, at least, a mineral-vitamin supplement mixed in with salt. Foals have a natural appetite for salt. 

Monitor the foal's growth rate on a regular basis. If a livestock or portable scale is not available, track the increasing measurements of the foal's wither height and weight with a yard stick and weight tape. If you don't have a commercial weight tape you can use measurements in cm.  Weight(kg) =  [girth(cm)xgirth(cm)xlength(cm)] ÷ 8,700. To figure the estimated weight in pounds, simply multiple your answer by 2.2.


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