TRAINING & BREEDING QUALITY ROCKY MOUNTAIN HORSES
Foal management starts with the stallion and broodmare...
Our adult horses and broodmares get dewormed 4 times/year on a 3 drug rotating schedule to reduce the risk of drug resistance. We use fendbendazole (Safeguard) in late winter, ivermectin in the spring/early summer, pyrantal pamoate (Exodus) mid-late summer, and ivermectin + praziquantel (EquiMax) for tapeworms late fall/early winter after several hard frosts.
Our adult horses/broodmares are vaccinated yearly in the spring with Rabies and Prestige V for Tetanus, Influenza, Rhino (EHV 1/4), Eastern & Western Encephalomyelitis. We also make sure a west nile vaccine is added during May/ June.
Our pregnant mares get treated slightly differently; as per our vet's direction they are vaccinated 4-5 weeks prior to foaling to maximize passive immunity in the colostrum. They also receive a Pneumabort vaccine (protection against a EHV strain known to abort fetuses) at 5, 7 & 9 months gestation. Pregnant mares are dewormed 1 week prior to foaling to reduce the risk of parasites as much as possible.
Our foals are dewormed monthly starting at 1mo old. They are first vaccinated starting between 5-6mo to make sure all of mom's antibodies (via passive transfer in the colostrum) are gone, otherwise the vaccine will not work and they will not be protected. They are boostered at 4 - 8 weeks after their first vaccination.
Our foals are hoof trimmed every 4-5 weeks, starting at 1mo old (unless needed earlier). They are given small trims, but more often, to promote the best possible hoof shape and leg conformation. They learn to stand quietly and as balanced as possible for a baby.
Our adult horses are trimmed every 6-7 weeks and kept barefoot with a natural balance trim of low heels and short toes with sculpted quarters and a mustang roll. Slope to match confirmation!
Foals are always imprinted and handled. They wear a halter within their first days and always load up in the trailer with their dams a few times for a short ride.
Foals are always TURNED OUT within a few days or maybe as short as hours. They are never stalled for extended periods of time (unless injured). We feel the sooner they stretch their legs the better as it helps strengthen tendons and ligaments that were tightly folded inside their dams. This helps their minds and their bodies as they grow. Foals are out grazing all summer long with other foals and mares for proper socialization in the herd.
*Starts with Imprinting very shortly after birth and touching foal all over
*Halter is tried on and foal is allowed to accept
*After about a week, foal is learning to be caught and a lead rope is used to guide movements but is never forced! This continues for a few weeks.
*Lead rope guiding turns to pushing the foal with hands to learn to move from a humans pressure (like a mare would also teach the foal to move when pushed from pressure at the shoulder and hindquarters).
*A butt rope is used to help guide the foal forward for leading
*Foals are practice loaded into trailers and take short 10 minute rides
*Foals are taught to tie on loose and long ropes to first feel the pressure and avoid pulling back.
*Picking up Feet is often practiced with and without a halter and lead.
Weaning is usually done somewhere between 4 and 7 months of age. This depends on the mares's milk supply and foals condition.
After 4 months of age, the foal’s nutritional requirements exceed that provided by the mare’s milk, and most foals are eating grain and forage on their own. Therefore, the first step in the weaning process includes ensuring the foal is eating a good quality hay and comfortable eating a well-balanced ration containing 14-16 percent protein, 0.7 percent calcium, 0.4 percent phosphorous and a 0.5 percent trace mineralized salt to support the rapid muscle and skeletal growth.
There are two weaning methods that are commonly used – the abrupt method and the gradual method. If there are multiple foals to be weaned - they have been pastured together so they are familiar with each other, the abrupt form of weaning seems to work well, as they will have their herd mates to console them. The Abrupt method we typically use.
An example of an abrupt weaning method would be:
• Place at least two mares with foals in secure stall/paddock overnight.
• The following morning, remove buckets from the stall, then remove the mares to a place out of sight and earshot of the foals and place the foals in the stall or paddock together. After the foals have calmed down, replace the buckets and leave the foals alone the rest of the day.
Foals have already had some background in handling however it does go more smoothly after weaning:
• The following day, begin working and bonding with the foals by placing halters on them with soft cotton lead ropes that are at least 5 feet long so the foals will step on them and begin learning to give to a rope (only while attended). It also makes it easier to catch them.
• After some time of adjustment, begin calmly handling the foals but no more than 15 minutes at a time, as they have a short attention span. Again, having a buddy in the stall or paddock makes the process much less stressful.
Things we incorporate to include gradual weaning method that also assists in our Abrupt method:
• Separate foal in very secure stall and remove mare for only a few minutes at a time. Repeat several times a day/week a few weeks prior to weaning day. Increase time spent without mare but no longer than 1-2 hours.
• Placing them with a buddy, older gentle gelding, another foal. This will calm them and make the process easier for all concerned. We will have them with a buddy or another foal for this process.
Following weaning, the mares are to be turned out in an area where they can be freely exercised, and their grain ration to be decreased for seven to 10 days to facilitate drying up and to prevent weight gain, as they are no longer producing milk for their foal.