From the Foaling Barn

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Orphan Foals at Two Months

Colin at two months

Right after our two foals were orphaned within a week of each other, we were inundated with advice and offers of help from well-meaning folk. Some of the advice was helpful, but a great deal of it was discouraging and, frankly, incorrect. We were treated to so many nightmare stories of foals' physical developmental problems. And, even worse, many people assured us our foals would not know how to act like horses or would be spoiled by an excess of attention from humans. Some really tactless souls told us the foals were more or less doomed.

Our foals are now two months old, and I'm happy to report none of the depressing prognostications have come true. We did not find a local nurse mare and rejected the rent-a-nurse-mare organizations on ethical grounds. Instead, we worked with our great feed rep, Travis Lemke of Assurance Feed, who linked us up with a local company, Silky Coat, who specializes in making milk replacer for many different breeds. Every week, Travis would bring us fresh bags of milk replacer and milk pellets right from Silky Coat. That meant that we were always feeding the foals fresh milk. Both foals have done very well on the replacer, although Viktor had loose stools for the first six weeks, which is not an unusual problem for foals on milk replacer. At six weeks we began to wean them off of the replacer and on to the milk pellets. Since then, Viktor's stools have become more solid. At two months both foals are plump and well-muscled. Our vet has routinely drawn blood to check on the foal's protein levels, and has monitored their growth.

Because we have had to feed the foals frequently (every four hours for the first six weeks), it has not been practical to put them outside with other horses. We do get them outside together, several times a day for two to three hours at a time. If there is any upside to having two orphan foals, it is that they are company for one another, and their horse instincts kicked in right away when we put them together. To see them playing their little colt games, you would never think they were any different than any other foals. They spend their nights in large, open-grill stalls across the aisle from one another. Tomorrow, we plan to put them out in a small pasture with our twenty-three year old mare, Pappita Sunrise, for most of the day since we are now on an eight hour feeding schedule.

Viktor at two months

During this whole process, we have been mindful of the need to treat Viktor and Colin as horses, not pets. We do not coddle them, and we correct aggressive behavior immediately and firmly, just as their own mothers would have. The only time we handle them is when we take them in and out of their stalls. They are both halter broke and lead fairly well. There are other horse in the barn with them, and when they are outside they are in a pasture adjacent to other pastures holding mares and foals.

At three months, we plan to wean Viktor and Colin from their milk replacer, and by then they should be able to be in pasture twenty-four hours a day, At that point we will introduce them to other foals.


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