Feeding and Caring
for a Sporthorse foal
When our foals are still on the mares they are generally easy to care
for. The thing we concentrate on most is frequent handling. We have
found that if we pick up their feet and handle all parts of them one
or two times a day for the first couple weeks that they never forget
this. As the horse gets older we do frequent "refresher courses"
of this basic handling and lifting feet at least twice a week. After
the first couple months we can reduce this frequency even more to maybe
every week or every other week. By the time our foals are ready for
their first trimming with the farrier at 2-3 months old, they are old
We have worked with many
of the Natural Horsemanship-type trainers and have found that their
basics work great on young foals. We slowly halter train our foals starting
at 3-7 days old, depending on the boldness of the foal. With an extremely
timid foal, we might spend even the first two weeks just establishing
a healthy trusting relationship before we gently introduce the halter
work. All our halter work is based on teaching the horse to give to
pressure and we make sure that everything remains a positive experience.
We feel the key her is to reward even the smallest move in the correct
direction. Most foals are very smart and quickly learn to give to the
light halter pressure. One helpful tip here for those of you that have
never tried this.once your foal is used to the halter and you are ready
to try a little pressure, never start by just pulling directly away
from the foal. We start at nearly a 90 degree angle to the foal and
apply light pressure from the side. As soon as the foals steps to the
side, the pressure stops. Foals seem to learn the side to side movements
very easily and it seems to be the perfect way to start their basic
halter lessons. As the foal becomes more comfortable with this, the
angle can become increasing close to straight away.and soon the foal
learns to follow you around the stall.
We teach all our young horses
to drop their heads when we apply light hand pressure on their poll.
The beauty of this, since we repeat it every time we halter them, is
that they learn that this is the correct way for a person to halter
them. Once our horses reach their mature height of 16-17 hands, it is
wonderful to walk up to them and have them drop their heads into their
halters as they have done since they were foals. This yielding to pressure
at the poll is also the first step to teaching a horse to stand quietly
while tied. I am always a bit entertained when friends go to catch our
horses and try to put the halter on from underneath, shoving the halter
onto their nose.our horses tend to lift their heads, not understanding
what the handler is asking and obediently moving away from the pushing
at their noses. Once I tell the person with the halter to touch their
poll, our horses on cue drop their heads into the waiting halter. Sometimes
it IS about training the humans not the horses!
Many books cover the topic
of what to feed a large breed foal. With these books and opinions comes
a lot of debate! We again stress that the following is how we feed our
horses here in Washington State and that other parts of the country
and other veterinarians may have differing opinions on how to feed a
growing warmblood foal.
While our foals are on the
mares, the mares receive about all the timothy/orchard grass/bluegrass
hay they can eat as well as a little alfalfa. They also receive COB,
vitamins and MSM supplement. For most foals, until weaning, we let them
just eat off of mom's food and this is more than enough for them.
Once weaned, we feed our
foals the timothy mix hay, a top quality multi vitamin, MSM, and just
a little COB or oats to mix with it.
Occasionally you will see
slight signs of physitis in growing foals despite a well planned feeding
program. Often this is due exceptional milk production of the mare or
the above average growth rate of an exceptionally large foal. To prevent
this sort of thing from becoming any sort of a problem in the future,
our foals are fed MSM which is believed to help with proper bone development
and growth. We feed this to foals that do not show ANY indication of
potential problems but use it more as a preventative supplement.
We also often feed our foals
Osteoform. This supplement is primarily a Calcium-Phosphorus ratio balancer
and has been shown to help in healthy bone development. We get this
supplement from our vet and have not checked for other sources.
We have had great luck and
fabulous help selecting supplements from Steed Feed. They supply a great
MSM product and multi-vitamin that contains Gluta-Syn.a great additive
for healthy foals. Their website is www.steedfeed.com and I encourage
anyone to contact them with any nutritional questions. We have found
them to be cheaper to order from.and by far more convenient as all supplements
are delivered right to your house or farm. The have access to many of
the top brands including Springtime, Vita-Flex, Source, Sea Shore Acres
and Equimend so even if you are not interested in changing supplements,
you might want to check with them to compare pricing.and of course the
convenience speaks for itself.
We strongly encourage everyone
raising a large breed foal to develop a feeding plan with their veterinarian.
The long-term effects from improper feeding as a foal can mean the difference
between a successful performance partner and an unsound lawn ornament.