Raising a baby horse can be difficult and overwhelming if you aren’t familiar with horses. Raising a baby horse is a big job! If you’ve decided to keep your baby horse to train and ride one day, it’s important to work with your baby horse as you raise them from a young age. The most important thing to remember is that manners learned when you are raising foal will carry into maturity, and bad habits that are cute for a baby horse can be deadly when that baby becomes a 1100 pound adult horse.
One of the best things you can do to help responsibly raise your baby horse is to work with them regularly. Commit to work with your baby horse 3-6 times a week- the more the better, although short, positive session work best. Get the baby horse used to being brushed and touched all over their body. Teach them to pick up their hooves for you when you ask. Get your baby horse used to having a foal-sized halter put on.
Leading and Tying
It is much easier to teach a small baby horse to lead and tie than it is to teach a large animal. Teaching a baby horse to lead will require the assistance of a helper. A baby horse will naturally want to follow where his mother goes- therefore, a few times a week, have a handler lead your mare around as you lead the foal behind the mother. Do not let the foal rush ahead or lag behind, gently encourage and reprimand, and praise for walking by your side. If done regularly, you will save you and your horse from the dangerous experience of halter breaking an adult horse.
As you raise him, teach your baby horse to tie – after he begins to understand leading. For the first time, tie in a stall or small corral, with mother nearby. Feed your leadrope around a sturdy pole, hold the end, and leave some slack in the line, allow the horse to realize he is tied. Your foal will likely pull back, do not release the rope unless the foal becomes tangled. The baby horse must learn struggling will not release him. When he stops pulling on the line, praise him and turn him loose. This skill is much easier to teach a baby horse than an adult horse.
Somewhere between four and six months your baby horse will need to be weaned from its mother to allow the mother time to recover from nursing. Weaning can be traumatic but try separating mother and foal a few hours a day, in safe pens or stalls so they can still see each other. Gradually extending the time and distance apart is the safest way to wean a foal. If your baby horse can have another foal as a companion or even an older gelding, he or she will do much better.
After the baby horse you’ve raised is a weanling the fun of ground work can begin! Again, keep sessions with your still-baby horse short- but do it regularly or you’ll be faced with an unruly, unmanageable adult! If your baby horse is a male, 6 months to 1 year is an ideal time to geld and save yourself the attitude and hormones of a stallion around. As you raise your foal from 6 months to 2 years you should work with your baby horse regularly. Take the baby horse for walks in all sorts of environments, teach your baby horse to load in a trailer, to take bathes and be sprayed by the hose, to stand for the farrier to trim and shoe their hooves (you can practice this by having them lift their feet as you mess with their feet and gently tap their hooves with a small hammer) to walk over tarps and not be afraid of plastic bags. Teach your weanling and yearling to yield to pressure all over their body- for instance, when you touch their side, to sidestep away. As a yearling, begin teaching your baby horse to wear a surcingle and allow it to be cinched up. And acclimate the horse to having ropes tossed over, under, and around their body without shying.
If you raise your baby horse properly you can build an incredible bond with your baby horse and produce a well mannered, educated horse that will be easy to saddle break.
Raising a foal can be a rewarding and memorable experience and some people who raise a baby horse go on to professional careers with horses. A vet tech degree (which can be earned from online degree programs in some states) can prepare you not just for a career as a vet tech, but make you a more hireable candidate for a career working at a horse breeding farm or veterinary clinic that specaializes in equine reproduction.