Weaning the Foals from their dams:

Last Friday, October 30, 2010 we separated the foals (baby horses) from their dams (mothers).

At some point in time a mare would naturally wean her foal.  But we have seen older horses come and nurse from their mothers.  Usually we wean our foals at between 5 and 6 months of age.

When we separate them, we attempt to have the mares where their foals cannot see them and vice versa.

We usually put the dams and foals together in a large field after the foals are fairly sturdy on their legs.  So the foals all know each other and have established their own order of ranking in their mini herd. Their dams also know each other and their herd rank; and they start teaching the youngsters herd manners.

S. Valhalla (Hal), when he was alive, was the perfect babysitter- leader for the year’s foal crop.  From the time that they were weaned, until the next group was ready the following year, he would teach them more herd manners.

After Valhalla died, S. Selebrity (Seppy) held the job.  Seppy was not as patient with the frolicking of the youngsters as Hal had been.  But he got the job done with a minimum of unhappiness.

Since Seppy has been gone, we have tried some other methods. 

This year we gave the foals to the senior mares:  UC Cinnamon (Cinnie) (UVM Viking x UC Spicy Lass, our foundation mare)(1979); Sleipnir Constellation (Connie) (B-L Rhinestone Kid x UC Spicy Lass)(1983); and Coeur d’Alene (Alene) (Breezeway x Oak Hill Perfect Pic, a Funquest/Mor-Ayr Supreme mare) (1988).  All three of these fine quality mares have had important Produce (their foals) for our breeding farm.

One has to think twice about putting young colts, who have not been gelded as yet, in with mares. However, none of the mares can carry to term any longer; and we had retired them.  I do not recommend doing this with mares that could become “in foal”.  We know that even if they were impregnated by one of the young colts, they would not carry to term. Of course, they are not cycling, and I do not believe that they have for awhile; and they informed the colts to stay away!!!

One problem with this system is that we feed the senior mares a senior grain and a mineral supplement for their joints, which the foals do not need. And the foals get a regular grain, which if the mares try to claim some, will be more difficult for them to chew and digest.

So far the procedure is working out.  We put two separated feeders in their large paddock.  And each “set” is staying to their own feed. 

The colts have not been calling for their dams very much. And the dams are “drying out” (drying up their milk supply).

In about a week, we will return the mares to the main field (pasture).  The problem there is that the foals will only be separated from their mothers by about a 16 foot aisle.  So, the dams and foals could end up running the fence a lot, tiring them, or trying to break through to each other.  So, that will be a stage to watch carefully.  Presumably the whole process will go smoothly.

In the “old days” we didn’t have as many paddocks, and we stalled our horses more.  It was much more traumatic on everyone, especially the foals, to be confined in a space with no company.  This system is much more natural and humane, and yields a lot less crying for “Mama”.

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A visit with the weanlings and their dams.

10/11/10:   The weanlings.

Yesterday was gorgeous weather and John and I took a brief walk around parts of the farm.

The weanlings are, as always, very cute.  The three young males: S. Ocoee (S. Sequoyah x NEJ Golddust Emma) a solid black; S. Double Feature (S. Echo’s Finale x Playday Rebecca); and S. Resonance (S. Echo’s Finale x NEJ Golddust Alice) almost a perfectly matched pair of chestnuts, were super friendly and inquisitive.  They each wanted their fair share of scratches. We brought bags of carrots for their dams, but it wouldn’t have mattered.  Emma, Becca, and Alice would have come to visit whether or not there were treats included.

We hadn’t taught carrots to the little guys yet and they had found the whole interaction with their mothers to be fascinating.  D F (Double Feature) decided to try some carrots too.  I took a large end and held it for him. He took tiny nibbles, like eating an ice cream cone, and seemed to like it quite well. Ocoee and Resonance were interested, but adopted a wait and see approach.

I don’t really like to give young horses treats other than handfuls of long grass.  The carrot pieces or horse treats can get lodged in their throat and make them very ill, even resulting in death.  But the way that D F nibbled along the large piece was perfectly safe.

It is always a pleasure to visit the various members of the herd. This is something that I don’t take enough time to do.  Knowing that these little fellows are here as a result of our careful planning and care of their parents and them is very fulfilling.  We are very pleased with how both S. Sequoyah’s and S. Echo’s Finale’s foals are turning out.  And, naturally, Emma, Becca, and Alice have a lot to do with that too!  It is important as a breeder to choose really nice mares in both physical and temperament characteristics; and then breed them to very nice stallions, recognizing all the positives and negatives that may result.  Too many people do not bother to think about the complex responsibility of the choices that they make.

Once Michael re-enforces some fencing, we will be weaning them this month.  We intend to put S. Fieldstone and S. Smoky Mountain in the pasture with them.  I’d put S. Celestial Array in too.  But I don’t think that he needs the extra grain that goes to the young colts.

When they are gelded and we have waited an appropriate amount of time, we’ll probably put their coming two year old sisters in with them for the winter. 

Hopefully, Elizabeth and I will have some new photos up on their pages soon.  We’ll keep you posted.

Driving Horses

We have been focusing a lot recently on driving our horses. Elizabeth, John and I all prefer to drive.

Amber and Kimberly, Kaya and Tre have been a big help this year. Tre is particularly good with the foals…He’s just their size.

Amber has been riding a lot and really working some of the horses. If you see more pictures of her, it is because Kimberly and Kaya have both been out of town; and Kaya has knee problems typical of teenage girls growing taller!

Tim P. has been coming to work the stallions (we see him less now that it is HOT and he has a new job); and most especially Noel J and Michael M have been doing quite a bit of long lining, leading, and driving training.

John and I have enjoyed the times we’ve gotten to drive this year…and it is really neat seeing the grandkids and Elizabeth occasionally at the reins.

More driving pictures and driving training blogs to follow. Stay tuned. Elizabeth gives me lots of pictures to go through!

I specifically want to mention Noel (Jones) and Helen (Roeder)’s driving pairs discussion group. www.drivingpairs.com

They have had the group since 2006. It specifically focuses on driving pairs. So, if you have an interest in pairs, or multiples, this is THE place to go.

With all the interest in the 2010 World Equestrian Games this year in Lexington, KY, www.AlltechFEIgames.com, pair driving is going to be a topic of discussion in the horse world, and in general.

Noel, Helen, and the MANY MANY drivers of pairs will get you up to speed regarding the world of driving multiples!

FYI, it appears that you need a Google email account to actually join the discussion group…but you can see what’s going on via the link.

So, go check out their Discussion group…there is a vast archive of information, and current discussions on-going. Be careful being a newbie though…

There is no such thing as a “stupid” question…but look and see if they have already answered it in the Archives.

And if you have Single, or beginning, driving questions…write to us, here on the blog, or to Noel…

His email is: Gedeckt@usit.net

He’s a chestnut colt

Alice has her foal.  He is a veryyyy long legged chestnut colt.  He is healthy, nursing, and friendly.

Probably his name is Sleipnir Resonance. 

We have also had the suggestion of Reverberance,

This is it for foals this year.  So far, we have not bred any mares for next year.  I doubt if we will now…slim possibility.

I don’t like to have foals born too early in the spring…or too far in to the summer.  The ice can be bad, or the mud, in early spring; and the heat can be dehydrating in the summer.  We do not usually show foals or yearlings, so their mid-spring birthdates are ok.

Alice and her little fellow will have their own paddock for awhile.  Eventually, they’ll be out with Emma and S. Ocoee and Becca and S. Double Feature.

Pictures to follow.  We’ll let you know when we have some up to view!!

Horses and the need for clean fresh water

Everyone says horses need clean, fresh water.          But just what does that mean? How much? How often? How clean?

I recently found a very interesting and informative article on the Internet. Yes, sometimes that does happen. It is written by an academic veterinarian…a university professor. I do not know him. And I have no financial interest in the University of Delaware. Disclaimer given. I think the article is very good. The link is:

http://ag.udel.edu/anfs/faculty/documents/HorseHealthDependsonWater.pdf  

Regarding washing a water tank, or bucket. People generally recommend Bleach or Vinegar to use as the cleaning solution. While I agree about vinegar or bleach, I prefer vinegar.
Reasons:
It can be used by young children helpers.
It doesn’t ruin clothes.
And it is harder to use too much.

Vinegar and bleach water will kill the vegetation in the area, especially on a warm sunny day. In fact, we use mixtures of either and water for natural weed control at our organic greenhouse. ( www.TheGreenhouseAtMorganLane.com )
We also use salt as a scrubbing medium to remove algae/slime. It too won’t hurt children or animals.
We use new clean toilet bowl brushes from the discount store. They last quite awhile. Especially if put in the barn or shed after use, and not exposed to the elements.

As an aside: At times we have used vinegar in our water tanks to help ward off flies and other bugs. The vinegar makes the horses’ blood more acidic, and less tasty to the biting insects. Use it sparingly at first, and work the horse up gradually to a higher level. I forget how much we used. But I do recall that B-L Rhinestone Kid, our senior stallion, would let us know if we had gotten heavy handed, with too much vinegar in the tank for his taste. It defeats the purpose if the horse won’t drink the water.

A quick story about “how much water?”:
A few years ago, we were able to pick up a brand new water tank on sale at our local farm supply store. The manager told us that it was a returned item. The horse owner insisted that the tank leaked, because he had to keep filling it. He said his horses had never drunk that much water. Probably because they never had enough available before!     Of course we bought it. We still have it. It doesn’t leak, and never has. 

             A couple years ago we tried a new method for keeping the algae down in the tanks. We bought a dozen goldfish. For a couple tanks. They lived. The horses didn’t seem to mind them. We bought a half dozen for every tank on the farm. A dozen for the larger tanks. Did it help? It seemed to. But tanks still needed to be emptied and thoroughly cleaned. So, it added another step to take a bucket and net and “fish” them out of the tanks. One person who remains nameless, dumped a tank of fish in the grass. They were rescued.
The horses may have enjoyed their pets. And the fish lived quite awhile. Herons and such did not go fishing in the tanks. But I’m not sure that they were worth the extra effort. It was a conversation point. And the grandkids enjoyed them.
We did discuss catfish, like algae eaters in an aquarium. But I remember the albino catfish that were released/escaped in to the outdoors, and were disturbing native species and habitat. So, we stuck with goldfish. They are inexpensive and safe for the environment.

If you have small children, or like aquariums (we do) it was mostly fun!!!    But you still have to clean the tanks.