young horses is a careful balancing act. The interplay between genetics,
management and nutrition is complex. While we can do nothing to change the
genetic road map, we can alter its course via proper management.
start a foal gets can have a profound effect on its health and soundness
for the rest of its life. We can accelerate growth if we choose. However,
research suggests that a balanced dietary approach which supports moderate
growth is less likely to cause developmental problems.
which have been associated with rapid growth rates include:
- Contracted Tendons
- Angular Limb Deformities
the foal's first missions in life is to stand and nurse. In doing so, it
receives the antibody-rich colostrum which helps protect it from disease.
During the first weeks of life, the mare's milk provides everything a rapidly
growing foal needs for sustenance. The burden then gradually shifts to other
lactation, a mare will produce an average of 3 gallons of milk a day. But
in order to do so she must receive ample feed and water.
the foal's nursing habits. If it suckles for more than 30 minutes at a time,
it may not be receiving enough milk. Supplemental feed or milk replacer
may be required.
generally occurs during the second and third month of a foal's life. At
this time a mare will need almost double the amount of feed she required
during her early pregnancy. In addition to extra energy, her diet must include
adequate protein, vitamins and minerals to keep from depleting her own body
reserves. Increases or decreases in feed should be made gradually over a
7 to 10-day period.
FOAL'S CHANGING DIET
as 10-14 days of age, a foal may begin to show an interest in feed. By nibbling
and sampling, the youngster learns to eat solid food. Its digestive system
quickly adapts to the dietary changes.
weeks of age, mare's milk alone may not adequately meet the foal's nutritional
needs. High quality grains and forage should be added to the foal's diet.
It is essential
the ration be properly balanced for vitamins and minerals. Deficits, excesses
or imbalances of calcium, phosphorous, copper, zinc, selenium and vitamin
E are of particular concern in the growing foal. Improper amounts or ratios
can lead to skeletal problems.
foal's dietary requirements shift from milk to feed and forage, your role
in providing the proper nutrition gains in importance. Here are some guidelines
to help you meet the young horse's needs:
high quality roughage (hay and pasture) free choice.
with grain or concentrates beginning at about 4 weeks of age.
by feeding 1 percent of a foal's body weight per day, (ie. 1 pound of
feed for each 100 pounds of body weight), or 1 pound of feed per month
and adjust the feed ration based on growth and fitness. A weight tape
can help you approximate a foal's size.
have small stomachs so divide the daily ration into 2-3 feedings.
sure feeds contain the proper balance of vitamins, minerals, energy and
a creep feeder or feed the foal separate from the mare so it can eat its
uneaten portions between feedings.
not overfeed. Overweight foals are more prone to developmental orthopedic
unlimited fresh, clean water.
commonly weaned at 5 to 6 months of age. Beginning about the third month,
the mare's milk supply gradually declines and a natural weaning process
the foal for complete weaning, its ration should be increased over a 2-3
week period to make up for the nutrients being lost in the diminishing milk
supply. The mare's grain should be reduced and/or gradually eliminated to
further limit milk production.
it no longer nursing, a 500-600 pound weanling should be eating approximately
2.5% of its body weight in feed and forage a day.
and yearlings continue to build bone, muscle and mass at a remarkable rate.
From weaning to two years of age, the horse may nearly double its weight
and yearlings benefit from a diet containing 14-16 percent protein. They
also require readily available sources of energy to meet the demands of
growth and activity.
rule of thumb is to provide 60-70 percent of the ration as concentrates
and 30-40 percent of the ration as roughage-measured by weight. The diet
must also provide ample fiber to keep the digestive tract functioning properly.
Some of the new "complete feeds" have the ration already balanced.
gain and development taper off as the horse matures. As growth slows, you
will need to adjust the ration to approximately 1.5-2% of the yearling's
body weight. The grain to roughage ratio should also be adjusted so by the
time the horse is a 2-year-old, half of its daily diet (by weight) is coming
from grain sources and the other half from hay and pasture. Breed type,
maturity and level of activity will affect the horse's exact nutritional
CARE & MANAGEMENT
your equine practitioner to develop a total health care plan for your foals,
weanlings and yearlings. A regular deworming, vaccination and examination
schedule is essential to ensure your foal is getting the care it needs.
vaccination and deworming regimens may vary depending on regional factors
and disease risks. Consult your equine practitioner for exact recommendations.
some other management tips:
- Unless there is
a medical concern, provide youngsters free choice exercise daily.
- Avoid confining
foals for more than 10 hours per day.
- Use longeing, round-pen
or tread mill work judiciously. Excessive forced exercise can strain
joints and limbs.
- Never exercise
a foal to the point of fatigue.
- Keep your youngster's
feet properly trimmed to foster proper bone development.
- Provide a clean,
safe environment with adequate shelter from the elements.
- Check the horse's
surroundings and eliminate any potential hazards such as loose boards,
nails, wire fencing or equipment.
for providing excellent nutrition, conscientious care and a safe environment
will be a healthy foal that grows into a sound and useful horse.
Copyright Bayer AG 2003