GROTON CITY ANIMAL HOSPITAL
"Caring For Pets And Their People"
Providing Care For Horses, Alpacas, Llamas, Goats, Sheep, Dogs, Cats & Pocket
Care and Nutrition
foal will grow rapidly, gaining in height, weight and strength almost before
your eyes. From birth to age two, a young horse will achieve 90 percent or
more of its full adult size, sometimes putting on as many as 3 pounds per day.
Genetics and environment play significant roles in
determining individual growth patterns. Through research, we also know we
can influence a foal's growth and development - for better or worse - by the
nutrition we supply.
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.
The nutritional 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
Some conditions which have been associated with rapid growth
Angular Limb Deformities
One of the
foal's first mission 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
During 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
Observe 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.
Peak lactation 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 early 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.
At 8-10 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 of ratios can lead to skeletal problems.
As the 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
Provide high quality
roughage (hay and pasture) free choice.
Supplement with grain or
concentrates beginning at about 4 weeks of age.
Start 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 of age.
Weigh and adjust the feed
ration based on growth and fitness. A weight tape can help you
approximate the foal's size.
Foals have small stomachs
so divide the daily ration into 2-3 feedings.
Make sure feeds contain
the proper balance of vitamins, minerals, energy and protein.
Use a creep feeder or feed
the foal separate from the mare so it can eat its own ration.
Remove uneaten portions
Do not overfeed.
Overweight foals are more prone to developmental orthopedic disease (DOD).
Provide unlimited fresh,
commonly weaned at 5-6 months of age. Beginning about the third month, the
mare's milk supply gradually declines and a natural weaning process begins.
To prepare 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.
Foals generally need to be separated from the mare for 4 to 6
weeks to complete the weaning process. The mare will stop producing milk
during this time. If you need to put the foal and the mom back together
after this time, monitor the mare to make sure she does not allow the foal to
begin nursing again.
Once it is 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 weanling to two years of age, the horse may nearly double its weight again.
Weanlings 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.
A good 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
Weight 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
By the time your
foal is six months old, your foal will have already attained about 80% of his
mature height and half of his mature weight. Make sure your foal is on the
right track by comparing its growth to the recommended growth chart at
www.foalcare.com/pdf/Foal_Growth_Chart.pdf. Just print out a copy and
mark an "X" at the appropriate weight-age intersection on the growth chart every
time you weight your foal. Small or newborn foals can be weighed on a
bathroom scale. Weight tapes can be used to estimate the weight of older
foals when scales are not available. You can also keep track of your
foal's growth, body condition and visits from the farrier with a printable chart
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.
Remember, vaccination and deworming regimens may vary
depending on regional factors and disease risks. Consult your equine
practitioner for exact recommendations.
Here are some other management tips:
for providing excellent nutrition, conscientious care and a safe environment
will be a healthy foal that grows into a sound and useful horse.
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.
This information is provided by
the American Association of Equine Practitioners.