The Horse

OCT 2017

The Horse:Your Guide To Equine Health Care provides monthly equine health care information to horse owners, breeders, veterinarians, barn/farm managers, trainer/riding instructors, and others involved in the hands-on care of the horse.

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17 October 2017 THE HORSE DIANE RICE B arring a mare's illness, injury, or death—which would necessitate sepa- rating her from her foal sooner than expected—you have the luxury of planning your foal's weaning process. You can take steps to minimize potential negative effects of this stressful time and ensure your foal has the best possible outcome. You also want your foal to become indepen- dent. Weaning him will allow you to begin his training without Mom's ever-present influence and learn about and enjoy his personality as he develops into the horse you've dreamed about since you picked his sire. Read on to learn about practical, proven tips and what recent research has revealed about how you can advocate for your foal's optimum health and well-being during this typically tension-filled time. Wipe Out Weaning Stress Amanda Adams, PhD, an immunology re- searcher at the University of Kentucky's Gluck Equine Research Center, in Lexington, says maternal separation and changes in environ- ment, diet, and management are what makes weaning stressful for foals. This can result in increased vocalization, motor activity (locomotion), heart rate, and cortisol secretion (the horse's body produces the hormone cortisol during times of stress, and it effectively decreases the body's inflammatory and immune responses), as well as decreased appetite with subsequent slower daily weight gain post-weaning. Foals might also suffer from gastrointestinal (GI) and respiratory infections during this time. Jill Mixer, DVM, owns Waterloo Animal Hos- pital, in Edmond, Oklahoma, breeds Quarter Horse runners, and, until recently, served as track veterinarian at Remington Park and other ovals. She shares advice from her years of raising foals, during which she's seen very few clinical or behavioral problems. "We start by administering plasma to all our foals within the first 24 hours of life to boost their immune systems and to help prevent future illness or infection," she says. The weaning method Mixer says causes her youngsters the least stress involves keeping all mares and foals in one or two large groups by age, beginning when they're about 1 month old. "When the foals are 5-6 months old, I'll start to completely remove one or two mares at a time from the property so their foals can't see or hear them," she says. "The foals may nicker and run down the fenceline while we're driving out of our property, but within a few minutes with their pasturemates they become calm again. We repeat the process over the course of one to two months until the last mare is removed. "If a person only has one or two mares with foals," she adds, "I'd recommend cross-fence weaning by putting mares next to foals in a paddock or pasture with safe fencing (board or V-mesh wire) or in stalls next to each other where they can see and hear each other. I don't

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