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  • Writer's pictureSara

EQUINEWS #3 The School of the Foal

Welcome to our blog EQUINEWS dedicated to horses and equine science! Are you passionate about horses and eager to discover the latest information from scientific studies? This is the perfect place for you. We are here to provide you with an informative and engaging platform, where we will share research and discoveries ranging from horse behavior to nutrition, from health to training. We will explore the scientific aspects that underpin the relationship between humans and these magnificent animals. Our goal is to offer accurate and accessible content for horse owners, enthusiasts, and professionals to deepen their understanding of horses and improve their well-being. Embark on a journey through equine science and be captivated by these incredible and marvelous animals!

Horses and foals living their life in freedom
Group of horses living in freedom

From the moment of birth, the foal is faced with the need to adapt to the surrounding world. Upon arrival, it possesses a very limited number of genetically determined or instinctive behaviors. Its knowledge is reduced to the ability to stand and coordinate movements, along with a vague idea of how to obtain milk. Everything else, the foal must learn. Its survival depends primarily on its ability to locate the mare's udder!

The bond between the foal, the mother, and the herd plays a fundamental role in the development of the young horse. They are the school of the foal! Spending time with them is equivalent to attending a school of life, where it learns everything it needs to survive, adapt to the environment, and maintain a good state of physical, emotional, and social well-being.

Here are some points explaining the importance of this interaction:

  1. Nutrition: The mother provides the foal with maternal milk, which is essential for its growth and the development of a healthy immune system. The milk contains essential nutrients for the formation of the foal's bones, muscles, and brain. During the first months of life, the foal's immune system is still developing and relies on colostrum, the first milk produced by the mare. Colostrum contains vital antibodies that help the foal fight diseases and acquire immunity. Subsequently, the mother teaches the foal to feed on grass and develop dietary preferences, distinguishing what is edible from what is not. Staying with the mother and the herd provides the foal with an environment where it is exposed to a variety of pathogens, further stimulating its immune system and allowing the foal to naturally regulate its food intake. During nursing, the mother and other members of the herd create a social environment that influences the foal's feeding behavior, helping it avoid issues such as excessive food consumption or inappropriate dietary restriction, which could cause nutritional imbalances or health problems.

  2. Emotional benefits: The mother represents an attachment figure for the foal, providing it with security and comfort. Interaction with other herd members contributes to establishing a sense of belonging and identity. Early separation from the mother can cause emotional stress and anxiety in the foal, compromising its psychological well-being. The presence of the mother and other herd members creates a reassuring and stable environment in which the foal can develop emotionally in a balanced way. The foal learns to manage emotions, adapt to new situations, and develop increased self-confidence.

  3. Behavioral development: The mother plays a crucial role in educating the foal about appropriate behavioral norms. Through observation and imitation of the mother, the foal learns how to interact with other horses respectfully and how to avoid dangerous behaviors. This learning process is essential for its safety and integration into the equine world.

  4. Social learning: Remaining with the mother and the herd provides the foal with the opportunity to learn from other group members. The foal learns social dynamics, non-verbal communication, and hierarchical rules of the herd, as well as resource sharing, threat identification, and recognition of territorial boundaries. During this period, the foal establishes social relationships with other herd members, developing an understanding of personal boundaries, equine communication, and conflict resolution. These social skills will be crucial for the foal in its adult life when it has to interact with other horses.

  5. Physical development: Spending time with the herd offers the foal the opportunity to develop its physical strength and endurance. Through play with other herd members, which constitutes an important part of its day, the foal improves its motor skills, balance, and coordination. The foal learns to run, jump, turn, and make quick changes of direction through play with other herd members. This physical and coordinative development is essential for the foal's health and safety.

In conclusion, it is vital for the well-being of the foal to remain with the mother and the herd for as long as possible. This experience provides the necessary skills for a balanced and healthy life as an adult horse.

Breeders must keep these observations in mind to ensure the welfare of the foal!

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