An old saying states, “Patience is a virtue.” In a society where “instant-everything” is the order of the day, this saying is not practiced by many. Some of those who must still practice patience are owners of pregnant broodmares. With a gestation length of 335-340 days, they just have to wait until the appointed time. You may ask, “Is there anything that can be done to reduce the length of a mare’s pregnancy?”
Foals are more likely to get a respiratory disease in their first six months than any other disease. They are more prone to respiratory diseases than adults. In one study, about one-quarter (22.2 percent) of all foals had a respiratory disease. Pneumonia was responsible for most deaths (16 percent) up to six months of age in one study. Foal pneumonia is the major respiratory disease causing economic loss due to death, poor growth and treatment cost. Pneumonia, an inflammation of the lungs, is a common disease in foals of all breeds up to six months of age. A complex disease, pneumonia has many predisposing factors.
The easiest time to persuade the mare to adopt the orphan is very soon after she herself has given birth. If her own foal dies at birth or soon after, she is more inclined to accept a substitute baby than she would a few days or weeks later; her maternal instincts are strongest right after birth. A mare that has lost her own foal generally makes the best nurse mare, for you can usually convince her to accept and raise the orphan as her own. Failing that, you can sometimes convince a mare to raise an orphan along with her own baby, but this takes more work, and some diligent monitoring for awhile.
With what was best for Sarah now done, we had the foal to worry about. Isaac was nowhere near ready to wean and badly underweight already. He flat refused to take Foal Lac, a milk replacer for foals. He did eat some hay and grain which likely was what was keeping him alive. He was a sorry looking little horse now and we wondered, should we put him down too? Is he old enough to make it? A day or two went by and I laid awake thinking about him at night. About the sad little foal that walked around and around the barn all day long looking for his mother. Then I hit on an idea and went to talk to our neighbor Ammon Weeks the next day.
Researchers made multiple 30-minute observations weekly of each mare-foal pair noting aggressive behavior, such as head threats, bites and kicks. They also studied non-aggressive behavior, and spatial relationships. Foals were studied with their dams as sucklings and after weaning up to 6-months of age. Foals were weaned at 4 months of age.