Mon. Dec 5th, 2022



Draft Horses SECTION II. —ON REARING it would perhaps have been more convenient to discuss that section of rearing embraced within the periods of the foal’s birth to its separation from the dam concurrently with the management of the mare after parturition, but the measures needful for the conservation of the young foal’s health and vigor cannot be too forcibly expressed, and on that account I prefer to repeat what may have been previously written rather than fail to bring them prominently under notice.

In rearing young horses, the chief objects to be attained are, natural growth of the bony and muscular structures, full development of the respiratory organs, general strength of constitution, and good sound feet. Within the limits of individual capacity, the whole of these desiderata is to be obtained by a proper supply of well-chosen food, sufficient exercise, and attention to hygienic principles.

When incredibly young, all animals are more susceptible to the influence of external conditions than at any other period of their existence. The epoch of the foal age is consequently one at which it is most easy to modify and improve the physical features of the horse-to-be.

In exceedingly early life, when the animal frame is in process of rapid growth, all parts of the body increase and develop simultaneously. It is then that foals require to be supplied with good and suitable food and assisted by treatment calculated to promote health and vigor, in order that they may acquire equal and more perfect conformation.

On the other hand, when foals and young horses have been starved and ill fed until they have reached three or four years old, no amount of good feeding and attention can produce any appreciable augmentation in their bony structures, viscera, tendons, or muscles.

After that age, a plentiful allowance of rich aliment can only contribute to the production of an excess of fat, fluids, and soft tissues.

During Lactation

 Throughout the period of lactation, and very especially during that portion of it when the foal receives the whole of its sustenance from the dam, it is requisite for the mare to be supplied with good food calculated to furnish material for the elaboration of wholesome milk.

The first milk after parturition, called ‘ colostrum,’ differs materially in composition from the subsequent secretion. It contains principles adapted to remove the meconium (as the effete matters collected in the foal’s intestines during fetal life are technically termed); on that account it is highly necessary that the newly born foal should be supplied with the milk from its own dam, at least until the meconium has been expelled and the bowels have assumed their natural function.

Until the approach of the time for weaning, a foal should be permitted to have access to his dam at intervals of not exceeding four hours.

‘ Heated Milk.’

It is frequently alleged that ‘ heated milk ‘ is extremely prejudicial to the foal. I admit there is a probability of troublesome skin disease being caused by allowing a foal to partake of the milk of a mare when she is overheated, but I think the danger of 1 heated milk ‘ producing diarrhea or ‘ scour ‘ is exaggerated, or, rather, that the evil consequences in this particular respect are as much attributable to the fact that the young animal, pressed by hunger, partakes too greedily and too plentifully, and, as a consequence, is primarily attacked with acute indigestion.

It is always better to be on the safe side and allow the mare to become cool and to bathe her distended glands with lukewarm water before the foal is admitted to Her.

 Bad-nourishing Mares

It is not always that a mare which secretes a copious supply of milk is a good nourisher; some especially old mares, or those subjected to very heavy work and which are inefficiently fed, elaborate a fluid deficient in nutritive quality, a circumstance rendered evident by the condition of the foal, which will become wasted, and may probably be attacked with diarrhea.

In such cases the mare must be especially well nourished, and, in instances of extreme necessity, the foal assisted by artificial lactation; it should also as soon as possible be encouraged to take manger food, of which boiled beans should constitute the basis, in order that the advantage of an early weaning may be secured.


Notwithstanding the purgative effects of the colostrum, the young foal frequently suffers from constipation of the bowels, and especially so if the dam is, or has been during the latter period of pregnancy, fed with dry or indigestible food, certainly so if the mare has had an acute attack of dyspepsia near the end of the gestational term.

Many persons establish the rule that every foal shall have a dose. of oil shortly after birth, the practice is generally good—none but beneficial effects are likely to result therefrom, and the life of the foal must be regarded as unsafe until free evacuation of the bowels has been affected.

When preceding circumstances have rendered it probable that the foal will be constipated, the exhibition of a full dose of castor oil is imperatively indicated, and, in addition, frequent enemata of warm soap and water are recommended.

It cannot be expected, nor is it desirable, that the numerous diseases incident to breeding animals of the equine species and their progeny can be even very briefly reviewed in an essay of this kind; the consideration of such a subject properly appertains to veterinary science. There is, however, one malady affecting young foals, which, on account of its frequency and fatality, may be glanced at.


No disease is more prevalent amongst sucking animals, and few are so fatal as diarrhea. Although calves are more frequently attacked, foals are often carried off by it within a short space of time. The causes have not been accurately determined, but the most eminent veterinarians attribute it to changes of unknown character in the composition of the milk, the precise nature of which has not yet been ascertained.

Two facts relating thereto have, however, been proved—viz., that the causes are often widely diffused, and secondly, that their potency is increased by defective hygienic surroundings, especially unwholesome stable accommodation and overcrowding of animals. Unless careful treatment is adopted exceedingly early, an unfavorable issue is almost certain, and the fatal nature of the disease gives little hope of cure when the symptoms have become fully developed.

At the outset, a dose of castor oil ought to be given, the action of which is to be followed by repeated small doses of carbonate of iron and carbonate of soda, with laudanum and brandy, given in cold rice-meal gruel. As food, beanmeal made into the consistency of milk, and given at short intervals, is extremely beneficial, and should take the place of a substantial proportion of the mare’s milk.

The diet of the mare should be completely changed, and the foal and dam promptly removed to other quarters. As curative treatment is so rarely successful, efforts must be made for preventing the disease. The provision of good, dry, clean lodgings, pure water, and the occasional administration of alkaline carbonates to the mare, whose diet should be wholesome, and partly composed of leguminous seeds, are the means most likely to be attended with beneficial results.

Best Wishes

See Next: Nourishing by a Foster Mare

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